Residents’ passion lends voice to forests

By Jennifer Brunt
Horticultural Technician, Grounds

In 1991 legislation known as the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) was passed in an attempt to preserve and protect our dwindling forests. Despite implementation of the FCA, forested areas within the Chesapeake Bay watershed continue to decline at an alarming rate. In an effort to offset this trend, Riderwood, since its beginning, has actively sought to be a good steward of the environment by preserving approximately 25% of its acreage in a natural wooded state. In addition, reforestation practices have been implemented to encourage indigenous plants and wildlife dependent on undisturbed habitat.

On February 20th, Maryland’s state legislature held hearings in an effort to strengthen the FCA. The objective of the hearings was to better preserve remaining “priority forests,” those areas of forested land covering 10 or 20 acres of contiguous growth. The proposed legislation would forbid the removal of priority forest without written justification and would require developers to preserve or plant at least an acre of trees for every acre of priority forest they cut down.

On the day of the hearings, a group of Riderwood residents, spearheaded by the Riderwood Sustainability Committee and assisted by partners at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, organized a group of passionate environmentalists to visit legislators in Annapolis and lobby their support to strengthen the FCA. Throughout the morning the group met personally with elected representatives, discussed their concerns regarding the future of the Bay’s forests, and requested the officials’ support of the proposed amendments to the FCA.

Unfortunately, the Maryland the General Assembly allowed the amended legislation to die on the final day of session. As amended, the bills had the support of the conservation community and opponents had withdrawn their opposition. Despite this setback, Riderwood’s Sustainability Committee and associated groups, such as Riderwood Residents Supporting Sustainability, will continue to advocate for state-wide laws that help preserve our environment, promote the sustainable use of the Bay’s resources, and reduce our carbon footprint.

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