Political thicket awaits forest law modification State nTC opposes exemptions backed by county board

September 29, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Atlee Edrington is ready to declare victory and start harvesting trees as soon as the County Commissioners clear his path by approving a change in the forest conservation law.

The county's Environmental Affairs Advisory Board unanimously approved last week a measure that would exempt some timber harvests from the county's forest conservation ordinance.

The proposed change faces opposition from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which has the authority to disapprove or order modifications in local programs.

The board's initiative would allow Edrington to harvest trees on his 8.3-acre wooded lot near Finksburg without having to sign a pledge not to subdivide the property for seven years after the harvest. The pledge, called a declaration of intent, is required by state and county forest conservation laws.

Edrington, who said the declaration violates his constitutional rights, has spent more than three years fighting over the issue.

He doesn't plan to develop his lot, but being able to harvest trees is a matter of principle, he said.

"I was very much pleased with the [environmental board's] idea," Edrington said.

He said the income from harvesting trees would cover taxes on the wood lot for about five years.

The board's proposal would exempt timber harvests from the forest law when the owner agreed to leave a forester's measurement of trees per acre that would assure a healthy remaining mix of trees.

State forestry officials aren't taking a position on whether the proposal would be good or bad forest management, said Ginger Howell, DNR associate director of urban and community forestry.

However, the agency objects to the proposal because it doesn't require the owner to keep the property wooded or to comply with the forest conservation law if he develops it.

State regulations were changed in July to offer wood lot owners a choice in harvesting timber, including a declaration of intent or a forest management plan, which indicates a commitment to keep the land wooded.

Environmental board Chairman Kevin Dayhoff led the move to recommend the new board plan despite the state opposition.

"I want to make environmentalism and promoting the environment as easy as possible," Dayhoff said. "I'm sick and tired of unnecessary petty lightning rods in the ordinance, which is a good law."

The board also asked the commissioners to raise the maximum area a landowner is permitted to disturb from 25,000 to 40,000 square feet before the forest conservation ordinance is applicable.

The change would mean anyone who disturbed less than 40,000 square feet in construction would not have to replace trees or plant additional trees on the site.

The proposed changes drew criticism from Neil Ridgely, Hampstead town manager and a member of the board that wrote the county forest conservation ordinance.

He predicted that opponents of the ordinance, having gained a change in the declaration of intent, would begin pressing for additional changes.

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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