According to a recent Reuters article, citizens in some towns are starting to get a little miffed about greedy developers and property owners who want to cut trees down for no good reason.
SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) – In a state where pine and fir outnumber residents, the loss of several privately owned spruces should hardly excite attention, let alone spark a crusade emblematic of a new trend to protect trees on private land.
But in the ski community of Ketchum, Idaho, a seasonal home for the rich and famous and the last resting place of writer Ernest Hemingway, a developer’s plan to cut down three towering conifers on his property spurred the city to issue an emergency order last month outlawing the felling of mature trees.
But it’s not just Ketchum…other towns are getting in on the act.
These resort towns are the latest among a growing number of communities from Idaho to California seeking to protect their dwindling natural canopies by placing restrictions on the cutting of trees on private land.
The policies — which do not apply to timber harvesting on private tree farms or federal lands — are being imposed amid debates over future growth in exclusive enclaves such as Ketchum and Hailey, which are hemmed in by public lands and where developers seek to fill entire lots with structures.
The article points out that due to sprawl, old age, and dwindling town budgets, the 2003 tree cover in urban areas had decreased by 21 percent, compared to 10 years before. I don’t care if people cut down a tree that’s dying or diseased, or is a threat in some way. But I hate to see developers and property owners cut trees just because they want to build houses or shopping centers, or are tired or raking leaves, or want to build an addition on their house. It’s just plain selfish and short-sighted.
Apparently, other people are just as passionate about trees.
That passion played out in public in San Francisco after a property owner in October cut down the first of several trees last year favored by a wild — and now celebrated — flock of parrots. City officials responded to the ensuing outcry by approving a program in January that protects trees designated as landmarks.
Since then, the city’s forestry council has outlined goals to upgrade an urban forest whose origins date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when a nearly treeless landscape was planted.
In the lakefront community of Kirkland, Washington, officials have cut from five to two the number of healthy trees residents are allowed to fell on their property. Violators face a fine of up to $1,000 a tree and bear the cost of its replacement.
David Stephenson, manager of the Idaho Community Forestry Program, is among those who hope such steps will rejuvenate the spirit of planting that infused Western towns a century ago and provided the framework for their forests today. He worries that the decline of communities’ canopies is linked to an underlying cultural shift.
“People once moved to cities from rural areas and they wanted to bring with them that rural character, which trees represented,” he said. “Now we have generations born and raised in cities and we are in danger of losing that contact with nature.”
Back in Ketchum, where tree cover has declined by an estimated 40 percent since 1993, residents are still seething over the developer’s destruction of the three spruces.
“The community is outraged with that type of behavior,” said City Manager Ron LeBlanc.
Heh. Take that, tree killers.
Photo of Pinus palustris (longleaf pine) courtesy of University of Wisconsin.