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Spare Maryland's trees

I am in the business of restoration — restoring hope that we are loved unconditionally, restoring faith that our lives matter and that renewal is always possible. That includes environmental renewal.

Our church has joined together with other congregations through Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, and together we’ve planted over 15,000 trees on our grounds. This was hard work. It took public and private grant funding, many volunteers and nonprofit organizations to orchestrate.

While we are pleased we could plant 15,000 trees, it is mind-boggling to comprehend that in just the past year or so, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 2,600 acres of forest were lost to development. This is a low estimate since several counties, including Montgomery and Cecil, and Baltimore City failed to submit last year’s report on forest losses.

It is time for those in the business of forest destruction to be held accountable for the burdens that are being laid down for the next generation. It is time for Maryland legislators to update our outdated Forest Conservation Act with this suite of three bills: Form a task force (HB 735/SB 729), fix the fee-in-lieu system (HB 272/SB 234) and redefine the definition of no net loss (HB 120/SB 203). Specifically, the “No Net Loss” measure will ensure we keep 40 percent tree canopy for much-needed shade and to increase property values. Statistics show that landscaping with trees can increase property values as much as 20 percent.

It is our responsibility as citizens to restore the damage we have done to the earth and offer hope for the next generation to live in a vibrant, beautiful, inspiring world. Thou shall not steal trees from the next generation.

Rev. Sue Lowcock Harris, Columbia

The writer is co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Howard County.

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