But now the National Park Service, which, like the county, prohibits tree removal near the canal, says the county’s plan not only fails to fix the damage but allows Stevens a better view than he had before.
After months of discussion with Montgomery officials, Stevens agreed in December to plant 400 trees, grasses, shrubs and wildflowers on 1.3 acres surrounding his home.
But Kevin Brandt, superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, said Stevens will need to do much more planting to restore an area once thick with oak and beech trees, some more than 80 feet tall and more than 100 years old.
Experts say it could take as long as 50 years to restore the tract.
“Mr. Stevens had not only violated the NPS scenic easement but may also be liable for damages to the NPS,” Brandt wrote in a Jan. 15 letter to the Montgomery Planning Department.
The Montgomery plan also allows Stevens to plant a wildflower garden near his house, which Planning Department environmental chief Mark Pfefferle said would help stabilize the property and prevent erosion. Letters from Brandt made no mention of the garden but noted that the plan “appear[s] to envision a human-managed landscape and will not result in the regeneration of a naturalized forest.”
Park Police spokesman Paul Brooks said federal officials are continuing an investigation of the tree-cutting. No charges have been brought, he said. The matter is under review at the Department of Justice.
Federal regulations do not allow a landowner in designated areas near the park to clear trees and debris except when there is a hazard. Violating that prohibition can result in federal fines of up to $1,000 per incident — which could be calculated on a per-tree basis — and a possible one-year prison term, according to federal tree-protection laws. Montgomery prohibits any cutting without specific permission.
Stevens, 61, was head of Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor based in Bethesda, for more than eight years.
He paid the county’s $1,000 fine and has said through his attorney that he regretted not getting approval and would work to restore the land.
Former U.S. attorney Chuck Rosenberg, Stevens’s attorney, said in an e-mail Thursday that Stevens cleared the area to remove hazards after the June 29 high-wind “derecho” storm.
“When a devastating summer storm severely damaged many of those trees and created a significant safety hazard, [Stevens] hired certified professionals to remove only the damaged trees while mak[ing] the property safe and while protecting undamaged trees — permissible actions under the federal scenic easement,” Rosenberg’s e-mail said.