In 19 years of operation, there have been 11 banks, with more than 200 acres of forest growth. Right now, there are two banks open in critical areas and two outside those areas.
Anne Arundel County is working with the state forest service to launch a new form of banking. These banks would preserve large tracts of forest within the county's greenways.
County officials anticipate that the owners of forested land inside greenways greater than 10 acres who place a perpetual conservation easement over the land may establish a tree bank. This would provide incentives to owners to preserve more forested land, Musser said.
"We love banks in critical areas because they are the last line of defense for the bay and the tributaries," said Polito. "The roots stabilize the areas."
Within the county, there are two state programs and one county program to protect the land. So far, 12,084 acres have been preserved and permanently protected from development in agricultural and woodland areas, she said.
The county can offer landowners $9,000 an acre under county law - 60 percent of the fair-market value.
The owners still own the land, but they can't use it for development and must have a forest management plan. If they sell the land, the new owner may not build, either.
That's not to say the land can't be touched - it just can't be built on. The landowners can still make more money off the land if they plant vineyards or use it for hunting or for timber harvesting.
Tax incentives do serve to encourage people to hold onto their forests, Honeczy says.
At the state level, incentives are available for those who own more than 5 acres of forested land and enter into a forest management program to improve and manage their forest. The length of these programs is usually 15 years, and no major construction may occur during that time.
"There's no county tax on the land," Polito said. "The first $250,000 of assessed value of structures, houses, whatever ... falls under the tax credit, and they don't have to pay tax on it. That's in addition to being paid for putting the land into easements."
"There will be many acres of forest for future generations," Musser said. "But the health of our existing forests is another question."
Invasive plants, deer and insects are major problems - and they seem to increase each year. In parts of the county, invasive species are destroying native trees (especially on private parcels). Deer are eating the seedlings and lower growth; insects such as the Asian emerald ash borer are eating up native trees.
The county is working to educate forest owners and encourage them to work with the forest conservancy board in the county.
"We take some of that fee-in-lieu money to give to the board to advise owners how to manage their forests," Musser said.
"People are concerned when they hear a chainsaw running near the water; but some of those plants are invasive, like the common reed. They overtake the native grasses and bushes, so it's fine that they are cut down."