Two Anne Arundel senators say they want to strengthen a Schaefer administration plan to preserve Maryland's forests.
Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, D-Annapolis, and Senate Minority Leader John A. Cade, R-Severna Park, have lobbied Gov. William Donald Schaefer to require builders to replace the trees they cut down. The lawmakers want new trees planted either on construction sites or at other state-approved sites.
"We want to attain a policy of no net loss of trees," Cade said. "That bill (the governor's) doesn't do that very well."
Cade and Winegrad said they would introduce their own bill if they could not strengthen the governor's bill. Cade and Winegrad proposed a "no net loss" bill last year that passed both the Senate and House of Delegates, but that died in last-minute political maneuvering.
Winegrad said the governor agreed to amend the administration bill last Friday ina meeting with the two lawmakers and William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
"Essentially, when Senator Cade andI made our suggestions to the governor for strengthening the bill, he turned to his people and said, 'Why can't you do that?' " Winegrad said.
David A. C. Carroll, the governor's Chesapeake Bay coordinator, said the governor's staff is now looking for "common ground" withCade and Winegrad.
Carroll said the administration bill has the same no-net-loss goal as Cade's and Winegrad's bill last year. But it uses a different strategy, he said.
The governor's bill places greater emphasis on conservation of existing trees and requires trees tobe planted during new construction on formerly agricultural lands, which usually have no trees to begin with, Carroll said.
By itself,the administration bill "tries to slow the loss" of forest land, Carroll said. But, he added, the bill is intended to work in tandem withthe proposed Maryland Growth and Chesapeake Bay Protection Act, which would direct new development into specified growth areas and away from rural regions.
"Together, they'll protect the rural regions where the biggest loss of forests are occurring," Carroll said.
If they can't compromise, Delegate John Gary, R-Millersville, predicted aCade-Winegrad bill would pass the Senate and probably pass the Houseas it did last year. The bill died when the General Assembly ran outof time on its last day to vote on compromise amendments between thetwo houses.
"I think it's ridiculous that the administration would start out with anything less than the bill which passed both houseslast year," said Gary. "If that's what they've done, there will be aclash."
State environmentalists are pushing for a stronger tree preservation measure as well. But several county conservationists question the wisdom of either approach.
"It's hard to get worked up about the tree bill or the growth bill at this point," said Steve Carr,the legislative liaison of the Severn River Association. "These are panaceas. We're not going to see any more trees in the state; we're not going to see any less growth."
The Anne Arundel County Council passed a tree bill similar to the Cade-Winegrad proposal last year but did not plant any new trees by year's end, Carr said. The Severn River Association did not support the county's tree bill.
At a Jan. 15 meeting of the Severn River Association, representing nearly 90 community organizations, activist Colby Rucker suggested the association formally oppose all reforestation efforts.
"Anybody reading the newspaper can see that poor, deluded Gerry Winegrad is still trying to get that cut-a-tree, plant-a-tree bill passed," Rucker said.
"Until we can turn Gerry around and convince him it doesn't work, we should oppose reforestation across the board."
Carr said yesterday that he's concerned that any tree bill, but particularly Winegrad's proposal, would legitimize the destruction of trees rather than protect them.
"I'm not sure we want to say it's OK to cut trees as long asthey are replaced," Carr said. "Is it right to cut down a 300-year-old oak and replace it with a 2-inch seedling?"