Forum editorial: Fargo tree ordinance falls short
A proposed Fargo tree ordinance appears to be an overly complex bureaucratic bromide that will not sufficiently address the willy-nilly destruction of mature trees in the city. Instead of focusing primarily on developers with chain saws and bulld...
A proposed Fargo tree ordinance appears to be an overly complex bureaucratic bromide that will not sufficiently address the willy-nilly destruction of mature trees in the city. Instead of focusing primarily on developers with chain saws and bulldozers, the ordinance would establish punitive protocols aimed at the individual homeowner who might want to remove a backyard tree. Moreover, the tree replacement provisions of the ordinance seem to give the clear-cut gang a pass, as long as they replace mature trees with new (and, of course, smaller) trees.
Furthermore, if the Fargo Park District has its way, the city's park lands would be exempt from a city ordinance. Park officials insist parks have in-house forestry expertise; tree preservation rules are in force. Therefore, the argument goes, the district should not be bound by city regulations. The argument has a couple of holes.
First, much of the urban forest is in the parks. If (and it's a big if) the city can write tree preservation regulations that are tougher than the park district's, the city's should prevail. Second, the unnecessary ripping down of several mid-life ash trees in Lindenwood Park a few days ago to allegedly make room for a flood levee suggests the park district's sensibility about trees in its own parks is not what it should be.
The city's proposal seems ready-made to fail, not because the goals are flawed but because it is too complicated to be effective. Instead of tapping into the strong sentiment among Fargo residents to preserve mature trees, especially in new neighborhoods, the city is flirting with an intrusive scheme that would require city approval every time a homeowner wanted to remove a yard tree for whatever reason.The plan's tree measurements, incentives, fines and inspections guarantee confusion and invite litigation.
The city's tree management problem is not the homeowner with an unwanted tree. It's the rip-'em-down practice of some large property owners and commercial developers. They seem unwilling to summon the creativity to preserve old-growth and mature trees that might have been part of old farmsteads and tree belts but now are prime development tracts within the city limits. The city's neglect has, in effect, enabled the urge to clear-cut. A new ordinance should mandate that residential and commercial footprints accommodate existing trees. The current no-policy blunder suggests the tail has been wagging the dog for a long time.
Tweak and revise the proposed ordinance. Get it right. Help Fargo measure up to its designation as a "Tree City USA," which right now is laughable.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.