Conservation Montgomery 

November 13, 2011 

Community Updates 

In This Issue
Energy Efficiency Tips & Upcoming Workshop
Update on county tree legislation

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A season of gratitude 

We are grateful:
  • To live in Montgomery County, MD, where we have vocal and well-informed residents who care about quality of life and the role that the environment plays in how we live each day.   
  • For a successful tree-planting event on Nov. 5th with Cub Scout/Boy Scout Troop 759 from Ashton.  Find the Gazette story here and photos here.   
  • For an enlightening season of Community Strolls.  Photo essays are in links behind each community name.  The Forest Glen Park Stroll was hosted by Barbara Schubert.  The North Four Corners Park Stroll was led by Carol Barth.  At the Bethesda stroll, we were able to introduce descendants of the Shoemaker family, buried in a quiet private cemetery in the middle of a neighborhood since the mid-1850s, and neighbors who live adjacent to this lovely, peaceful place. Thanks to the Montgomery County Historical Society for assisting in locating Shoemaker family members still living in Montgomery County.
  • For volunteers who attended Conservation Montgomery Community Strolls and picked up trash in neighborhoods as we walked and talked, or climbed into streams with us to clean up sections of local watersheds.  
  • For our new board member, Alan Bowser, who is a fixture in Montgomery County communities through his
    Alan Bowser
    years of volunteer service and time working for former Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg.  
  • For our newest partners:  the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, one of the most active and productive advocacy organizations in the area.  
  • For a grant Conservation Montgomery has received from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation Neighborhoods Excellence Initiative.  We were awarded $5,000 this past week.  These funds and other donations will be used for future tree-planting projects and other services to Montgomery neighborhoods.  
  • For our relationship with Silver Spring Green, which will host a free workshop on Nov. 17th on home energy efficiency.  Come out to meet us there.  Conservation Montgomery will have a table at the event.  
  • For the support our members and partners provide each month.   
Happy Thanksgiving from the
Conservation Montgomery Board of Directors

Board Chair Caren Madsen (far left) at the Neighborhoods Excellence awards and grant presentation with Molette Green of WHUR News and Bill Cooper, President of Bank of America Mid-Atlantic.



Free Energy Efficiency Workshop hosted by Silver Spring Green and partners

Nov. 17

The newly formed Silver Spring Green is organizing a community workshop on home energy efficiency set for Nov. 17th at 6:30 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Center. There will be Spanish interpretation.  The workshop will focus on what's involved in a home energy audit, how to make home energy retrofits that will save money and energy consumption and other tips on lowering your energy footprint.   The workshop is free and open to the public.   





Hoyt (center) listens to a resident address concerns about the DEP tree legislation

Update on county tree legislation



The Next Steps....


After a long wait, the County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is almost ready to present a revised version of a bill intended to protect trees on individual lots which are not covered under the County Forest Conservation Law (FCL). The DEP embarked on an effort to draft new legislation three years ago with a goal of having the bill presented to the Council by County Executive Ike Leggett.


The initial DEP draft bill was not well-received by either the environmental or building community when it was made available for comment almost a year ago. The DEP proposal presented a cut-and-pay scenario whereby tree canopy is measured and a fee is assigned to each square foot of canopy. Under a DEP formula, the per-canopy-area set fee is then multiplied by the amount of canopy to be taken down and the county collects a total dollar amount earmarked for use in replanting new trees to replace lost canopy.


The original DEP bill also involved combining the tree legislation with the existing FCL which deals with land areas of 40,000 square feet or more. This did not bode well with the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) because, by law, forest conservation is the responsibility of the M-NCPPC. Officials at the agency felt that lodging a tree bill with a different purpose within the existing forestry bill presented complications for the regulated (building) industry and made legislation more difficult to administer.  In addition, the initial version of the DEP bill proposed that a tree canopy section of legislation be administered by the county Department of Permitting Services (DPS), using DPS staff (none of whom are arborists) to implement the sediment control law. This meant that developers might be presented with an additional step in taking building plans to multiple agencies for approval.


After receiving stakeholder comments through DEP Director Bob Hoyt, the County Executive has indicated a willingness to uncouple his tree canopy proposal from the Forest Conservation Law since the two parts are to be administered by two separate agencies. According to DEP Director Hoyt, the revised draft bill will include a threshold by which developers will not be penalized for removing a certain percentage of trees that need to be removed to install stormwater management measures on a single lot or are otherwise within the footprint of a building.


"We have listened to the comments and are trying to accommodate the feedback," said Hoyt in an interview. "We would like to see the legislation be more protective, but given the resources we have to work with, we believe we can come up with a bill that is a good starting point." He added, "From an economic standpoint, any proposal that is resource-intensive would be dead on arrival when it reaches the Council."


Still an issue is DEP's proposal to allow a desktop review of site plans, meaning that no county staff would actually go out in the field to examine trees on lots less than 40,000 square feet. As it is being revised, the proposal imposes a fee for canopy loss (as yet undetermined) as the only deterrent to removing trees from smaller lots.


"It troubles me that it has taken us three years to get to this point," said Hoyt. "We know we need to get a bill over to the Council, but we hope that when we do, the bill will be a good start on the road to better tree protection in the county."


The new target date for the legislation to be sent to the County Council is in early January.


County Street Tree Bill


gavelOn a similar track is a separate bill intended to protect existing street trees in the public rights of way from damage that often occurs due to human error. Originally drafted as a stand-alone bill, protections for street trees were later advanced as part of an amendment to the Forest Conservation Law and again included permits to be administered by DPS.  This amendment was to be sponsored by Councilmembers Berliner and Elrich.


Conservation Montgomery Board member Arlene Bruhn, who has been working on this bill over the past year, was informed in early November that a draft street tree bill was imminent.  However, no bill or details have surfaced. In spite of a 2009 revision to the State Roadside Tree Law which enables counties to enact street tree laws that are more stringent than those of the State, the County street tree legislation continues to go forward at a snail's pace.  It is still unknown which department would administer this bill and what regulations for street trees are envisioned.


"It's time to get serious about conserving and planting shade trees in our county rights of way," said Bruhn.   "The importance and economic benefits of street tree shade are widely recognized. In our current economy, trees are needed more than ever."


Conservation Montgomery is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education education and action to make a connection between the stewardship of local natural resources and community quality of life.  Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the IRS code.  To donate or sign up as a member.   


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