Forest conservation proposals draw criticism as burdensome, costly A 'declaration of intent' not to subdivide is fought

July 14, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Carroll environmental officials are considering two alternatives to a controversial measure that requires farmers and other landowners who want to harvest timber to sign a "declaration of intent" not to subdivide their land for seven years.

However, neither of the proposals would resolve farmers' objections to the cost of having a registered forester draw up a tree harvest plan. A registered forester would be required under the measures being considered by the county's Environmental Affairs Advisory Board.

The board is drafting recommendations to the County Commissioners for changes in the county's nearly 4-year-old forest conservation law. The aim of the ordinance, adopted in late 1992, is to preserve the county's forests and to replace trees destroyed by development.

Logging and tree harvesting are exempt from replanting requirements under Maryland and Carroll forest conservation laws. To keep developers from using the exemption as a loophole, the state required owners to "declare their intent" not to develop harvested land for five years. Carroll County's ordinance requires seven.

Until recently, the state Department of Natural Resources required counties to incorporate a declaration of intent into their forest conservation ordinances.

In lieu of the declaration, the state now allows counties to accept a forest stewardship plan from property owners. The plan, prepared by a registered forester, is a blueprint for long-term management. Selective timbering is allowed.

Final action on the Carroll environmental board's recommendations has been delayed until July 31 so that other issues can be discussed.

The board, on a 3-2 vote, tentatively recommended that a land owner harvesting timber can:

Have a licensed forester draw up a long-term forest conservation and management plan.

Or have a licensed forester prepare a one-time timber harvest plan. This option would require state approval before it can be adopted by the County Commissioners.

Or landowners could adhere to the existing law and sign a declaration of intent.

"I will not -- will not -- sign the declaration of intent," said Lynn R. Pipher, a Woodbine farmer, who noted that the law makes it easier to clear-cut woods than harvest selectively.

Some farmers have balked at the so-called declaration of intent because they see it as a lien against their land. Although the declaration is recorded with the deed, it doesn't involve any financial obligation.

Pipher told the board earlier that paying a registered forester would eliminate most of his potential profit from cutting trees on five wooded acres of his 40-acre farm. His wife, Elaine, said the couple wants to sell the trees "to pay the taxes."

Board member Georgia Hoff strongly opposed requiring a licensed forester to draw plans.

"I own 90 acres [of forested land]. If I want to harvest five acres, I might get a forester. There's a difference between me choosing to do that and being required to," she said.

Board member Richard Filling proposed raising the amount of acreage in which the forest conservation law applies from 25,000 square feet, about 5/8 of an acre, to 40,000 square feet, about one acre.

Filling, an environmental permitting specialist for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., said he believes that Carroll is the only county to require tree replacements and additions at 25,000 square feet.

HTC James E. Slater Jr., the county's Environmental Services administrator, said Carroll's ordinance is less strict than the state law. He said the county ordinance doesn't become effective unless an owner disturbs more than 25,000 square feet of land.

Pub Date: 7/14/96

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