Amusing puns and aphorisms abound when talking about trees and forests, but these wordplays usually have their roots in serious truths. The fact is that Yorktown’s proposed new tree law is seeing some of the trees, but missing all the forests.
The “purpose” section of the proposed new law talks about preserving, protecting, conserving and regulating forests, woodlands and trees, while the “findings” section has language about the importance of “fundamental ecological systems” and makes reference to the role of trees in broad, systemic environmental issues such as air pollution absorption, soil erosion, oxygenation and wildlife habitat. The fact is that the proposed new tree law doesn’t follow up with the regulations needed to carry out its goals. It doesn’t recognize that a woodland is more than just a collection of trees, but rather a vital, interacting community of many species of plants and animals that includes trees and also shrubs and ground cover. While valuable and worthy of protection, a stand of 10 trees, which is the extent of the protection afforded by the proposed law, is not a woodland nor a “fundamental ecological system.”
The proposed new law has no provisions to regulate the removal of forests or woodlands in Yorktown. The law doesn’t even apply its regulations to town-owned land, by far the largest chunk of woodlands we have.
The current tree law, which the Town Board wants to repeal, specifically regulates (but does not prohibit) the removal of woodlands, has provisions for mitigating any loss of over 30 percent of the woodland on a site, and it affords town-owned woodlands the same protection as those on private land.
The proposed revision doesn’t protect, doesn’t regulate and, in fact, doesn’t even see the forests for the trees. How shortsighted!