The Right to Farm Has Commissioners' Backing, But What About Residents'?

County Commissioner Larry Jarboe is one of the supporters of the proposed Right to Farm legislation, which will be discussed at a public hearing today. As far as tree farming is concerned, Jarboe says forestry comprises of a renewable agricultural resource.

“It’s better to have woodland than development, better to grow trees than houses,” says Jarboe.  

Jarboe notes that he and his fellow commissioners are unanimously behind the proposed legislation. “It’s moving forward,” he says, “and that’s a good thing.”  Jarboe considers the Right to Farm proposal to be uncontroversial.

Arlie [Bryan] Siebert of Scotland is one local resident who would disagree.

“I am not against agriculture or farming,” says Siebert, who comes from a farming family and is the first generation since the 1800s not to farming or farm-related activities, although he carries on the tradition through owing farm properties in two states.

Bryan Siebert is worried that clear cutting trees will “pollute” the bay and “ruin” forests that are irreplaceable within his lifetime. He is also troubled by a St. Mary’s Planning Commission that seems to have “uncontroverted bias in favor of agriculture and forestry interests against sensible environmental preservation.” 

“My concern is that we have a collision between protecting the Bay and financial and commercial interests.  We do not have a system that permits the environment to overcome the chopping down, building upon and pollution of our sensitive landscape.” The Board of County Commissioners and the Planning Commission seem to Siebert to be stacked with those who are likely to always represent those agricultural interests in any decisions they make. “The environmental objectives for the county are not reflected by the Planning Commission,” he claims.

Siebert is concerned that the new Right to Farm proposal would allow acres of trees to be clear cut to within 50 feet of the bay. Siebert submitted his concerns about acres of trees being clear cut within 50 feet of the bay to the Planning Commission, which he addressed at an August meeting, however he says he “doesn’t stand a chance” of having an impact upon the decision-making process in a commission that is substantially run by agricultural and forestry interests.

The proposed chapter that would be added to the St. Mary’s County Code provides no environmental counter to the general idea of Best Agricultural Practices, he says. “It does not have a member of the Potomac River Association; it does not have the Sierra Club. It is clearly devoid of anybody except the complaining citizen himself who has an interest in the environment over that of agribusiness.”


 photo by Steven Ritts

“I just had my first real politick lesson watching a neighbor cut down trees to within 50 feet of our bay and finding there is almost nothing to be done about it except to rile public attention showing inconsistency among the regulatory agencies in favor of stopping this environmentally abhorrent practice,”  say Siebert. The clearings had been approved by Mark Muir and the Forestry Board.

“Where were the environmental considerations, where was the public’s right to protest this desecration before the fact. Where were the Ordinances providing that preserving what is left of the St. Mary’s rural environment counts for something?” he asks.

“The teeth in the environment protection are baby teeth.  The teeth in the practices and laws f

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