Development projects in Maryland will be subject to upcoming changes in the State Forest Conservation Act (FCA) as a result of SB 526/HB723 Natural Resources – Forest Preservation and Retention, which outlines the State’s plan for no-net forest cover loss. Governor Moore signed the bill on May 8, 2023. Each County may establish its own plan by July 1, 2024 (such as the recent Montgomery County Forest Conservation Act changes), or default to the state requirements.

The Forest Conservation Act changes will enact additional restrictions to clearing and increase the ratios of reforestation required as a result of forest clearing. Adjustments to the law include:

  • Grandfathering: The new law does not apply to:
    • A forest conservation plan approved before July 1, 2024 that is associated with a subdivision plan, site plan, building permit, or grading or sediment control application, or
    • A revision that does not substantially alter the project’s limits of disturbance.
  • Simplification of Conservation and Afforestation thresholds by eliminating land use categories.
  • Updated reforestation ratios for clearing INSIDE Priority Funding Areas (PFA).
    • 0.5:1 for clearing nonpriority forest
    • 1:1 for clearing priority forest
  • Updated reforestation ratios for clearing OUTSIDE of PFAs.
    • 1:1 regardless of priority status
  • Variances will no longer be required to impact priority forests.
  • All unforested riparian buffers must be planted on-site. This can count towards the reforestation requirements, however, all buffers must be planted, even if mitigation requirements are satisfied.
  • Preservation for forest mitigation credit has been reinstated; however, preservation credits are limited to 50% of the project’s required mitigation needs. The remainder will need to be satisfied through forest establishment.
  • Additional reforestation ratios are provided to incentivize Transit Oriented Development, Multi-Family homes (25+ units), certain government facilities, and certain solar projects.
    • 0.25:1 for replanting
    • 0.5:1 for permanently protecting retained forest
  • Exemptions are provided for stream restoration, maintenance and retrofitting of stormwater management structures.
  • Updates to the Forest Conservation Plan approval process allow for public comment in certain circumstances.

These changes are at the beginning of a wave of anticipated local regulatory updates over the next 18 months. Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI) will continue to monitor the local changes across Maryland.



  • Mike Klebasko

    Millersville, MD

  • Haley Kelly

    Millersville, MD