In a Monday evening vote of the Maryland Senate, the body unanimously passed legislation to study the health of state forests. The bill tasks the Harry Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology to partner with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Maryland Department of Planning, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the Chesapeake Bay Program to conduct a study of forest cover and tree habitat in the State. The legislation (Senate Bill 729) is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Guy Guzzone (District 13 – Howard County) and is geared at both studying and promoting the overall health of Maryland’s forest habitat.
In a February 19th hearing on the bill Leader Guzzone stressed the importance of forests in the lives of Marylanders. In detailing the need for the legislation, Guzzone stated: “What is important is the every forest isn’t the same.” He followed: “We need to get to a place where we can agree what a forest is and what different kinds of forests are and what they do for us and how we protect those things that matter the most to us.”
In explaining their support of the legislation, the Maryland Sierra Club states on its’ website: “Forests are the backbone of our environment. They filter our waters, give us cleaner air, fight climate change, are a wildlife habitat, and improve public health. But we are losing forests at an alarming rate to development: in 2018 alone, we lost nearly 2,000 football fields of forest land.” The organization goes on to state: “(Senate Bill 729 will) Establish a Forest Conservation Task Force to create a comprehensive plan to prevent future forest loss, while protecting economic growth and development.”
Guzzone is the lead Senate sponsor of the legislation and is joined in co-sponsorship by seven Senate colleagues including Senators Elfreth (District 30 – Anne Arundel), Feldman (District 15 – Montgomery County), Lam (District 12 – Baltimore and Howard Counties), Patterson (District 26 – Prince George’s County), Peters (District 23 – Prince George’s County), and Zucker (District 14 – Montgomery County). The bill is cross-filed in the House of Delegates as House Bill 735. House Bill 735 is sponsored by House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee Chairwoman Anne Healey (District 22 – Prince George’s County).
Senate Bill 729 now moves to the House of Delegates for consideration. House Bill 735 has passed the House of Delegates and now awaits consideration from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. No new hearing information for either bill is available at this time. All legislation must successfully pass both the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates by Sine Die on Monday, April 8th to be sent to Governor Hogan to be approved or vetoed.