Protect Urban Trees

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This philosophical question asks if something unobserved can exist. The answer, of course, is, of course. Or maybe not. Case in point: A tree in the densely packed Jefferson-Westside neighborhood was summarily chopped down and carted off last week. It was a tall majestic conifer which for decades offered shade for people, perching and nesting opportunities for birds, food for small critters, and heat reduction and carbon sequestration for us all as we suffer the ravages of global warming and climate change.

The remnant wood slabs stacked on a trailer showed no evidence of disease. Cutting down established healthy neighborhood trees is contrary to our scientific understanding of their myriad benefits in urban spaces as well as the environment at large. Yet the Eugene code allows private property owners to remove trees at their discretion from developed lots smaller than 20,000 square feet, almost a half acre. Tree removal from these lots is exempt from a tree removal permit and does not require any other authorization from the city of Eugene.

Unobserved by the city, this stalwart tree evidently cannot exist. Let’s ask our city councilors to re-examine tree removal regulations in light of evolving science and diminishing lot sizes. Green Eugene is a beautiful thing. The beneficial trees that define our city should be color-coded for protection.

Benton Elliott