Forest Loss to Development from 1997 to 2000

The Indicator

Although forests are vulnerable to a variety of natural stresses, including fire, drought, pests and disease, by far the greatest threat to loss of forest cover in a rapidly urbanizing state like Maryland is urban type of development. This includes development of second or vacation homes in parts of the state not usually thought of as highly urban. Between 1997 and 2000, close to 37,000 acres of forest land were developed, representing a loss of some 1.5% of the forests in Maryland in 1997. The greatest losses occurred in Western Maryland, as well as the greatest loss of the large intact blocks of forest that are important to the State’s green infrastructure network. Western Maryland lost more green infrastructure forest than the rest of the regions of the State combined.

This indicator was developed by comparing Maryland Department of Planning land use/land cover data for 1997 and for 2000 using a Geographic Information System(GIS). Documentation of the process can be found in the document Forest and Green Infrastructure Loss in Maryland 1997-2000, and Implications for the Future. Field verification of the GIS work indicated that 95% of the area estimated lost was in fact lost.

Indicator Use

The indicator shows the spatial distribution among watersheds of the losses that occurred during the evaluation period. If losses at the 1997--2000 rate are extrapolated to 2020, it is estimated that some 103,000 acres of green infrastructure forest will be lost during the period. Serious steps to prevent this loss through local planning and development initiatives would be necessary to change this anticipated scenario, which exceeds losses projected by the Department of Planning by some 28%.

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