Reviews | Girl Scouts shouldn’t sell a Maryland forest to developers
With accelerating climate change, we urgently need to conserve our remaining forests for carbon sequestration, heat attenuation and stormwater absorption. Sprawling residential development increases greenhouse gas emissions, with bigger homes to heat and cool, bigger lawns to mow, bigger appliances and longer commutes in bigger cars. Despite long-term plans that call for concentrating new residential development in already developed areas served by public transit, open space in Prince George’s County is shrinking as farms and woodlands are converted to housing estates.
In 2019, the developers donated a 633-acre patch of forest east of Marlton at the headwaters of Jug Bay to the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. It seemed that this band of biodiversity could be spared. However, the GSCNC never intended to retain the land or use it as an outdoor space for Girl Scout activities. Instead, he saw the land as an asset to be sold to generate funds for Girl Scout operations.
Even though the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission expressed interest in buying the land to conserve the forest and create a park, the GSCNC instead sought a buyer who would put more dollars into its depleted coffers. Recently, the county approved a three-year extension to a preliminary subdivision plan granted in 1993, resuscitating a plan to build 572 homes on those wooded acres.
Scouting funding is important. With the urgent need to tackle the intertwined issues of gross social inequality and global climate change, the values I learned as a Scout and taught as a Scout leader take on greater importance. More than ever, we need girls who follow the Scout Law: “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, brave and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.
We need girls to learn to think globally and take responsibility for actions that affect not only their fellow Scouts in the National Capital Region, but also their sisters around the world. As we read the story of the Boy Scouts who responded to a recent train derailment, we see how much we need strong, courageous young people who are ready to help where they are needed when disaster strikes.
However, in this perilous world, what is the wisest use of this resource of 633 acres of forest in Prince George’s County? Will the world really be a better place to replace this leafy habitat of towering trees with homes and townhouses miles from public transport, jobs and shopping opportunities? Is it fair, considerate and benevolent to perpetuate a system in which those who contribute the least to climate change suffer the greatest impacts?
Sister Scouts across the United States and around the world have endured heat waves, wildfires and historic flooding. Already in Prince George’s County we have too many days each year when it’s too hot to play or work outside and playground equipment is too hot to touch. Wouldn’t it be better to let this forest continue to extract carbon dioxide from the air, provide cooling, absorb pollutants, modulate the water cycle and provide space for people to connect with nature?
Human health requires functioning forests and agricultural lands to protect our air, water and food supply. Yet land use decisions in Prince George’s County continue to undermine planning for a sustainable future, converting more of our open spaces into a built environment that is accelerating climate change. Too often we feel powerless to stop forces beyond our control, as if our individual actions are too small to make a difference. But many small changes can make a big difference. Individual decisions matter.
And 633 acres? It’s not a small change. When we have the responsibility to take care of a living being, what do we do if we cannot take care of it ourselves? Do we find someone else who can meet his needs and help him grow and prosper? Or do we hand it over for maximum profit to someone who will exploit and destroy it?
I hope the GSCNC will find a way to be strong, courageous and responsible for what it does to the land under its stewardship. I hope he will do everything in his power to ensure that the living, breathing forest of Marlton is conserved for generations to come.