Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Commission Seeks to Improve Local Environment

Install renewable energy systems on existing and new Prince George’s County government and school buildings.

Construct more walking and bicycle trails and employers increase telework opportunities for workers as a way to decrease vehicular traffic.

These are three of the 27 recommendations proposed by a county Climate Action Commission on ways to improve the environment.

The challenge appears to be striking a balance to pay for protecting the environment and building new homes and businesses.

Dawn Hawkins-Nixon, associate director of the county’s Department of Environment and commission chair, said both can help make communities “sustainable” and “economically vibrant.”

The climate commission reviewed data Friday, July 23 that showed the combined forest and tree canopy coverage at 52% with a goal to increase that percentage in the next 14 years.

Between 2014 to 2081, data showed a 4 percent decrease in tree canopy equating to 7,114 acres.

Some of the tree canopy maps drawn during the same timeframe highlight the “developing” areas for future homes and businesses along the Interstate 95 corridor in the central and parts of the southern part of the county. It also includes the Laurel area that borders Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery counties.

Commission members said trees provide natural barriers, reduce the amount of stormwater runoff and help moderate temperatures, especially in urban communities with fewer trees.

In terms of healthy communities, Prince George’s ranked 14th out of Maryland’s 24 counties based on the U.S News and World Reports’ fourth annual Healthiest Communities Rankings at www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/rankings.

The report, released July 1, focuses on nearly 3,000 counties on 84 indicators through 10 categories such as food and nutrition, the environment and population health.

Gary Allen, one of the 16 commission members and president of the Maryland Forestry Foundation, said there remains a conflict between local and environmental objectives.

In addition, Allen said more updated information should be presented to show if more trees continue to be eradicated for residential and commercial development.

“My intent as a commissioner is to be bolder in our recommendations . . . and to frame those recommendations around a no net loss goal,” he said. “I think in the next 60 days we’re going to have to think more boldly in light of the presentation we have heard [Friday].”

According to the lists of recommendations at https://bit.ly/3i2AvNM, proposed ideas for the County Council include establishing a no net loss policy to create and expand existing policies for residents and businesses to plant trees in urban areas.

Kim Finch, a master planner with the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, agreed with Allen in providing more up-to-date information. Finch said the agency’s assessment on tree coverage shows it slightly increased last year. A document on that will be released soon, she said.

Hawkins-Nixon said the county used “a different data set and different maps” to conduct its analysis.

“We’re more than happy to work with Parks and Planning to compare our assessments and find out where the sources of those discrepancies may be and how together we can come up with a set of data that we’re both comfortable with,” she said.

The commission will hold another virtual meeting Aug. 19. Those who wish to listen in can register at https://bit.ly/3hZyaTK.

A final Climate Action Plan must be submitted to the County Council by Sept. 30.

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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