The University recognizes that healthy tree crowns buffer the under-canopy microclimate and that proper planting and selection of tree species translates into higher carbon emission sequestration and more effective runoff control. As stewards of the campus landscape, university planners seek to protect, maintain, and enhance the natural and cultural landscape of the campuses they call home. The Facilities Master Plan 2001-2020, approved in April, 2002 stipulated the goal to preserve and reinforce regional ecological connections with recommendations to:
The Baltimore Washington Partners for Forest Stewardship (BWPFS), a federal-state-nonprofit partnership to advance comprehensive and coordinated strategies for the restoration, conservation and stewardship of the combined landscape they manage, is expanding on June 23, 2011 to include additional federal, state and local government partners.
The original partners, including the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Center for Chesapeake Communities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Patuxent Research Refuge, the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army Fort George G. Meade, formed the BWPFS through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2006. Collectively, these agencies own and manage over 40 square miles of land, 64% of which is either forested or wetlands.
On June 23, 2011, at a MOU signature ceremony and tree planting event, hosted by the City of Greenbelt, the BWPFS will welcome the City of Greenbelt, the University of Maryland, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey as new members, expanding the area of contiguous managed landscape to nearly 47 square miles. These unique ecological resources are among the last significant tracts of contiguous forest land in this highly urbanized region and provide important ecosystem services to Marylanders such as clean air and water, soil erosion and flood control, biodiversity and recreational and educational opportunities.
Together, with new partners, the BWPFS will seek to expand tree canopy cover, conserve and improve wildlife habitat, reduce nutrient and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, promote coordinated land management and collaborative scientific research, pursue green building technologies and climate change action strategies, and offer environmental education opportunities to the public. The BWPFS will continue to seek out new collaborative partnerships with additional agencies, landowners and interested citizens, expanding this effort throughout the Baltimore-Washington Corridor.
For nearly a year starting in February 2009, students and faculty organized a protest of the potential development of approximately nine acres of the “Wooded Hillock,” a 22.4 acre forested area located on north campus. The hillock had been identified as the best available site for the relocation of certain campus support operations. The relocation of these operations was necessary due to the pending East Campus redevelopment project-itself, a smart and sustainable redevelopment initiative that would significantly improve the commercial and residential core of downtown College Park.
Students supported the East Campus Redevelopment, but were opposed to the proposed relocation site. To make their position known, the Student Government unanimously passed “A Resolution Supporting Alternatives to the Wooded Hillock East Campus Redevelopment Project.” In fall 2009, the Graduate Student Government passed a similar resolution and undergraduate and graduate students subsequently joined to organize a petition to “Save the Hillock.”
With the support of the student governments, faculty brought the issue to the University Senate which voted in favor of preserving the hillock as part of the East Campus project. Fortunately, a former Washington Post printing plant became available during the discussions and was purchased by the University to meet the relocation needs of the project. The purchase of the plant was viewed as a sustainable alternative since it was nearby and a large existing structure.
To improve future site review and selection efforts, the Senate subsequently recommended and the President approved the formation of a new Independent Facilities Site Review Committee that will review potential locations for new facilities to ensure individual projects meet campus environmental and sustainability policies.
The controversy over the Wooded Hillock was a teachable moment. The University’s rapidly evolving vision of being a national leader in sustainability involves increased interest by many on and off the campus. As a result, wider participation and greater transparency is now an integral part of resolving competing environmental and development challenges.
With support from friends and alumni, the University is creating an urban forest home that will transform the vista of the campus for generations to come. The need for donor support is great; the capital budget for University construction approved by the State lacks significant funds for landscaping. An important role in enhancing the campus tree canopy is through the specific tree donations of alumni, memorial gifts, class gifts, and such outreach programs as the Arboretum and Botanical Garden Initiative, Maryland Day Plant-A-Tree-at-Maryland Campaign. Patronage landscape enhancements have added unique specimen trees and expanded cover around the campus including the Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center providing amazing aesthetic and environmental improvements benefiting the entire university community.
Urban forestry resources at the University are expanding and continuing collaborations with external academic, private, and governmental entities enable the University to make effective use of its landscape as an instrument to link pedagogy and research to promote a healthier, greener campus. Gifts may be made by visiting: mark.umd.edu/give.cfm.
The University of Maryland campus was designated an Arboretum and Botanical Garden in December 2007 by the American Public Garden Association. In 2008, we were accepted in the inaugural year as a Tree Campus USA designee. The mission of this enterprise is to be an instrument of horticultural distinction, landscape design and interpretation, and place-making reflecting the university’s education, research and service. The long –term work of the Arboretum and Botanical Garden will support each of these areas by incorporating the diverse heritage landscapes of the campus from its beginnings as an agricultural college founded in 1856 to its current urban setting. Projects will exemplify practices of environmental stewardship, horticulture and urban forestry with the goal of enhancing the campus’ aesthetic, promoting awareness of conservation, preserving our natural environment, and providing educational and research opportunities. See www.arboretum.umd.edu.
A fresh approach was taken to further advance the broad environmental principles and goals of the Facilities Master Plan and go beyond regulatory compliance. Through a collaborative effort and a partnership agreement among Facilities Management, the Urban Forestry program (College of Agriculture and Natural Resources), and a private company, TreeRadar, Inc., approximately 8,000 trees (to-date) on more than 1,400 acres of the campus have been tagged and inventoried with the help of graduate assistant s and undergraduate student interns. The goal is to keep record of every tree on campus through a GIS database.
Using portable GIS units and innovative remote diagnostic imaging technology, University students recorded and evaluated the trees’ location, size, species, and condition (e.g., presence of decay, root damage, and cracks). The campus’ Tree Radar Unit (TRU) can determine root and truck integrity in a non-invasive manner – causing no damage to the trees. The data collected are used to monitor individual specimen trees, conduct health risk assessments, and to guide decisions about selective tree removal for those “at risk” trees potentially posing hazards to buildings and pedestrians. See www.TreeRadar.com.
In addition to facilitating the ongoing maintenance of campus trees, the tree survey has also engaged students, faculty, and allied professionals in teaching and research on and beyond the campus. By correlating land use and physical development, this inventory is a crucial resource to support the University’s administrative and academic leadership overseeing the goals of the Campus Master Plan to restore and enhance forest cover. In addition it allows for the conservation and enhancement of the campus community’s valued existing natural landscapes. See http://www.facilities.umd.edu/MasterPlan2/index.htm and www.facilities.umd.edu/MasterPlan2/envguide.htm.
The University signed a Long Term Protection Forest Conservation Easement with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources providing for permanent protection of designated easement areas and for updates to the easement agreement. Priority protected areas include stream buffers, wetlands, and steep slopes, affecting interconnected green corridors that also enhance water quality and habitat. Currently, the easement includes 70.56 acres of forest.