P90703There are mixed emotions about tree removal permits that so many municipalities need to issue in order for a ‘heritage’ tree to be cut down legally. Most of us want to believe that in America, we have certain rights to do what we want to on the properties that we own. Obviously, that makes the most sense. However, if it were that simple, many more prominent trees that are collective assets to the larger communities would be removed.
As an arborist who writes the reports needed to procure these permits, I see it both ways. There are many trees that are worth preserving for the Community, and there are probably many more that must be removed for the safety of those who live around them.
I sometimes hear of common homeowners who get fined for removing a tree without a permit, just because they were not aware that it was protected by an ordnance. Most have lived in their homes longer than such ordinances existed. Most planted the tree that they were fined for removing.
Conversely, I also hear about developers who just remove whatever trees get in the way of their developments, and then just pay the necessary fines. It is nothing to them because they make so much money from the development.
The picture above is a site that one of my former employers worked on just before I left my job because it was too morally challenging. You can see that there are no significant trees. The tree crew removed all of them.
I was not aware of it of course. The Home Owners Association did not want to pay for my inspections and reports, or for the permits to remove all the big sycamores in the front gardens there. Nor did they want to replace the removed trees with something more proportionate, as the local municipality would have required. They were not worried about getting caught, since everyone there wanted the trees gone.
Now realistically, I would have had no problem writing reports recommending the removal of all the trees, because they were ridiculously disproportionate to their particular application. You can see how tiny the front gardens are. It was just easier and less expensive to cut the trees down illegally, and then not be required to replace them with trees that would have later died ‘accidentally’ anyway. (The tree crew excelled at that too.)
In the end, it is disgraceful that the trees that were required as a contingency when the site was developed years earlier are now completely gone, and will not be replaced, . . . and that no one seems to care.

8 thoughts on “Horridculture – Tree Removal Permits

      1. You would not believe how many complaints I get about trees, and how many clients who get angry when I explain that I can find nothing wrong with a particular tree that would justify its removal.

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    1. Scott’s Valley did not have tree preservation ordinances until the early 1990s, when a neighbor across the canyon, who happens to be within the city limits, clear cut more than a quarter acre of redwood to open up his view. I still can not imagine why anyone would move into the redwood forest if they hate trees so much. Anyway, my colleague started the process of developing the ordinances, even though he is outside of the city limits. The redwoods are of course protected, but none of the other trees are. Yet, he rarely allows any to be cut down.

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  1. There was a case in a Milwaukee suburb where a guy cut down trees in a public park so he could have a good view of the lake. Your example shows how complicated it can get when we try to protect trees, but letting selfishness rule cannot be the solution.

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    1. Actually, it is not as uncommon as it should be. I have inspected trees for a few clients who returned from vacation to find their trees mutilated by hackers who were hired by neighbors who wanted the tree gone. Sometimes the trees are completely gone, bur more often, they are just mutilated beyond salvage.

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