The Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (EPS), Forest Management works to restore and protect the County’s forests and trees through conservation, reforestation, urban tree plantings, and forest and tree maintenance. Forest Management implements the County’s reforestation and tree plantings programs in support of the Maryland Forest Conservation Law (COMAR Title 501-601), Baltimore County’s Watershed Improvement Program, the 2013 Tree Canopy Goals, and Maryland Roadside Tree Permit (COMAR Title 5-401) and is split into three groups, Rural Reforestations, Urban Reforestations, and Reforestation Maintenance. In addition to overseeing the County’s reforestation and tree planting requirements and goals, Forest Management works with other County agencies on creating pollinator habitat, deer herd management, Spongy moth suppression, and forest health assessments on County-owned property.
EPS uses native trees in their plantings and selects species based on several factors such as ecosystem functions, mature size, native range, safety and aesthetics. EPS provides a Forest Management Species list of trees used in its reforestations and urban tree plantings. EPS will work with landowners to ensure suggestions are incorporated in final planting plans where possible so long as those species can meet the selection criteria. EPS does not plant evergreens, or provide landscaping or privacy screening trees. If you prefer to plant trees yourself, please record the tree locations on the County’s Environmental Reporter mapping tool.
Baltimore County is mandated by the State of Maryland to reduce stormwater runoff (sediment and nutrient loads) entering the Chesapeake Bay to improve the health of the Bay and its surrounding watershed (Watershed Improvement Program). Reforestation is an important part of the Watershed Improvement Program and involves planting reforestations on both private and public land.
Converting lawn to forest reduces the cost of mowing and adds value to a property. The Turf to Trees program includes rural reforestations of one acre or larger. The entire acre should be open space (lawn or grass) away from utility easements, Forest Conservation Easements, septic and septic reserves. Approximately 200 trees are planted per acre spaced 15 feet apart. Trees are planted in staggered rows for ease of seasonal mowing. Trees are equipped with stakes and shelters to protect them from deer and pest damage.
Visit our Turf to Trees page to learn more about the process and to submit a Reforestation Property Form to determine your eligibility.
Backyard Trees is a modified version of our Turf to Trees program for County residents who do not have an acre or more to plant. Twenty (one-tenth of an acre) to 145 trees (three-fourths of an acre) will be planted and equipped with deer protection by County-selected contractors. Property owners will be responsible for maintaining the trees and reporting their survival to EPS.
Baltimore County EPS Forest Management
111 West Chesapeake Avenue, Room 305
Towson, Maryland 21204
In 2013, Baltimore County set its tree canopy goal to achieve and maintain a 50 percent tree canopy Countywide within the three drinking water reservoirs by the year 2025. Additionally, the County will strive to achieve and maintain a 40 percent tree coverage within more populated areas inside the Urban Rural Demarcation Line and for each Census Designated Places (CDPs).
Baltimore County’s Urban Reforestation program includes plantings for “managed grounds” (HOAs, apartment complexes or businesses) and urban communities (street trees) to maintain and increase the tree canopy in more densely populated urban areas. These plantings include landscape-style tree plantings wherein larger shade trees are planted as street trees in the County’s public right-of-way, in park-like settings or surrounding buildings.
Urban communities can request an urban reforestation planting by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Each project must include 20 trees or more.
EPS created Operation ReTree in 2021 as a systematic approach to addressing tree inequities in Baltimore County by planting trees in neighborhoods where more residents receive fewer tree benefits and may have the least land and disposable income to plant trees themselves.
The County’s Street Tree Replacement Program began in 2022 and has an annual goal of replacing 1,000 street trees within the public right-of-way (road verge). Neighborhoods with the most trees removed in recent years are prioritized under this program. DEPS is dedicated to planting responsible and future-focused plantings by planting the right tree in the right place. This is accomplished by only planting in verges at least five feet wide, installing root barriers, generally spacing trees 30 feet apart and installing larger trees at planting.
Forest and Urban Tree Maintenance
Baltimore County is dedicated to the long-term survival of all of our tree plantings. Large rural reforestations (one acre or more) come with an initial three years of maintenance and 90 percent survival guarantee. Maintenance includes seasonal mowing, vine and invasive species management and shelter upkeep. Maintenance may also include watering during times of heavy drought and the use of pesticides or herbicides. EPS will conduct yearly inspections during the initial maintenance period.
Urban tree plantings come with an initial one year of maintenance and 100 percent survival guarantee. Maintenance may include watering, pruning and shelter upkeep. EPS will conduct two inspections during the initial maintenance period.
To ensure the long-term survival of our plantings, EPS will continue to monitor reforestations for at least 10 years after planting and may conduct maintenance and replacement plantings, as needed, after the initial contractor maintenance period.
Maintaining Forest Health
The Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (EPS) conducts Forest Health Assessments and prepares Forest Management Plans for large, County-owned forested areas in order to guide actions to maintain the health of forests for ecological functions and high-quality passive recreation. A Licensed Forester under contract to EPS conducts quantitative assessments using the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service NED model. More than 2,600 acres of County-owned forestlands have been assessed:
- Oregon Ridge Park (2006, 895 acres)
- Lower Back River Peninsula (2009, 884 acres)
- Pottery Farm Park (2010, 227 acres)
- Cromwell Valley Park (2011, 164 acres)
- Marshy Point Park (2011 to 2012, 331 acres)
- Villa Nova Park (2012, 138 acres)
Assessments include overstory, understory, and ground layer structure and species composition for distinct forest stands. Data is collected for dozens of forest condition measures, including basal area, stand relative density, regeneration, Undesirable Growing Stock (UGS), and other measures. This data allows recommendations to be made regarding restoration and maintenance of forest health, including restoring native oak dominance, enhancing the existing Old Growth forest stands, and controlling invasive and diseased species such as sweetgum.
General Findings of Forest Health Assessments
- Forest stands are even aged, mature (100 to 120 or more years) and lack vertical structure.
- Overstories are losing historical oak dominance, which is critical to providing habitat for migrant songbirds and to providing water quality functions, including cycling of nutrients in the forest.
- Canopy closure is high so as to preclude oak regeneration and to favor shade-tolerant species, such as maple trees.
- Stands are overstocked (overcrowded) with high basal area and relative density, resulting in vulnerability to forest pests and diseases.
- Deer impact on forests is severe in some areas (deer browse averages 8.8 pounds per deer each day for eight months, and deer consume 2.2 pounds of acorns per deer each day in the fall and winter).
- Stands include a high percentage of UGS, trees with poor form and condition with high risk for early mortality.
Restrictive hunting legislation, development-driven forest fragmentation and continued predator suppression have created unnaturally favorable conditions for the white-tailed deer. Baltimore County’s deer herd management program is necessitated by the deer-driven degradation of the forest ecosystems at a few of our largest forested parks. Loch Raven reservoir, which has been managed for deer since 2008, is considered a priority area, as the 1,600 acres of forests there protect the quality of some 20 billion gallons of untreated drinking water. At the request of the Coalition for Responsible Deer Management, the Baltimore County Council authorized a deer cooperator (sharpshooter) program for Baltimore County parks.
Managing deer at appropriate levels can ensure the presence of a sustainable deer population while:
- Promoting the health of forests
- Protecting regional water quality
- Lowering risks to people, crops, landscaping and communities
Deer are among the greatest agents of change in our forests today. Deer eat understory and ground vegetation, including the leaves of young trees (preferably oak) and the acorns (seeds) of mature trees. A 150-pound deer consumes six to nine pounds of forage daily, which equates to 24 to 36 oak saplings per day. In addition, 57 percent of a deer’s summer diet is acorns. Does can bear 16 offspring in their lifetime.
In a balanced ecosystem, this behavior is benign. However, the dramatic overabundance of deer in Baltimore County forests has:
- Compromised the regenerative ability of the forests—Reduced the ability of the forests to intercept rainfall, slow surface water flow, prevent soil erosion, filter ground water and cycle nutrients.
- Decreased native plant population—Deer’s preference for native plants allows for the proliferation of invasive species, which shade the forest floor and prevent the germination of native tree seeds.
- Reducing bio and ecological diversity—The lack of native plants in the understories eliminates food and habitat for other wildlife.
- Death of tree saplings—Many saplings die from buck rubbing
Overabundant deer populations cause other issues, such as:
- Hosts for Lyme and associated tick-borne diseases
- Damage to landscaping and agricultural crops
- Expensive deer-vehicle collisions
News and Updates
Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) is a disease of walnut trees, primarily black walnut, Juglans nigra in Maryland. It is caused by the activity of the walnut twig beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis, and the fungus, Geosmithia morbida.
Effective May 1, The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has detected and subsequently quarantined all movement of walnut material and hardwood firewood out of 185 square miles, which includes all of Baltimore City and portions of southeastern Baltimore County. A portion of Cecil County has been under quarantine for TCD since 2015, which will remain in place.
Walnut twig beetles spread the disease by carrying the fungus into the tree when they tunnel into walnut bark. The fungus colonizes the inner bark tissue, causing cankers around the insect galleries. This effectively girdles the twigs resulting in branch dieback. If beetles attack the trunk in large numbers, trees can be killed from the formation of numerous trunk cankers.
Symptoms include yellowing and wilting foliage, as well as branch dieback. People who suspect they have seen TCD should contact their local County extension office, or MDA’s Plant Protection section by emailing email@example.com or calling 410-841-5920.
The spotted lanternfly is a new, non-native invasive insect first found in 2014 outside of Reading, Pennsylvania (Berks County). It has quickly spread throughout eastern Pennsylvania and a single adult spotted lanternfly was found on an insect trap in northeast Cecil County on October 25, 2018.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture has issued a quarantine order effective October 28, 2019, for Cecil and Harford Counties to prevent the spread of the spotted lanternfly in Maryland.
The spotted lanternfly is a threat to Maryland’s agriculture, nursery and forestry industries as it feeds on 70 different types of trees, plants and crops, including ornamental trees and plants. If you believe you’ve encountered this insect or an egg mass, place them in a small container or zip lock bag and inform the MDA by calling 410-841-5920 or emailing DontBug.MD@maryland.gov.