Poll Shows Strong Support for Forest Preservation Measures

    As lawmakers debate legislation to strengthen forest protections in the state, a poll conducted for a leading environmental group shows strong public support for these measures – and for the politicians who back them.

    The poll, conducted by OpinionWorks LLC, an Annapolis firm, was sponsored by the Choose Clean Water Coalition. It queried 654 registered voters Feb. 13-20 and carried a 3.8-point margin of error.

    The poll found that 87 percent of voters agree with the statement, “The state legislature should set a goal to save Maryland’s remaining forests and strengthen the laws that protect trees, even if it means slowing growth and development.” Fifty-four percent of those surveyed strongly agreed with this statement. Only 7 percent disagreed.

    As a lead-in to the question, voters were informed that “Our region loses nearly 100 acres of forest a day, and projections are that Maryland could lose 60,000 or more acres of forest by 2025.” Support for legislative action was consistent across the board, ranging from 80 percent in Western Maryland to 94 percent in Baltimore County, the poll found.

    Another robust number of voters said that saving forests is vital to them, even if it presents difficulty or additional cost for a development project. Eighty-four percent agreed with the statement, “When developing land, it is important to save Maryland’s oldest, most connected, and/or most beneficial forests, even if a development project would have to move or cost more.” Forty-nine percent strongly agreed with this statement – and only 10 percent disagreed.

    Asked whether they would have a favorable opinion of a political leader who vote to support forest protections, 79 percent said yes and only 10 percent said no. Eighty-three percent of Democrats answered the question affirmatively, compared to 72 percent for Republicans and 80 percent for unaffiliated voters.

    The Choose Clean Water Coalition is pushing three pieces of legislation affecting forests: A bill to create a forest conservation task force, sponsored by Sen. Guy J. Guzzone (D-Howard) and Del. Anne R. Healey (D-Prince George’s); a bill sponsored by Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick) and Del. Stephen B. Lafferty (D-Baltimore County) requiring local governments to mitigate loss of forests resulting from development projects; and legislation sponsored by Young and Del. Sara Love (D-Montgomery) that would change the definition of “no net loss of forest” to reflect current conditions of 40 percent of the state covered by forest land.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.