Anne Arundel County Passes New Forest Conservation Law

The price for impacting forests is increasing in Anne Arundel County, Maryland

In a 7-0 vote, the Anne Arundel County Council approved a new Forest Conservation Law on November 18, 2019.  The law, while a less stringent version of the bill originally introduced by County Executive Steuart Pittman (see August Field Notes), still has several key changes that will make forest impacts much more costly, including:

  • A substantial increase to the fee-in-lieu cost;
  • Increased forest conservation thresholds for residential, commercial, and industrial-zoned properties more than 5 acres in size;
  • Doubled reforestation rate for sites preserving forest cover above the forest conservation threshold;
  • Expanded definition of Priority Retention Areas; and
  • Stricter standards for granting modifications to forest conservation requirements.

The new law provides a grandfathering provision for certain applications submitted to the County no later than December 15, 2019. 

The key components to the new Forest Conservation Law are:

1. The fee-in-lieu increased from a range of $0.40 to $1.50 per square foot under the previous law to a range of $1.25 to $4.50 per square foot under the new law, depending on the specific land use type.

2. Forest conservation thresholds increased for all properties larger than 5 acres and not zoned agricultural or institutional.

3. The reforestation requirement for all clearing above the conservation threshold has doubled under the new regulation, from 0.25 acre to 0.5 acre of reforestation required per acre cleared.

4. The definition of Priority Retention Area expanded to include habitats or potential habitats for Forest Interior Dwelling Birds and other wildlife species that consist of:

(1)  A minimum of 75 acres of contiguous forest with 10 or more acres of contiguous forest located more than 300 feet from the nearest forest edge,


(2) A minimum of 75 acres of contiguous riparian forests along a perennial stream with an average width of at least 300 feet.

The new definition also includes any contiguous forest that connects the largest undeveloped or most vegetated tracts of land within an adjacent to the site. However, the Council did not include an amendment that defined “Contiguous Forest”.

5. In order to obtain a modification to the Forest Conservation requirements, an applicant will now have to demonstrate a stricter standard of “unwarranted hardship”.

Remember that the County will consider certain applications for grandfathering if they are submitted before December 15, 2019.  If you have questions about the new regulations or how they may affect your projects in Anne Arundel County, please contact Mike Klebasko in our Millersville, Maryland office.


  • Mike Klebasko

    Millersville, MD