MFA report offers ideas to help revive state forestry
LINKWOOD, Md. — To boost the state’s forestry industry, Gov. Larry Hogan should simplify forestry regulations, shift money to an industry-dedicated fund and better emphasize forestry in its economic planning, a report by the Maryland Forests Association said this month.
The Oct. 10 report offered four recommendations to the state in response to recent setbacks in the forest products industry, including the closure of a large Allegany County paper mill that rattled loggers and foresters across the state last year.
The report recommends that the state align sediment and erosion control regulations in silviculture and agriculture to correct an incongruity that drives forestry business to neighboring states with a simpler regulatory approach.
“If there was a dominant theme resonating throughout the (study’s) input process, it was the fact that Maryland is not as ‘business friendly’ to the industry as neighboring states per sediment and erosion control planning approval processes,” the report said.
The report suggested the General Assembly shift $1 million each year from a state fund dedicated to programs that improve the Chesapeake Bay’s health and move it to the Mel Noland Woodland Incentives Fund. The Noland fund provides cost-sharing assistance for tree planting, site preparation and timber stand improvement practices, among additional initiatives.
Forestry advocates have long touted the industry’s benefits to the Bay. Healthy woodlands, a natural filter, can improve water quality in the Bay and its tributaries, and robust forest management is the best way to preserve those woodlands. One hundred trees can absorb millions of gallons of rainwater that would otherwise flow into and pollute the Chesapeake Bay.
The report also asks the Commerce Department’s Maryland Economic Development Commission, which guides state economic policy, to better emphasize and promote the forest products industry. The Maryland Sustainable Forestry Council, which advises the Department of Natural Resources, should also be required to produce formal reports for the department that could better influence forestry policy.
Karen Glenn Hood, a commerce department spokesperson, said the department was still reviewing the report Oct. 13, and she declined to comment.
The recommendations, the report said, will help the forest products industry recover from the closure of several regional sawmills, the Verso paper plant in Luke last year and the state’s shutdown of a wood-burning power plant at an Eastern Shore prison that eliminated an outlet for the Shore’s forestry industry. The state plans to power the prison with natural gas, part of a larger effort to bring gas to Somerset County.
The report emphasized the modesty of its recommendations, which, it said, should motivate the state to adopt them.
“These recommendations have a zero fiscal impact and should be non-controversial, requiring only approval from the administration,” the report said.
The report was funded by a grant from the Rural Maryland Council.
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