Development projects in Montgomery County, Maryland are subject to recent changes to the local Forest Conservation Act (FCA) effective April 3, 2023. Montgomery County’s changes preceded Maryland’s approval of the no net loss of forest cover initiative in SB526/HB723 Natural Resources – Forest Preservation and Retention (signed into law by Governor Moore on May 8, 2023) (see related article here).

Montgomery County changes have become more restrictive and will generally result in increased forest replacement. Grandfathering applies only when a project’s preliminary or final Forest Conservation Plan was submitted to the County before April 3, 2023.

The changes include:

  • Increases to Forest Conservation and Afforestation thresholds for several zoning designations1.
  • Impacts to forests in floodplains and stream buffers are not permitted without a variance from the Planning Board. When variances are granted and disturbances are permitted, those forested areas must be replaced at higher ratios than in the past.
    • 2:1 if reforestation occurs within the same watershed (based on 8-digit HUC)
    • 2.5:1 if reforestation occurs in a different watershed
  • Reforestation ratios for all impacts have increased and are now based on the proximity of the planting to the impact.
    • If the reforestation is WITHIN the same watershed, Special Protection Area (SPA), or Patuxent River Primary Management Area (PMA):
      • 2:1 for clearing below conservation threshold
      • 0.5:1 for clearing above the conservation threshold
    • If the reforestation is OUTSIDE of the 8-digit watershed, SPA or Patuxent River PMA:
      • 2.5:1 for clearing below conservation threshold
      • 1:1 for clearing above the conservation threshold
  • All stream buffers on-site must be forested before a project is completed. When project proponents are starting with unforested stream buffers, the plantings can help satisfy reforestation requirements to offset impacts.
  • A binding 5-year maintenance agreement is required for all reforestation activities; the entity responsible for the reforestation can request to be released at Year 3 if the site is doing well.

When project proponents are considering options, it is important to keep in mind that Forest Stand Delineations are valid for two years from their County approval, and the County may extend them for one additional year. Impacts to specimen trees (30” diameter) will require additional compensation regardless of location inside of or outside a site’s forested area. Previously these trees were addressed only when outside the forested area.

WSSI will continue to monitor Montgomery County and other local FCA regulation changes and will share updates.

1 Per 22A-12(a), the forest conservation threshold for Agriculture/Resource areas has increased to 55%, medium-density residential has increased to 35% and Institutional development areas has increased to 25%.  The required afforestation for Institutional development areas has increased to 20%.  A new category for Cluster medium density residential areas has been added with a conservation threshold of 45% and required afforestation of 20%.



  • Mike Klebasko

    Millersville, MD

  • Haley Kelly

    Millersville, MD