Now that the presidential 2004 election is over, many of us breathe a collective sigh of relief - and hope that our national leadership has strong convictions about protecting our environment. On a local level, there seems to be a disturbing trend taking place in our neighborhoods that has far-reaching, detrimental effects for our environment. That is the rather indiscriminate clearcutting of mature trees on private property.
To name just a few examples, we have witnessed it on a lot behind the Potomac Elementary School in the past few months. Closer to my home, I've noticed it occurring on Esworthy Road. Clearcutting can lead to soil erosion that can have disastrous effects on not only the property at hand, but on several adjoining properties. It hampers watershed protection, especially if it occurs near a stream. DNR experts tell us that when water heats up in the sun, it reduces the amount of oxygen available for stream organisms and increases algae growth. The algae than dies, decomposes, using up more oxygen in the water.
Clearcutting also fragments large forest areas into smaller tracts that make it harder for wildlife to survive, especially some species of birds. Incidentally, instead of throwing out our Christmas trees after each holiday season, we discard it on our own property in the woods, where it makes an ideal nesting area for birds. Robb Gibbs of Montgomery County's local DNR extension tells us Forest Interior Dwellings (FIDs) are losing habitat throughout North America.
Where clearcutting results in large grass lawns, habitat for many animals is lost. There are also local County ordinances that forbid clearcutting on some tracts of land, especially those that are near a riverbed or stream. Stiff fines may result if the necessary permits are not obtained before clearcutting takes place. Please think twice before you consider expanding your lawn. Ask yourself if the tradeoff is worth it.
We hope to see you all at the November 10th meeting.
Normandy Farm: The hearing on the zoning change for the Normandy Farm property has been suspended indefinitely while the applicants ask that the parking requirements for the Country Inn zone be modified.
ZTA 04-10: The Planning Board will hold hearings on this zoning text amendment that would allow accessory apartments by right in many zones in the county, including RE1 and RE2. WMCCA will testify on the vital importance of keeping the process under the special exception jurisdiction of the Board of Appeals. This process provides notice to neighbors and citizens associations, allows residents to testify on the merits of the proposed use, and requires inspections to insure that the accessory apartment continues to operate within the rules which govern them.
Conservation Parks in Montgomery County are defined as tracts of open space where conserving resources takes precedence and recreation is limited to those activities with the least impact. The Planning Board approved the Blockhouse Point Conservation Park Master Plan on October 21, with several amendments to the Staff Draft. Natural Resource staff focused their recommendations on necessary protections to the ecological, historical and cultural values of the park. These included a Trail Concept Plan that would re-route some existing trails away from steep slopes and rare plant communities, and amending the Muddy Branch Trail Plan to identify a specific location for the portion of a shared use trail that passes through Blockhouse Point Conservation Park. Visitors to the Park will find a user-specific trail system with some uses limited by the sensitivity of the terrain.
Three of the five Planning Board members wanted to try a pilot program granting equestrian access to the southernmost trail to the bluff overlooks. Access would be through the adjacent Callithea Farm, currently being acquired by MNCPPC through Legacy Open Space. Such expanded access would not go into effect until (and if) an implementation plan is specifically approved by the Planning Board. They also expanded the plan for a historical interpretive center to be located at Callithea Farm to include ecological education that would help future visitors understand the conservation values of the Park.
WMCCA encourages young people to go outdoors for science. We invite students who have done an activity at a local site to show us their report, poster, collection, scout project, or science fair project. A WMCCA representative will be at the Potomac Library to review projects for an hour before the General Meeting each month (7:00 to 8:00 p.m.), including November 10, 2004. Call Lois Williams, 301 299-7236.
Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.