Saving GEH ROW Trees

     GEH is blessed with many wonderful, beneficial trees of many species, cultivars, and sizes.  These trees provide shade and wildlife habitat, produce oxygen, reduce air pollution, reduce toxic runoff into our streams, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay, etc.  Waterway pollution is a major Earth problem. Many Marylanders and others are highly concerned about the health of the Potomac and the Bay, as Senator Ben Cardin told us in his December-2019 newletter.  MC wants to have at least 40% canopy tree cover for environmental health.  ROW Trees are public trees that belong to all of the people of Maryland.  No one should illegally remove or harm our ROW Trees.  A person who does this is not only breaking Maryland law, but also disrespecting people of Maryland, people associated with the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and beyond.   

What is the GEH right-of-way (ROW)? 

     The country-owned, public land on each side of a GEH road.  The ROW is 30 feet on each side of the median of Walhonding Rd.; 25 feet on each side of Wehawken Rd.; etc.  As far as I know, GEH ROWs are either 50 or 60 feet in total width.  Since the ROW is public property, MC outlaws any structure in the ROW, built there without a permit.  Because of this ROW law, GEH still does not have a legal place for GEH’s conservation bench (Norma’s Bench). 

What is a right-of-way tree (ROW tree)? 

A tree of any size in the ROW.  ROW trees are property of MD, and the Maryland Maryland DNR and MC manage them.  MC contracts companies to trim ROW trees and remove dead ones.  MC and MD laws protect GEH ROW trees.  It is illegal for anyone to fell or trim a ROW tree without a permit from MC.  We should all know our ROW sizes and ROW trees to protect them.  As far as I know, they are the only GEH trees protected by law.  

Does a person need a permit to fell a tree on her (his) private property in MC, even the most gorgeous tree on Earth? 


Do people illegally cut ROW trees in GEH? 

Yes.  People illegally felled at least 5 ROW trees on Wehawken Road since about 2000.  In two cases, I told the workers that they were illegally cutting ROW trees, but they would not stop. 

What should I do if someone is cutting a ROW tree?  ROW trees belong to the State of Maryland; thus, the People of Maryland.  If someone cuts down a ROW tree illegally, that person is destroying our special property.  Living ROW and other MD trees each reduce global warming by their carbon sequestration.

     1.  Know your ROW trees.  Be informed and persistent.  Some tree services and builders will tell us anything to get us off their backs.  We all need to protect our community trees and Earth.  The more GEHsters involved in watching and helping our ROW trees, the more ROW trees we can save. Since 2000, people illegally felled at least 5 ROW trees on south Wehawken Road, alone. 

     2.  Record the time, place, and name and phone number of the tree service.  Also, take lots of informative photos.  

     3.  Call the dispatch desk of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police (MDNRP, 410-260-8888, open 24/7) to report cutting whether or not workmen are felling a ROW tree, because they might do so soon.  The MDNRP will record information from you, check to see if the tree service has a permit to remove a ROW tree, etc.  If there is a permit, the tree will be removed, sigh.  At least, if people double check, in some cases focal ROW trees will live. The police officers have dispatcher reports about a tree incident, and officers can hear your original call which is recorded in case officers need to hear direct information from your call. 

     4.  On site, you can ask workmen to see appropriate permits?  If there is no permit, inform the worker(s) that it is illegal to cut the ROW tree(s).  Suggest that the worker call her (his) office to find out if she is legally cutting a tree.  The workers might cut the tree anyway.  In any case, take down the appropriate vehicle licenses, address of the house by the tree, time, and date.  Take many revealing photographs.  Where do we send information?  MD Park Ranger Todd Douglass at 301-854-6060 or write to him, or to one of his colleagues.  The MDNRP satellite office, 410-356-7060 can also help you as needed.  This is a public information office; it does not dispatch police.  In 2019, a tree crew working on Wehawken Road didn’t have a permit to show me, but one member said they had a permit at his office.  I checked with MC, and there was no permit.  The crew illegally felled two wonderful ROW Eastern Redbud trees, ugh.  

    5.  If no MDNRP officer is available, the MDNRP will send county or state police to check out the tree cutting.  At least a few MDNRP officers on are their beats 24/7.  They can be very busy during hunting season, for example.  Officers will call you back as needed.  Also if you prefer, they would send you an email, if you give them or their office your email address.  

     6.  MDNRP police can arrive within 1 hr if a car is near the scene of tree cutting.  If police arrive too late to save a ROW tree, police can record the information, and even issue a ticket if the tree service does not have a permit to fell the ROW tree.    

     7.  The MDNRP does not proactively contact tree services.  The MDNRP has to visit a focal site when a tree service is present to check for possible tree removal permits and so forth.  

     8.  One Maryland employee told me that regular police can stop illegal tree cutting.  However, regular police usually won’t help with tree cutting because of the complexity of the law and individual officers might not know what to do.  It seems to me that regular police (e.g., Bethesda Police) should know what to do because ROW and other trees are so valuable to MC, MD, and Earth.  What do you think?  In the past when I called Bethesda Police, they did not offer any of the information I have written in this section.  Further, they would not come to help save trees.

     9.  Should I call MC 311 or my councilmember to try to save a tree fast?  No.  It is best to work directly with the MDNRP.  In my past experience 311 didn’t know much about tree laws and our councilmember’s office could not help enough.  

     10.  Note well:  If the workers spare a tree today, they might return and fell it later without a permit, even on weekends.  Tree companies are supposed to know ROW tree laws and act appropriately.  It is often a tree company’s fault if it illegally cuts down a ROW tree. 

     11.  Maryland does fine and suspend licences of tree services that illegally fell trees. 

     12.  Who pays in the end for illegal ROW tree felling? 

The People of Maryland, people who buy new houses at addresses where tree services illegally cut ROW trees and paid fines, and People of All Earth since more beneficial trees bit the dust.   

     13.  It’s worth reporting harm to a ROW tree, even if you can’t save it.  It helps to let the MDNRP know about problem companies for saving trees in the future.  

     14.  I’ve been told that some builders and tree services count on neighborhood disorganization and ignorance of tree laws so they can do what they want with ROW trees.  This often harms neighborhood trees. 

Edd Barrows, Biologist, 2nd VP,  Glen Echo Heights Citizens’ Association; February 19, 2020.  If there are any errors in this entry please let me know.  

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