Pittman’s Hypocrisy on Forestry Bill
Wealthy horseman Steuart Pittman, Anne Arundel’s County’s accidental County Executive, is pushing a foresty bill that will reform how trees are cleared in the country. Unfortunately for Pittman, he’s the wrong messenger for this bill.
The bill originally would increase the fee-in-lieu for most projects from either $.40 or $.50 per square foot (the current cost is dependant on if the land is in a priority funding area) to $3.00 per square foot. That’s a pretty significant leap in costs. Furthermore, the bill increases the cost of clearing forest land in violation of the forest conservative law at an additional $3.00 per square foot.
The bill has its supporters. It also has its detractors. And Pittman is pretty proud of his bill too:
When I ran for county executive I was pretty vocal about what I called “reckless development.” I was brash enough to point fingers, to follow the money, and to criticize the system whereby developers finance local political campaigns.
I wasn’t just playing politics. I’m serious about reforming the way land use decisions are made in this county, and delivering on the demands that our communities have been making for decades.
On Tuesday, we will take a large step forward on behalf of our residents and the environment where we live. We are sending to the County Council a forest conservation bill that has the potential to prevent the clear-cutting of hundreds of acres each year.
We’ve lost an average of 300 acres of forest annually in this county since 2010. We are less than 5 percent of the state’s land mass, but are responsible for 40 percent of its forest loss. We allowed more forest to be destroyed in the last decade than Calvert, Prince George’s, Howard, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City combined.
The last sentence, how “we allowed more forest to be destroyed” considering a significant chunk of forest was cleared illegally on Dodon Farm in 2010, the farm owned by the Dodon Family Trust. The Dodon Family Trust is headed by Anne Pittman, the mother of Steuart Pittman.
In a complaint filed with Anne Arundel County in 2010, the land at 420 Dodon Road in Davidsonville had 7.8 acres logged without a permit. On top of that, the Maryland Department of the Environment found not only improper logging but that during the logging tree stumps were cleaned and the resulting debris was pushed towards a sensitive stream. Ultimately, a civil citation was issued on the property for all of these logging shenanigans. All on Dodon Family Trust land.
Here’s what the land looks like pre-and-post logging.
There are 43,560 square feet in an acre (don’t worry, I had to look it up). The photo above shows 30.2 acres of forest cover on the left (taken in 2009) and 22.4 acres on the right (taken in in 2018). 420 Dodon Road is outside a priority funding area. At the price that Pittman proposed for logging were, this level of logging would cost $1,019,304 were the Dodon Land Trust were to do it now. On top of it, since the clearing, in this case, was done in violation of the proposed conservation law, it would cost the Dodon Land Trust another $1,019,304 in fines. Even under the new bill, the costs would still be $424,710 in costs, and $424,710 in fines on top of that. That roughly $850,000 toal is significantly more than the $1,000 fine that was levied for the unpermitted logging on the Dodon property back in 2010.
The 391 Dodon Road address noted above is interesting too. The land above was cleared so Pittman’s sister could create The Vineyards at Dodon. Hardly a good reason to clear 7.8 acres of forest given Steuart Pittman’s righteous indignation over forest conservation and logging. And though Steuart Pittman was not in charge of the trust, he remained a beneficiary and therefore personally benefits from trust assets and the appreciation of those assets. One such way for assets to appreciate is to cut down trees to build a winery, which results in higher property values.
Maybe Steuart Pittman can claim that he has “seen the light” from his transgressions of clear-cutting 7.8 acres of forest without a permit in order to build a winery. But he owes the people of Anne Arundel County an explanation. Many people can get behind the idea of forest conservation and not clear-cutting trees just for the sake of clear-cutting trees. But why did he think it was ok to clear-cut land on Dodon Farm? Why did he think creating a winery was more important than forest conservation? And why does he want to hold Anne Arundel County residents to a higher standard than he holds his own family trust?
Inquiring minds want to know.