Creek ReLeaf - Reforesting Frederick County
About the Program
The Creek ReLeaf Program is designed to increase the total amount of forested area within Frederick County, including on privately owned lands and public properties. This project is funded in part by Maryland’s Chesapeake & Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.
- provide better stormwater control and reduce flood risk,
- prevent soil erosion,
- filter air and water pollutants,
- reduce temperature impacts on County streams,
- increase wildlife habitat,
- improve water quality and protect the Chesapeake Bay.
To support these goals, the Creek ReLeaf program creates permanent conservation easements for eligible parcels of land at least 2 acres in size and provides property owners with:
- a land assessment,
- a forest plan,
- installation of native trees and shrubs,
- five years of mowing and tree maintenance to establish the forest stand,
- and payment for the conservation easement placed on the planted parcel.
In addition to improving environmental quality, this work can reduce the landowner's maintenance burdens such as mowing, controlling invasive species, and dealing with difficult slopes, drainage issues, or soil erosion.
After the initial five years of County-provided support and maintenance, property maintenance reverts to the land owner. County staff can link landowners to additional resources and will also perform site inspections every three years to ensure the new forest is healthy and growing. As trees mature, the property owner can harvest wood selectively and enjoy the many benefits of a beautifully reforested parcel of land.
As of 2023, more than 584 acres of land have been reforested through the Creek ReLeaf program!
Download Creek ReLeaf Program Overview.
What is a Conservation Easement?
Conservation easements are legal agreements that permanently limit certain land uses to enhance the environment and protect natural resources. The land remains the property of its owner and can be used in accordance with the easement. Use may include selective harvesting as part of a forestry management plan, which may provide long-term revenue to the property owner.
The easement is permanent, even if the landowner sells the property.
How to Participate
There is an annual open application period each fall. The 2023 application period will run from October 15 through December 31.
Prior to Applying, interested property owners should do the following:
- Determine what section of your property you are interested in having reforested.
- Use our online tool to help estimate the size of the proposed parcel for planting: https://www.frederickcountymd.gov/7924
- Know where any existing easements are located on the property.
- Know where the well and septic field are (if present on the property).
When ready to apply, an online application is greatly preferred: https://frederickcountymd-frederick-county-energy-and-environment.app.transform.civicplus.com/forms/36463
Prioritization of Properties
Application neither guarantees acceptance in the program nor obligates a property owner to participate.
Frederick County Government staff will rank and prioritize proposed reforestation areas using the scoring criteria listed below:
- Size of proposed reforestation project. (The minimum acreage to be reforested must be at least 2 acres. Multiple property owners can join together to increase their chances of being accepted.)
- The project's potential to expand or connect existing forests.
- The parcel's proximity to a stream with poor water quality or streambank erosion.
- Ease of access to the site for planting, maintenance, and long-term monitoring.
- Presence of other nearby restoration efforts to improve watershed health.
- Sites must be outside of the following municipal boundaries: Brunswick, Emmitsburg, Frederick City, Middletown, Mount Airy, Myersville, Thurmont, and Walkersville.
Know Your Land
Reforestation will not be permitted on parcels with:
- Existing easements such as water, sewer, power lines, etc.
- Existing or proposed septic fields.
- Existing agricultural easements where conflict may occur.
For questions, please contact:
Linda Williamson, Project Manager