Your Views: Legally obligated to protect mature trees

Your Views: Legally obligated to protect mature trees
The walking path through Chinquapin Park. (Photo/Missy Schrott)

To the editor:

In September, during a guided tour of Taylor Run, I was horrified to learn that the city intends to launch an all-out assault on this old-growth forest.

At a time when climate scientists around the world are raising the alarm about the Earth’s shrinking tree canopy, no reputable environmentalist would recommend the felling of healthy old-growth trees, except under dire circumstances. Yet that is what the city plans to do.

Applying the findings of climate scientist Dr. David Mildrexler to Taylor Run, removing just six 100-foot oaks with diameters of 21 inches or more will immediately release 15 tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

Planting thousands of 2-inch-diameter saplings cannot begin to compensate for the loss of our old giants. For one thing, saplings planted in a clear-cut space face hardships that previous generations of young trees were spared: no shade, no shelter from strong winds, heavy rains, blazing sun, too-warm soil and water, weeks of summer drought and the destruction of wildlife habitats.

More natural channel design “restoration” projects are currently on the city’s agenda. But according to ecologist Rod Simmons, this design is not only totally inappropriate in small headwater locations like Taylor Run, it is also ineffective against problems caused by runoff due to over-building and the excessive use of surfaces that can’t soak up water.

Because the harm these projects cause in one place sends out a wave of distress that touches every other living thing in the forest, the damage will be extensive. That would be sad, but tolerable, if the proposed projects were unavoidable. Otherwise, it becomes profoundly tragic.

Considering the city’s legal obligation to protect mature trees, and its professed desire to be regarded as an “eco-city,” how are residents to reconcile the city’s intentions with these actions?

Does Mayor Justin Wilson want his legacy to be the loss of priceless forests and the release of tons of carbon into the atmosphere on his watch? Wouldn’t it be better to listen to environmentalists who have nothing personal to gain and who can be impartial and honest?

-Barbara Fried, Alexandria