Avoiding a last-minute procedural maneuver like the one that killed last year's bill, the legislature this year took a big step toward putting Maryland on the side of a better environment. By overwhelming votes -- 42-5 in the Senate, 121-14 in the House -- it approved what some supporters are calling the most far-reaching tree-protection bill in the country.
Actually, the bill doesn't protect trees in the sense that it guards them against wanton destruction by developers and state agencies on a building frenzy: It is estimated that Maryland lost 71,000 acres of tree cover in just the past five years. But it does set standards for replacing trees that are cut down and for planting trees on barren lots that are developed.
The joy at the action is twofold. First is the aesthetics, the beauty trees provide in themselves as well as a buffer against less appealing sights. Then there are the scientific reasons. In summer trees block the sun and cool the areas that fall in their shade. In winter, without their leaves, they let the sun through and provide added warmth. In both cases this cuts down on energy use. In all seasons they fight erosion. But they play a vital, invisible role too, cleaning the air we breathe and combatting the greenhouse effect, which leads to global warming.