There is a long history of bipartisan support for restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Perhaps this is why Congress recently passed a 2021 federal appropriations bill which included $87.5 million in funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, a $2.5 million increase over last year’s funding.
Many expect that this extra money (if signed into law) will help states and localities meet the requirements of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. As a taxpayer, I don’t like the idea of spending millions on programs that remove pollution at the same time that our development laws still allow the destruction of our most effective tool for preventing pollution of the bay: the intact forest.
Harford County’s current forest protection policies make as much sense as it would make to spend money paying for a weight loss program at the same time that we’re eating more ice cream at night.
Saving our natural environment deserves millions in investment and a guarantee of no further net loss of forests. There should be no further justification for what we face today in Harford County: the imminent threat of the destruction of Abingdon Woods, a 326-acre, intact, old growth forest.
Abingdon Woods is privately owned by Tom Huber and the Chesapeake Real Estate Group (CREG). The purchase was made in 1982, and the zoning was changed to “light commercial industrial” after the purchase. This zoning change was clearly an error that we should not need to live with, as it is the gateway for this plan to clear-cut and fragment the woods and build over 2 million square feet of warehouse space, eliminating the air and water filtration provided by a mature forest just upstream from Otter Point Creek, the Bush River and the Chesapeake Bay.
Tom Huber and CREG could sell the property and it could be preserved. The 2021 federal funding package includes funds that local governments can use for the most cost-effective pollution reduction programs. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has a reputation as a fiscal conservative. So, it would make more sense for him to do everything possible to save Abingdon Woods rather than supporting its destruction. We need his help to talk to Tom Huber and the Chesapeake Real Estate Group. Put the warehouses somewhere else. Preserving Abingdon Woods will cost a fraction of the grant money that would be needed to make up for its destruction.
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The author is the chair of the Save Abingdon Woods Coalition.