Trees are the focus as Kamenetz announces plans to increase county forest canopy

After officially proclaiming April 25 as Baltimore County Arbor Day, announcing plans to increase and maintain tree canopy coverage in the county, and discussing the county's spring Big Trees Sale, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz got down to the root of the matter.

With a gold shovel in hand and the help of Del. James Malone Jr., Kamenetz dug a hole then planted a scarlet oak tree in the front yard of Halethorpe resident Heather Dittbrenner.

"Everyone can plant a tree, and that's what we are here today to encourage," Kamenetz said to the crowd of more than 30 people.

"Once we plant Scarlet, she will bloom and grow to be part of this (neighborhood) family," Kamenetz said.

Dittbrenner said she hopes her neighbors and the community members in attendance follow Kamenetz's lead to bring back some of the area's native trees.

"We've lost a lot of maples in this neighborhood," Dittbrenner said. "Maybe we can go replace our (lost) trees now."

Kamenetz said that trees not only help the environment by removing and storing carbon from the atmosphere and collecting stormwater runoff, but also provide jobs for county residents.

"Trees are really a form of critical infrastructure," he said.

"We know that forests and trees provide many environmental benefits, not just for humans, but also for wildlife," Kamenetz said.

Kamenetz said that Baltimore County plans to increase its tree canopy, especially in areas such as Halethorpe, Lansdowne and Dundalk which are labeled deficient.

"By the year 2025, we will achieve and maintain a 50 percent tree canopy countywide," Kamenetz said.

He said areas inside the Urban Rural Demarcation Line — the line that regulates development between rural and urban parts of the county — will maintain a 40 percent canopy in that same time frame.

Don Outen, a natural resource manager for the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, said increasing the county's tree canopy is critical for the state's environmental health.

"We've lost a lot of forest cover, and we're trying to bring it back as much as we can," Outen said.

"We really believe in the importance of the forest resource and keeping it healthy," he said.

Outen said that the county's Big Trees Sale is one way to reach the 50 percent canopy goal.

The sale, which ends May 11, offers 18 different varieties of native tree species to county residents for $20 to $40 each.

"Our native forest species are the ones that we should be favoring, if we have a chance," Outen said. "All of our native wildlife are dependent on our native oak canopies."

The varieties of larger trees offered in the sale have "immense canopies," Outen said, can grow to 100 feet in height when fully matured and provide shade in the summer and windbreaks in winter.

Outen said more than 450 trees have been sold since the sale began April 1, and he is looking forward to seeing those trees help improve canopy cover in the county.

"We really believe in the importance of the forest resource and keeping it healthy," he said.

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