Exemption from tree conservation law sought

March 05, 1995|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Two Carroll General Assembly delegates are trying to exempt the county from Maryland's forest conservation law, which requires developers to compensate for the loss of trees.

Local governments can adopt their own forest conservation laws or operate under the state law, passed in 1991. Two of the three county commissioners have pledged not to scrap Carroll's local forest conservation law if the state mandate is removed.

Del. Donald B. Elliott and Joseph M. Getty, both Republicans, signed on to a bill that would remove 17 of Maryland's 23 counties from the law's jurisdiction.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown criticized the delegates Friday for not asking the commissioners' opinions before joining the bill's list of sponsors.

Mr. Brown said he was "adamantly opposed" to the bill and that he also would oppose weakening the county forest ordinance.

Commissioner Richard T. Yates supported Mr. Brown's position.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said that although he had not discussed the bill with Mr. Elliott or Mr. Getty, he would work to repeal the county ordinance if Carroll was exempted from the state law.

"I know I'll get criticized for being an anti-environmentalist, but I'm not against the environment," he said. "I plant trees myself, and I understand the need."

Mr. Dell said he doesn't believe Carroll County needs a forest conservation law, although the county has the lowest percentage of forested acreage of any in Maryland. He said Carroll has more trees than it had in the 1950s.

Mr. Elliott said the bill probably doesn't have much chance of passage, "but it's a good college try."

Mr. Elliott has continued to oppose the state forest conservation law since its adoption. But without legislative support for repeal, he signed onto the bill, which would exempt all but the metropolitan Baltimore-Washington counties.

Neil Ridgely, Carroll's former forest conservation and landscaping program manager, called the two delegates' actions unprofessional and ill-conceived" in a county that faces continuing loss of trees to residential development.

"I can almost excuse Delegate Elliott's shortsightedness and contempt of the environment because of his age, but Delegate Getty should be more concerned," Mr. Ridgely said.

Mr. Elliott is 62, Mr. Getty 42.

Although Carroll County could keep its ordinance even if it was exempted from the state law, Mr. Elliott said, "I'd have the feeling -- I may be wrong -- that if we eliminated the requirement as far as the state mandate, I don't think it would take [the commissioners] very long to revisit that law."

Mr. Getty could not be reached for comment.

The bill's author, Republican Del. J. Anita Stup of Frederick County, said she opted to exempt 17 counties rather than try to repeal the state measure, because urban counties favor the law.

Garrett and Allegany counties already are exempt from the law under a section covering counties that have more than 200,000 forested acres. Carroll County has 69,165 forested acres, 23.5 percent of the county's total acreage.

Environmentalists will oppose Ms. Stup's bill, said Erin Fitzsimmons, a member of the Maryland Conservation Council and environmental representative on the state forest conservation advisory group.

Eric C. Schwaab, director of the Maryland Forest Service, said he didn't have clearance from the governor's office to take a position on the bill last week. But he said the agency has opposed past legislative efforts to exempt counties.

The state law requires developers to replant and add trees to land they develop or to contribute money to a state planting fund. Carroll's ordinance requires tree planting and does not provide for a fund.

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