Harford: The Politics of Trees

April 22, 1991

The environmentalist movement of recent years has sensitized people not to take trees for granted. Tree-huggers, in turn, have sensitized politicians who know a good thing when they see one. Since politicians watch what's happening in neighboring counties and states, tree laws have been sprouting like saplings. A few local jurisdictions in Maryland now have tree laws, while others are working on it. A statewide tree-protection bill was adopted by the General Assembly this year.

In Harford County, novice Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno is floating a draft ordinance that is more restrictive than the bill passed by the General Assembly. It would require more trees to be retained on building sites and more trees to be replanted. It would require that developers post a bond to guarantee that these environmental steps will be carried out.

Mrs. Pierno has scheduled two "workshops" to discuss her draft before its actual introduction. Those sessions, at 6:30 p.m. tonight and next Monday in the council chambers in Bel Air, are likely to be filled with environmentalists, developers, real estate agents and other interest groups because trees are a hot issue in Harford County.

We think Mrs. Pierno has acted wisely in seeking advance comment, particularly in light of what happened last year.

A year ago, then-County Council President Frederick J. Hatem introduced a tree bill that was broadly patterned after a similar measure in Anne Arundel County. However, so many problems cropped up during subsequent meetings with builders, planning officials and environmental activists that he withdrew the bill. The council then appointed a 19-member committee to make recommendations for a tree and forest preservation program. But after an election that saw several incumbents unseated, the new council, at Mrs. Pierno's behest, had the panel dissolved.

Through draft legislation, Mrs. Pierno, in cooperation with another novice councilwoman, Susan Heselton, has outlined the general goals of Harford's tree and forest preservation program. Those goals can now be fine-tuned during the workshops. We urge wide attendance.

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