Montgomery County gets new laws to protect trees

WASHINGTON – Montgomery County will get a little greener after its executive signed laws aimed to preserve and increase the number of trees in the county.

On Tuesday, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett signed into law two bills, Bill 35-12 and Bill 41-12, that will work to maintain the tree canopy in the county and protect trees in the right-of-way, respectively. Tree canopy is the crown of the tree that creates an “umbrella” or cover of leaves, which reduces stormwater runoff by collecting rainfall on leaves and branches.

“These two bills significantly boost efforts to safeguard and restore our valuable tree resources, especially in the older parts of the county,” Leggett said in a news release.

“Trees contribute to the economic and social vitality of a community. They also clean the air and water, reduce heat island impacts and lower our cooling and heating costs.”

Under Bill 35-12, property owners who undertake construction projects are required to plant three shade trees. If they choose not to plant the trees, they will have to pay into a replacement fund for tree planting projects.

Bill 41-12 protects trees in the public right-of-way along public roads and private properties. Under the law, anyone who removes a roadside tree must plant another tree at or near the site and pay into a dedicated tree replacement fund.

Montgomery County’s new tree laws are much stricter than the state law, according to Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner, D-District 1.

“Today is a big day for everyone who loves trees,” said Berliner in a news release.

“The council has passed two major pieces of legislation that together protect trees in our county rights-of-way and preserve our tree canopy. The bills reflect the extraordinary importance of trees to our residents, and the environmental, aesthetic and economic value they add to our quality of life in Montgomery County.”

Montgomery County Council approved the bills July 23. The new law will go into effect March 1, 2014.

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