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Council Will Consider Giving Trees a Reprieve

July 9, 2008

By Jeremy Boren, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jul. 9–Saving trees from the chain saw could become a little easier in Pittsburgh.

Legislation introduced Tuesday to City Council would give homeowners a month’s notice to lodge a protest before city foresters remove hundreds of trees citywide identified as “structurally unsound.”

The proposal is a reaction to public outcry over the city’s plan to remove 555 suspect trees from Squirrel Hill and other eastern neighborhoods. City officials put a moratorium on the tree removals in January, but some are worried it will be lifted without warning.

Ray Baum of Squirrel Hill said homeowners deserve to be notified before trees are cut down so people have time to assess their health and possibly prevent their removal.

“It’s not going to slow down the process of taking down a dangerous tree,” said Baum, chairman of the Squirrel Hill Coalition’s Urban Forest Committee. “But since you have a huge number of trees marked to be taken out, we can ask, ‘Do they need to be all taken out at the same time, or can it be done in stages?’ “

Advance warning is key, said Councilman Bill Peduto, the proposal’s sponsor.

“The problem is people were pulling up in front of their house after work, and there would be a notice that would say not to park there tomorrow because of tree removal. And people didn’t know if that tree was being pruned or removed,” he said. “This provides a timeframe for notification.”

Peduto plans to schedule a public hearing on the proposal, but a date hasn’t been set.

Danielle Crumrine, executive director of Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest, said those who want to appeal a tree’s impending removal must hire an arborist to assess it and determine if it can be saved.

That can be expensive. Some private arborist companies charge $75 to $95 an hour.

She said multiple neighbors could pool money to hire an expert to double-check the city’s assessment of a tree’s health, which is based on a citywide analysis performed by Davey Tree Co.

“It’s a great step in the right direction in terms of increasing community participation and strengthening the city’s sense of ownership over trees,” she said. “If people have that sense of ownership, they’ll be more likely to protect trees.”

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