Questions arise as SHA replaces trees felled for roads

December 14, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

The State Highway Administration has replaced more than half of the 520 acres of woodland it cleared within the Severn River watershed for new roads and interchanges.

Charles Adams, director for environmental design for the SHA, said the agency is to reforest and landscape another 250 acres within the next year.

But are the trees being planted in the right place? And should mature forests be replaced with seedlings?

Lina Vlavianos, a member of the Severn River Commission, is not so sure. She wants the commission, an advisory panel appointed by the county executive and Annapolis mayor, to review SHA policies and the 1989 law that requires state agencies to reforest. If necessary, the commission could recommend changes, she said.

"These were mature woods, and what is being put back is landscaping stuff or these tiny little seedlings," Mrs. Vlavianos said. "To get back to a state of forest cover, it's going to take 100 years."

She argued that the state should use larger trees to replace the ones it cut down.

But planting larger trees "won't get that forest back any quicker," Mr. Adams said. "We won't replace what we've lost in my lifetime or yours."

Moreover, using larger trees would be too expensive, he said.

The law requiring reforestation also limits the amount the state can spend to $4,300 per acre.

When possible, the state uses deciduous seedlings, even though evergreens have a higher survival rate, he said.

Planting more mature deciduous trees would push the cost beyond the limit, he said.

The state could accomplish as much by letting the land lay fallow, Mr. Adams said. "It would reforest itself over time."

Mrs. Vlavianos also said she is concerned the SHA is planting some of the replacement trees outside the Severn's 70-square-mile watershed. She cited two sites: 22 acres at Crownsville Hospital Center and 14 acres along Route 100.

Mr. Adams said the 1989 law that requires SHA to replace trees cleared for roads allows it to plant elsewhere in the county if public land is unavailable within the watershed.

Mrs. Vlavianos said she believes the Severn's official designation as a "scenic river" under the Scenic and Wild Rivers Act merits that the watershed receive better treatment.

The loss of 500 acres of mature woodland "is an enormous impact," she said. "People could say, 'We really need these roads.' But do we really need all this growth in the scenic river watershed?"

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