Those findings show the state lost 7,000 acres of forest per year between 1950 and 2011, and , because of its high standard of living, will continue to attract more residents.

The report defines the council's "no-net-loss of forest policy" as "the stabilization of the rate of loss by 2020 with the goal of maintaining the state's existing 40 percent forest coverage," and proposes the Maryland Department of Natural Resources "pursue an integrated set of actions and measures that seek to stabilize forest loss."

The report speaks to the importance of both protecting "high quality forests" and off-setting forest loss whenever it does occur through reforestation in other areas.

"If we don't start to address this issue of forest loss, our hopes of restoring the Chesapeake Bay to anything close to what it used to be is really going to be an uphill battle," Koehn said.

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The new report aside, both Baltimore County's department of environmental protection and sustainability and Howard County's office of environmental sustainability have a multitude of programs and initiatives that are playing a key role in outlining priorities for protecting such lands as well, county officials said.

Howard County has launched a Green Infrastructure Plan for preserving green "hubs" like forests, as well as green "corridors" that connect those hubs, officials said.

Baltimore County has similar programs, including a plan to preserve the Coastal Rural Legacy area, and has had some of the strictest buffer requirements in the state in place since about 1990, said Vince Gardina, director of the county's environmental protection department.

It also has guidelines under specific zoning categories that require a certain percentage of developed properties to remain forested.

Andrea Van Arsdale, director of the county's department of planning, said the county's URDL has been an example for contained sprawl nationwide, containing 90 percent of development within a third of the county's land. But the county also works to balance smart growth concepts with the need to protect resources within the URDL, like Patapsco Valley State Park, as well, she said.

Gardina said his department also actively works to purchase or buy easements on valuable private forested properties whenever they hit the market, but that funding is limited.

Cooperation through easements, planning

Despite all these efforts, forest advocates said the recent clear-cutting of land directly adjacent to the park shows more needs to be done.

And some are taking the fight into their own hands, rallying support for efforts to preserve private properties through easements and other initiatives.

In Catonsville, the nonprofit Neighborspace, which works to preserve green parcels in Baltimore County, is working with the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program to come up with a detailed plan for conserving valuable land in the area.

A key part of that process will be figuring out how best to identify, improve and preserve the connectivity of green hubs and corridors, said Barbara Hopkins, executive director of Neighborspace.

Valentine agreed that connectivity is a major issue, adding his group has been working with both Baltimore and Howard counties to try to identify private lands near the park that could be purchased and added to the park or be placed under an easement.

"We're trying to get ahead of the curve," he said, noting once developers target a property, its preservation becomes all the more difficult.

"Once the developers have come up with and sunk costs into developing the plans, at that point it's kind of a lost cause," he said.