Thursday, March 15, 2018

Forest Conservation Easements

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Howard County is the extensive 2600 acres set aside as green open space that supports a wide variety of wildlife and also plays a critical role in floodwater management.

(According to Howard County, soil beneath a mature forest can absorb 14 times the stormwater of a mowed grass lawn.)

Reforestation Areas
Since the 1970s new developments in Howard County have been required to set a certain percentage of their land area aside for open space.

Included within that preserved land are forest conservation easements managed by Howard County Recreation and Parks, though this only directly affects a few of our houses in Autumn Walk.

Sometimes also called reforestation areas, these tree-filled lands are embedded within our communities, but as a rule neither homeowners nor HOAs are permitted to alter them.

Storm Damage (Maintenance of Reforestation Areas)
Last month Winter Storm Riley's highly unusual sustained winds of over 30 mph (with gusts over 70 mph) toppled trees in the rain-softened ground throughout the region, as well as taking off shingles, siding, and other exterior items.

The question arose prior to the storm of who can address storm-related issues in the reforestation areas:

  • If a branch, tree, or other debris from the forest conservation area falls into your yard, it is your responsibility to clear it.
  • If it falls completely within the reforestation area, only Howard County Recreation & Parks can address it.
  • Perhaps more importantly, if you see something within the reforestation area that appears to be an imminent threat to your property (such as a dead tree leaning in your direction), you can contact Emerson who will assess it, and if it appears to be an issue will contact Howard County.

Where Are the Reforestation Areas?
You can find a map of forest conservation areas by going to Howard County's interactive map and checking the box for "Forest Conservation Easements" under "Parks, Open Space, and Easements."

(Other layers show a wide variety of things including property boundaries, floodplains, political district boundaries, food scrap collection zones, and even soil types!)

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