Ike Leggett signs two bills to protect Maryland greenery

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJLA) -- Caren Madsen moved into this Silver Spring neighborhood 20 years ago and took pride in her surroundings.

Madsen chairs the Conservation Montgomery Board of Directors and says, "One of the reasons we bought our home was the trees you see around you, on this street."

Today however, signs of development are everywhere, and that has resulted in fewer trees.

"Much to our dismay, that urban forest disappeared over night," she says.

But making it a personal mission to protect her community, Madsen celebrated a small victory on Tuesday with fellow environmentalists.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett signed two bills into law. One{ } applies to construction projects in smaller lots; disturbing up to 6,000 square feet of property could require planting three shade trees or paying into a replacement fund.

"This bill is sending a signal to everyone to say think before you cut a tree down," says Diane Cameron of the Audubon Naturalist Society.

The second bill protects roadside trees in public right-of-ways. Property owners would need to get a county permit when removing a tree, and then either plant another one in its place or pay $250 per tree.

Stan Edwards of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection says that it won't affect any individual homeowners who want to remove their trees to plant a garden or allow more sun into their backyards.

Tree canopies make up 50-percent of the county and as Cameron says: "Trees are what our neighborhoods liveable and enjoyable and healthy to live in."

The law officially goes into effect on March 1, 2014, The new rules do not apply to Pepco or other utility companies.