ANS Responds to Montgomery County’s New Climate Action Plan (CAP)
Maryland Advocate Denise Guitarra Praises Plan, Calls for More Protection for Forests and BIPOC Input
CHEVY CHASE, MD – Maryland Conservation Advocate Denisse Guitarra
My name is Denisse Guitarra and I’m the Maryland Conservation Advocate for the Audubon Naturalist Society, based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. For 124 years, the Audubon Naturalist Society, also known as ANS, has inspired residents of the greater Washington, DC, region to appreciate, understand, and protect their natural environment through outdoor experiences, education, and advocacy.
As part of that long legacy of civic action, we participated in the development of the Climate Action Plan, also known as CAP. We participated in more than a dozen meetings since 2019 with County staff and various coalitions, provided written testimonies, and hosted online webinars that were open to the public. We have taken a look and are still analyzing the final draft plan and while the plan is not yet perfect, we are excited to see that it includes some of our recommendations, such as increasing tree and forest protections, and working more closely with communities, and specifically BIPOC communities, to co-create policies.
What we appreciated most during the process was the flexibility and openness to change. Continuing in that spirit will be essential to helping us reach a more perfect plan and our goals to help bring together Montgomery County’s rich traditions of social justice and environmental protection to better serve every community.
Climate justice is human justice, therefore, fighting climate change is about valuing life itself. It’s about valuing plants, animals, and people and how each one of us is connected to our habitats. We are in a climate emergency and that means we must also ensure that environmental justice is at the forefront of the climate change movement, because communities of color experience disproportionate harm from the damage caused by climate change.
The CAP lays out an ambitious blueprint for the future. However, we are here to emphasize that the CAP still needs to be strengthened and include specific environmental policies, especially those regarding more trees and better stormwater management, and community inclusion and engagement. We need the Council to enact policies that will help us achieve these climate change goals, such as passing a “no net loss of forests” policy, implementing stronger stormwater management policies, and enforcing our existing environmental laws. Protecting our forests is critical. Between 2008 and 2016, development in the County cleared 1,383 acres of forests, the 5th highest amount of forest cleared among all counties in Maryland. See our comments on the CAP in our ANS Conservation Blog.1
We’d like to thank Montgomery County Executive Mark Elrich and Climate Change Coordinator Adriana Hochberg for inviting us to be a part of this process. We look forward to continuing to work with the County, government agencies, environmental organizations and coalitions, and BIPOC communities to help deliver to residents of Montgomery County an even stronger and more effective plan.
About ANS: Throughout its history, ANS has championed nature for all by playing a pivotal role in conserving our region’s iconic natural places from development including the C&O Canal, Dyke Marsh and, most recently, Ten Mile Creek. Past ANS member and board president, Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, is credited with launching the now global environmental movement. ANS‘s nature experts provide hundreds of opportunities each year for children and adults to enjoy, learn about, and protect the environment.