On Trees, ordinances, obstructionism, and compromise

This post is an outgrowth of comments I made on Commission Impossible on the new proposed strengthened tree ordinance.

I like trees, and I recently planted four, but at the same time I’ve had to remove a couple of trees from my home and business property. In the latter case, the City did the work because they agreed with me that the tree was unsafe and posed a public hazard.

This tree ordinance thing is taking on overtones of the abortion battle, except that the roles seem to be reversed, with the “right to life” being on the left. Lately, it seems that meadowfoam, garter snake habitat (see Sundays letters to the editor) and beetle habitat Elderberry bushes are more important than the rights and lives of people.

Case in point – how many people have died at the Highways 70/149/99 interchanges in the 10+ years that environmentalists have placed roadblocks in front of that project? I remember one little boy, about two years ago, who died when the car he and his mom were riding in was broadsided by a car on 70 as she turned onto 149. If the road had been improved on schedule, that never would have happened.

Was that worth 10 years of delay to protect some Meadowfoam and beavers? I think not. Meadowfoam is being grown in quantities at reserves near Vina and commercially in Oregon, and the Limnanthes Flococcus Californica aka Butte County Meadowfoam can just as easily be grown with it. Beavers relocate with ease too. Anybody who tells you otherwise is just pushing an agenda.

Now we have the City saying there’s a delay in authorizing a bid to fix drainage problems for a man made stormwater retention basin near south Chico street Paseo Campaneros that becomes a West Nile hotspot. Two people have died on that street from West Nile in the past year…yet the “garter snake habitat” aka man-made retention basin gets hands-off priority according to what the city said recently.

It’s lunacy and its morally wrong. Public health, be it an accident prone intersection or a festering man-made mosquito pool should always trump protecting bugs, plants, snakes, and the occasional beaver. If you think these things are more important than the health of the community, then you have your social priorities reversed.

Environmentalists digging in their heels on this only hurts their cause, because it makes them look unreasonable, and maybe they are. But most people I know, on either side of the political spectrum actually want to protect the environment, me included, but they want to protect their children and grandparents more.

Making them choose through obstruction is a no-win polarizating situation. We CAN have it both ways.

In the case of trees, the folks pushing this strengthened law act as if the tree, once cut down, could never be replaced. We’re not talking giant Redwoods here…more like Dogwoods and Pines, available at Home Depot.

Compromise folks…compromise.

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April 24, 2007 9:37 am

Thank you Lon and Anthony for bringing these points to the forefront! Not only is this ordinance placing unrealistic expectations on the homeowners, but there is no proposal for funding for this enormous increase in paperwork and trafficking that would have to be monitored by the Urban Foresters office. There are many parts of this proposal that would cost the City hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement and maintain. Are we going to take money from the school district, or from the police department or the fire department? Whose overstretched budget will have to alleviate some weight to help people monitor the trees? Some other questions the proposal brings to my mind: What is a “city-certified arborist” and who is going to perform and monitor that training? Will the private sector of tree companies have to adherer to another standard? Will this ordinance be applicable only to tree removal, or are we going to have limitations on our tree trimming as well?
And, while we are comparing trees to humans, trees have a finite lifespan – just like humans. They do not live forever, and although if properly maintained they can live for hundreds of years, this is rarely the case in urban landscaping, which is not a trees natural habitat. Trees die, and when they are in the vicinity of structures, cars, or people, they need to be removed to prevent damage. This is not a process that should be slowed down due to more red tape.
One of the greatest nemeses to trees in the urban setting is grass. Grass competes with trees for nutrients and water from the soil. Trees planted in grass often receive too much water, making them susceptible to Oak Root fungus, Verticillim Wilt, and Iron Chlorosis. All these disease are capable of killing trees quickly and turning them into potentially hazardous lawn decorations.
I have to opportunity to work with many municipalities in the area of tree work, and I am familiar with many ordinances other communities have adopted. This one is simply ridiculous! I propose that TreeAction take a look at the ordinances other communities with a plethora of trees have adopted (i.e. Paradise, Magalia, Red Bluff, etc.) and see what is working for them.

Josephine Guardino
April 24, 2007 7:08 pm

Hi Anthony,
Just wanted to let you know that Jenny Marr, a conservation biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game will be giving a CNPS presentation on Butte County Meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccosa ssp. californica)next Thursday (May 3rd) at the Butte County Library. The meeting starts at 7:30 and she will be discussing a bit of local history, stories and genitic findings about this very “local” and often controversial plant and the challenges we face in conserving what remains of Butte County Meadowfoam critical habitat.
All are welcome.

John Dittes
April 25, 2007 9:23 am

Hey Anthony.
Here’s a link to the Hwy 70&99 interchange delay-timeline to remind us of the bigger picture.
As your readers can see, the long process was delayed for a number of reasons; yes including meadowfoam (late in the game), and local opposition. Also, as indicated, later delays came because earlier analysis were incomplete/inadequate.
It wasn’t just a bunch of environmental extremists obstructing from the outset, as you indicate.
Also, the legal forum that is so criticized (CEQA) is the best thing going to date to reach compromise.
Without doubt, obstructionists do abuse it, but we can’t afford to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
By the way, I agree with you on the proposed tree ordinance being a bit unreasonable. Only through intelligent discussion and without name calling, compromizes can be reached.
Best regards,

April 25, 2007 10:44 pm

Dear John,
Yes other factors delayed it too. But the fact is that environmental delays made a bad situation worse, and had meadowfoam not suddenly “popped up” there, the work would have been underway and completed.
I have always had concerns about the BCM at that location as being introduced, rather than natural. Given the other populations I’ve seen, it appeared out of place.
But we’ll likely never know for sure and its a moot point now.

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