On Tuesday afternoon, an emergency bill and accompanying declaration passed in the DC Council authorizing the city to issue stop-work orders for development projects when a heritage tree is cut down. This bill is in response to various outlets reporting that DC developers have been illegally chopping down heritage trees, which have a circumference of over 100 inches.
The Urban Forest Preservation Stop Work Order Authority Emergency Amendment Act of 2022 was introduced by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who noted that an example of this activity just occurred in her ward over the past week.
"Once a large tree is removed, it will take decades for newly-planted trees to reach the same size and provide the same benefits to the community, not to mention, I must say, that trees have extensive root systems, and when you lose one tree, you harm not only that tree, but the surrounding trees as well," Cheh explained when introducing the bill.
Heritage trees can only legally be removed if a permit is issued because they are deemed hazardous or are being relocated. Developers who fell these trees without a permit are subject to fines, although recent instances have indicated that these fines are not considered a deterrent, but, as stated by Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George, a "cost of doing business."
Cheh also acknowledged that this is a stop-gap measure, as another bill is also being introduced to further strengthen enforcement actions against developers who illegally cut down trees.
This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc-council-passes-emergency-bill-to-stop-work-when-developers-fell-heritage/19332.
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