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MoCo officials want to plant 100,000 trees

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 6/2/2014, 3:25pm  ET

County Executive Isiah Leggett and Conservation 
Montgomery members planted a tree at the Bethesda Library and pushed for tree 
canopy protection legislation in April 2013 (file photo)Using fees from last year’s Tree Canopy law, two Montgomery County officials say the county will work with various community organizations to plant 100,000 new trees.

Councilmember Hans Riemer and County Executive Isiah Leggett on Monday announced the initiative, which they said would involve civic groups, faith-based organizations, schools, youth programs, environmental groups, companies and county government in planting shade trees throughout the county.

The money for the new trees will come from the Tree Canopy law passed last July. The law requires property owners who remove trees during development to plant new trees or pay into a county fund. It went into effect on March 1.

The measure was proposed by the county’s Department of Environmental Protection and specifically targeted the “mansionization” county officials said meant significant less tree canopy in older downcounty neighborhoods with smaller lots. During the debate over the law, DEP staff used overhead before and after images to show tree loss in Bethesda neighborhoods where many homes have been torn down and rebuilt.

The building industry and some locally based home builders refuted that as a justification for the bill. Conservationists alleged the building industry was spreading misinformation about the bill.

The Council and DEP eventually agreed to a modified law. Only major building projects that require a sediment control permit are subject to the law. That would cover all home teardown projects and perhaps something such as a new pool project.

A project that disturbs 9,000 square feet of tree canopy would require nine new shade trees. If the builder doesn’t plant any on-site, it would be required to pay for nine shade trees at $250 each through the county fund. If the builder only plants three, for example, it would be required to pay $1,500 for the remaining six into the fund.

Riemer said Monday the initiative will seek to get community participation in planting the new trees.

“The saying is that while the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the next best time is today,” Riemer said in a press release.  ”Montgomery County enjoys leafy neighborhoods, but in many communities our tree coverage is mature and if it is not replanted it will decline in the coming years. This initiative will seek to engage residents in planting new trees so that our neighborhoods will always have the benefit of a thriving tree canopy.”

The Office of Sustainability within DEP will organize the tree planting program. The county hopes to set up a website to help facilitate groups interested in taking part.