Forest Conservation Act

A bird in a pine tree resting in the middle of a city



How are Trees Protected During Construction?

Early in 1990 Governor Schaeffer created a Task Force to assess the problems and potential of Maryland's trees and forests to promote land stewardship. One recommendation of the Task Force was creation of a forest conservation, protection and reforestation law. The Department of Natural Resources Forest Service and various partners wrote the Forest Conservation Act and Regulations.

The main purpose of the Maryland Forest Conservation Act (Natural Resources Article Section 5-1601 through 5-1613) enacted in 1991 was to minimize the loss of Maryland's forest resources during land development by making the identification and protection of forests and other sensitive areas an integral part of the site planning process. Identification of priority areas prior to development makes their retention possible. Of primary interest are areas adjacent to streams or wetlands, those on steep or erodible soils or those within or adjacent to large contiguous blocks of forest or wildlife corridors.

Although the Maryland DNR Forest Service administers the FCA, it is implemented on a local level. Gaining approval of the required Forest Conservation Plan (development of more than one acre) may require long term protection of included priority areas or planting/replanting (afforestation or reforestation) a sensitive area off-site.

During the first fifteen years of implementation FCA has been responsible for the review of 199,925 acres of forest on projects scheduled for development. Of those, 120,638 acres were retained, 71,885 acres were cleared and 21,461 acres were planted with new forest. In other words, at least twice as many acres were protected or planted as were cleared.


When does it apply?
Any activity requiring an application for a subdivision, grading permit or sediment control permit on areas 40,000 square feet (approximately 1 acre) or greater is subject to the Forest Conservation Act and will require a Forest Conservation Plan prepared by a licensed forester, licensed landscape architect, or other qualified professional UNLESS you are subject to one of the following exemptions (determined by the State FCA Coordinator or your local Forest Conservation Program Coordinator.

Exceptions or Exemptions to the FCA

  1. highway construction activity subject to NR Art. Sec. 5-103
  2. activities in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area
  3. commercial logging and timber harvest operations that are not subject to a grading permit for development within 5 years after the logging or harvest operation*
  4. agricultural activities that do not result in a land use change*
  5. clearing of permitted public rights-of-way
  6. routine maintenance of public utility rights-of-way
  7. a residential construction activity on a single lot of any size that does not result in the cutting, clearing or grading of more than 20,000 square feet of forest*
  8. strip or deep mining of coal (Title 7 subtitle 5 or 5A) and noncoal surface mining (Title 7 subtitle 6A)
  9. construction of a house intended for the use of the owner, child or grandchild if less than 20,000 square feet of forest is cut, cleared or graded*
  10. real estate transfer not resulting in a change in land use*
  11. areas under Federal Aviation Administration restrictions

*In these cases a declaration of intent is required. A declaration of intent is a statement signed by the landowner certifying the activity on the property is for the described activity and does not conflict with the purposes of any other declaration of intent.


What does the FCA require?
Any person making application for a subdivision, grading permit or sediment control plan on a tract of 40,000 square feet or more must submit a Forest Stand Delineation (FSD) and a Forest Conservation Plan (FCP).

  • FSD includes the identification of existing forest cover and the environmental features of a proposed development site. It consists of an application available in Adobe Acrobat format, map and summary of specific field data collected.
  • FCP includes a map and narrative describing the limits of disturbance for the proposed project and how the existing forested and sensitive areas will be protected during and after development. It includes an application form and worksheet (Both are in Adobe Acrobat format) showing the calculation of forest disturbed and retained and whether replanting trees will be required and a plan for the long term maintenance or protection of these trees.

Where should these plans be sent?
Plans for state review and approval are submitted to the receiving centers in each region.

  • Western Region
    Garrett, Allegany, Washington and Frederick Counties
    MD DNR - Forest Service
    3 Pershing Street Room 101
    Cumberland, MD 21502
  • Central Region
    Montgomery, Howard, Baltimore, Harford, Carroll and Cecil Counties
    MD DNR - Forest Service
    2 South Bond Street, Ste. 101
    Bel Air, MD 21014
  • Southern Region
    Anne Arundel, Prince George's, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's Counties
    Southern Region FCA Coordinator
    MD DNR - Forest Service
    580 Taylor Avenue E-1
    Annapolis,MD 21401
  • Eastern Region
    Kent, Queen Anne's, Caroline, Talbot, Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester Counties
    MD DNR - Forest Service
    201 Baptist Street #22
    Salisbury, MD 21801

Who can do this type of work?
Forest Stand Delineations (FSD) and Forest Conservation Plans (FCP) required by the Forest Conservation Act must be prepared by a licensed forester, licensed landscape architect, or other qualified professionals.

Qualified Professionals
Individuals who are not licensed foresters or licensed landscape architects may become "Qualified Professionals" capable of conducting forest delineations or writing conservation plans by meeting certain educational and work-experience criteria and completing a DNR approved forest conservation course. Final approval of Qualified Professional status is determined by the state FCA coordinator upon receipt of your Qualified Professional application and notification of your successful course completion.


Becoming a qualified professional
As defined by COMAR 08.19.06B (1)-(4)
An individual may be approved by the Department of Natural Resources for Qualified Professional status if they:

    1. Possess a 4-year degree in Natural Resource Sciences, Natural Resource Management, landscape or environmental planning;

    2. OR
    3. Have accumulated 4 years of professional experience in natural resource sciences, natural resource management, landscape or environmental planning or the equivalent (as determined by the state);

    4. OR
    5. Possess a graduate degree in natural resource science, natural resource management, landscape or environmental planning and 1 year professional experience in these or related fields.

    6. AND

  2. Have satisfactorily completed a DNR approved forest conservation course.


DNR Approved Qualified Professional Course
This course is designed to prepare the professional to conduct forest stand delineations (FSD) and write forest conservation plans (FCP) as required by the Forest Conservation Act. An application is available for becoming a qualified professional in Adobe Acrobat format. For information about getting the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software visit our download central page.

For current information, call 410.260.8511

The course includes 40 hours of class time and field work.

Topics covered include:

  • Overview of forest ecology and succession. Brief review of plant physiology
  • Tree identification
  • Site review topics:
    • Timeline
    • Applications, worksheets and permits
    • Locating conservation areas
    • Mapping tools
    • Conducting an FSD
  • Site planning topics:
    • Limits of disturbance
    • Grading and sediment control
    • Short and long term protection
    • Writing a FCP
  • History and impact of the FCA

During the past six years this course has been held at a variety of locations throughout the state including 10 different community colleges and Johns Hopkins University. Course location is based upon demand.

Anyone interested in becoming a Qualified Professional should contact their local community college's continuing education department and ask that a Qualified Professional class be held. Or contact the State FCA Coordinator (address below) for information about current locations for the class. After completion of the course, obtain and complete an application to become a Qualified Professional and forward it to the state FCA coordinator. This application for Qualified Professional status is available in Adobe Acrobat format. For information about getting the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software visit our download central page.


Resources available:

  • Forest Conservation, Annotated Code of Maryland Natural Resources Article Title 5, Subtitle 16 and Code of Maryland Regulations 08.19, May 2003.
    Distributed by Division of State Documents (410) 974-2486

  • State Forest Conservation Technical Manual, 3rd edition, 1997 by Maryland Department of Natural Resources
    Distributed by Division of State Documents (410) 974-2486


Contact Person:
Marian Honeczy
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Tawes State Office Building E-1
580 Taylor Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21401

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service wants to know if this service is helpful for you or your company, please send comments and/or suggestions to Maryland DNR.