Case of the Day – Friday, December 19, 2014

UNSNARLING DUTIES

negligence-overviewWhen negligence rears its ugly head, compensation usually depends on the extent of the duty owed the victim by the party whose pocket the injured plaintiff seeks to pick. Take Tim Jones, an experienced cable television installer. One cold day in the bleak midwinter, he climbed an Indiana Bell pole to work on a cable installation. On the way down, he grabbed a phone line instead of a ladder rung. Not being intended as a support structure, the line gave way, and down Mr. Jones went.

Having no evidence that Indiana Bell knew the line was defective and likely to fall away from the pole, Mr. Jones did the only thing he could do – he sued anyway. The issue was a little daunting, because Indiana Bell hadn’t ever hired Mr. Jones. Instead, it just rented pole space to the cable company, which in turn hired the company that employed Jones. So what duty did the telephone company owe Jones in this totem-pole relationship?

Not that much of one, as it turned out. Mr. Jones lost his case, but the Court of Appeals took the opportunity to clarify the duty an easement holder has to invitees on the easement. The lesson is one that a utility holding an easement for, say, power lines, might owe to the employee of a tree-trimming service brought in to keep the easement clear of vegetation.

Jones v. Indiana Bell Telephone Co., 854 N.E.2d 1125 (Ind.App., 2007). Timothy Jones was doing a cable equipment upgrade for Sentry Cable, a cable TV provider. Jones – who had been doing this type of work for about twenty years and was aware of the associated dangers – was working as a subcontractor on this project. He was wearing the appropriate safety equipment.

The plucky old Field Marshal might have been Jones' lawyer here ... but the attack failed nonetheless.

The plucky old Field Marshal might have been Jones’ lawyer in this case … but the legal attack on the easement holder failed nonetheless.

Jones climbed a telephone pole owned by Indiana Bell, in order to access the cable TV line, which was located about a foot above the telephone line. On his way down, he grabbed the telephone line like it was a ladder rung. It wasn’t. It broke free, and Jones fell 20 feet to the ground, breaking his ankle. Jones sued the phone company for negligence.

At trial, Jones admitted he hadn’t observed any problems with either the telephone line or the clamp assembly. He also admitted he had no evidence that Indiana Bell knew that there was anything wrong with the pole, telephone line, or clamp assembly. Indiana Bell moved for judgment “based upon the … absence of any evidence of a breach of duty as the duty is established in Indiana law.” The trial court found Indiana Bell had no duty to Jones, and granted judgment to the phone company.

Jones appealed.

Held: Indiana Bell owed Jones nothing.

The Court observed that to prevail on a theory of negligence, Jones had to show Indiana Bell owed him a duty, it breached the duty, and his injuries were caused by the breach. Whether a defendant owes a duty of care to a plaintiff is a question of law for the court to decide. Whether an act or omission is a breach of one’s duty is generally a question of fact for the jury, but it can be a question of law where the facts are undisputed and only a single inference can be drawn from those facts.

The parties and the Court focused on the Indiana Supreme Court’s opinion in Sowers v. Tri-County Telephone Co., 546 N.E.2d 836 (Sup.Ct. Ind. 1989), which involved a telephone utility, the employee of an independent contractor, and a discussion of both duty and breach. In Sowers, the telephone company hired Covered Bridge Tree Service to trim trees located near its telephone lines and clear a right of way in order to ease the work of crews mounting cable television lines on the same poles. While trimming trees, a Covered Bridge employee fell into an abandoned manhole.

manhangfromtelephonepole140603The phone company did not own the land on which the manhole was located, but it had a prescriptive easement on the land. Sowers sued Tri-County for negligence, and the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Tri-County. The Sowers court held that a landowner or occupier is under a duty to exercise reasonable care for the protection of business invitees and that the employees of independent contractors are business invitees. The court held that Tri-County did not have a duty to inspect and warn and that the boundaries of Tri-County’s duty of reasonable care to its business invitees “must be defined from the utility’s own use of the easement.”

But here, the Court said, the facts of Sowers were distinguishable. There, the telephone utility itself hired the tree service company, whose employee was then injured while on the telephone utility’s easement. Here, Indiana Bell just rented space on its telephone poles to the cable company, whose subcontractor was then injured on Indiana Bell’s telephone pole. Still, the Court said, the policy reasons articulated in Sowers apply to this case, making the duties owed the same. Sowers first acknowledged that a telephone utility is a special breed in that it is not a traditional landowner or occupier. In addition, it acknowledged that a telephone utility does not often access its property except for the occasional necessity to effect repairs. Because of these facts, Sowers concluded that a great burden would be placed on a telephone utility if it were required to conduct regular inspections of its property for the sole purpose of discovering possible hazards.

Applying Sowers here, the Court concluded, Indiana Bell owed a duty of reasonable care to its invitees – including Jones – but the duty did not include the duty to inspect and warn. However, to the extent that Indiana Bell learned of dangerous conditions on its poles, it had a duty to warn its invitees. The evidence did not show Indiana Bell had any actual knowledge of the dangerous condition, meaning that the trial court properly entered judgment on the evidence in favor of Indiana Bell.

TNLBGray

ChristmasAd141210

And Now The News …


Xmastypewriter

 

trim141219Asbury Park, New Jersey Press, December 17, 2014: Electric utilities hunt ‘hazard trees’

Municipal officials will contact private property owners and the utilities will remove the problem tree, remove the debris and grind the stump, officials said. Replacement trees, paid for by vouchers provided by the utility, can be planted.  After superstorm Sandy, the state has worked to rebuild and strengthen utility infrastructure, the BPU said. “By working in unison with the New Jersey League of Municipalities, PSE&G, JCP&L and seven volunteer towns, we are developing a plan to prevent one of the major causes of power outages, fallen trees and limbs that are not covered under the traditional vegetation management programs,” said BPU President Richard S. Mroz in a statement …

Carbondale, Illinois, The Southern Illinoisian, December 19, 2014: Just because your trees have packed it in for the winter doesn’t mean you should ignore them

The colder months provide the perfect time and temperature for some critical maintenance. Pruning during dormancy is the most common practice for tree owners, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.Why winter? Winter pruning can result in a dynamic blossom of new growth by spring. The Arbor Day Foundation recommends that you wait until the coldest part of the winter has passed. This will set up your tree for maximum springtime health …

palms141219San Luis Obispo, California Coast News, December 18, 2014: PG&E destroys 20 palm trees at The Graduate

After a large eucalyptus tree crashed into a power line, PG&E destroyed 20 older palms trees located at The Graduate Restaurant and Nightclub in San Luis Obispo, even though the removal appears to violate city and state laws. During last week’s storm, a large eucalyptus tree toppled during the storm, taking with it a palm tree that tore down power lines and impacted service. PG&E crews then went to the location and their arborist determined 20 palm trees needed to be destroyed because the palms “presented future potential hazards,” PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said. Crews cut the tops off 20 healthy palm trees leaving just the trunks. Removing the top of a palm kills the tree …

Everett, Washington, Herald, December 18, 2014: Learn how to keep your trees healthy and repair damage

Certified arborist Dennis Tompkins has seen it all. And in many instances, he’s been able to save trees heavily damaged by winter storms. Primarily, he enjoys telling people worried after a big storm to leave their trees alone. “It’s so hard for an arborist like me to drive around and see the work of tree butchers,” Tompkins said. “There are some truly horrible pruning jobs out there.” Aggressive pruning does trees absolutely no good, he said …

Houston, Texas, KRTH Radio, December 19, 2014: Don’t prune the fruit trees, despite the spring-like weather

With the mostly spring-like weather we’ve been enjoying since that early-November cold snap, it seems many people are chompin’ at the bit to do something with their citrus and fruit trees. Let me just put a stop to that stinkin’ thinkin’ right now. Even though there don’t appear to be any hard freezes on the horizon, the last thing you want to do is force new growth on any fruit tree right now …

fake141218Forbes, December 17, 2014: Real and fake Christmas trees: How do they measure up?

About 14.7 million fake Christmas trees were sold in the United States last year, compared to 33 million real Christmas trees. The fakes come in at about $81 per tree, far more expensive than $35 for the real deal. Still, a one off purchase of a plastic one may prove more cost effective in the long run. When it comes to retail value, fakes lead the way with $1.19 bn compared to $1.16 bn for real trees …

Des Moines, Iowa, Register, December 17, 2014: Waukee to cut trees before endangered bat returns in spring

Waukee officials are likely to remove a group of trees to reduce issues developers have with endangered bats near the Kettlestone development, said Dan Dutcher, community and economic development director. The Indiana bat’s habitat is protected by the Endangered Species Act. Federal officials also are weighing whether the northern long-eared bat should be added to the protected list. Kettlestone, an area near the multimillion-dollar Alice’s Road/105th Street interchange project, is known to be inhabited by the bats. Foth Infrastructure and Environment LLC was hired by officials to look at the species’ habitats. It was beneficial to developers who have concerns about the bats, Dutcher said. “It certainly takes a lot of risk and time out of their due diligence …”

Boston, Massachusetts, Globe, December 18, 2014: Rhode Island man told to stop selling Christmas trees

A Woonsocket man has been ordered to stop selling Christmas trees from his yard after neighbors complained to City Hall. Douglas Taft told the Woonsocket Call that he was selling the trees as a fund-raiser for his daughter’s high school track team …

Streetsblog USA, December 17, 2014: Kentucky DOT threatens 17 Louisville street trees, in the name of safety

Here’s a classic story of traffic engineering myopia. Officials at the Kentucky Department of Transportation are threatening to cut down 17 newly planted street trees in a Louisville suburb and bill the city for the work. The trees had been selected and planted in part to ameliorate the area’s growing urban heat island problem. Louisville has lost 9 percent of its tree cover over roughly the last decade. But Kentucky officials say the trees are a hazard to motorists along Brownsboro Road in Rolling Hills …

South Bend, Indiana, WBND-TV, December 17, 2014: $10,000 worth of trees stolen from business

Two trees worth about $10,000 were stolen from private property that’s owned by the Pike Lumber Company in Pokagon Township. The company is putting out a $10,000 reward for anyone who leads police to an arrest and conviction. The Cass County Sheriff’s department is investigating and management believes the incident happened on November 8th after 4p.m. The logging supervisor said the two trees that were taken are high value veneer grade black walnuts …

EAB141217Frankfort, Illinois, Patch, December 16, 2014: More Ash trees coming down in Frankfort

Say goodbye to more ash trees, folks. Eight-hundred more of the village’s trees infested by the emerald ash borer will have to come down, beginning this month. The Village recently announced an update regarding their Emerald Ash Borer Management Plan approved in October 2012. The Public Works Department has continued the process of evaluating and removing ash trees rated in poor condition. During a review of all ash trees this past summer, it was determined that a total of 800 trees were marked in poor condition. These trees had deteriorated since the last review and would need to be removed …

Morage, California, Lamorinda Weekly, December 17, 2014: Signature trees speak for themselves

While many homeowners take painstaking care to keep their lawns and properties in top curb-appeal condition – or at least make every attempt to keep them that way – sometimes it’s the lone tree that takes charge, calls us to attention, and alerts us to its spectacular presence. The house itself is secondary. These are “signature trees,” trees that define their landscape, put the house in perspective. Like seeing the splash from a Japanese maple that could not possibly be that true to the color red and simply must have been painted on by the fire department, trees can create the “wow” effect like nothing else in the front of a home. Gone are the yard ornaments, the trimmed lawn, the potted azalea or the wreaths on the door. The tree stands alone. “The decision to plant a particular tree is really important,” says Geoff Olmstead, the nursery manager for Orchard Nursery in Lafayette, who has helped hundreds of Lamorindans make the right decision. “It can make a huge difference in how your house looks, how to present your house to others …”

Boston, Massachusetts, Christian Science Monitor, December 16 2014: ‘Ancient Trees': from Botswana to Yemen, some of the world’s oldest trees

The images Beth Moon has created with her Pentax 6.7 film camera transform a common photographic attraction to old trees into a project with weight and lasting beauty. Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time is the result of Moon’s 14-year quest to photograph some of the world’s oldest trees …

Beverly Hills, California, Courier, December 16, 2014: “Friends” protest cutting of 650 trees in Marina del Rey bird sanctuary

Environmental and community groups, working together as “Friends of Oxford Lagoon,” called today for a halt to county plans to cut down 650 trees surrounding a marshy flood basin next to the Marina City Club towers. The group urged residents to call and email Los Angeles County Supervisors to protest the plan, warning that without any intervention, chainsaws may go to work as early as Thursday. The sometimes smelly basin is a neglected-looking 10 acres that is fenced off between Washington Boulevard and Admiralty Way. Environmentalists said it has become a sanctuary and nesting area for water birds like black- crowned night herons and snowy and great egrets …

Macomb County, Michigan, Advisor & Source, December 16, 2014: Officials: ‘We have no plans to remove trees along 24 Mile Road’

Despite the appearance of ominous yellow ribbons wrapped around the tree trunks and branches along 24 Mile Road from Van Dyke to Dequindre Road, officials with Ric-Man Inc. say there are currently no plans to remove any of the trees along the roadway during construction. “The purpose of the ribbons was to identify trees that may need some limbs pruned,” said Steve Mancini, president of Ric-Man Inc. “At this point, I don’t believe we’ve identified any trees that need to be removed …”

forest141216Seattle, Washington, Grist, December 15, 2014: Trees are fed up with our carbon, refuse to grow faster

Scientists have long expected extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to boost tree growth — the climate-changing waste product of our fuel-burning ways is plant food, after all. But a new study suggests that trees in tropical rainforests around the world are not in fact growing any faster, even as CO2 levels in the air shoot past 400 parts per million …

Science Daily, December 15, 2014: Seeing the forest for the trees: Youngest trees in a forest tell the biggest story

The largest trees in a forest may command the most attention, but the smallest seedlings and youngest saplings are the ones that are most critical to the composition and diversity of the forest overall. While many people gaze up into the forest canopy, scientist Joseph Connell has spent much of his career looking down quite closely at the forest understory. Connell, who is a professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, established one of the world’s longest, in-depth ecological research studies on the planet. The Connell Plots Rainforest Network has thus far produced a 50-year collection of data on individual trees in Australia’s protected rainforests. “Having such a long-term, detailed dataset is highly unusual. It’s the kind of temporal depth we need to answer some of the big questions such as, what are the ecological processes that maintain diversity?” said Kyle Harms, professor in the Louisiana State University Department of Biological Sciences and a collaborator with Connell …

Pensacola, Florida, December 15, 2014: Some Whisper Bay trees spared by Gulf Power

At least some of Whisper Bay’s beloved backyard trees will be spared from tree trimming and clearing for a Gulf Power transmission line that runs through the Gulf Breeze subdivision, a project that had residents concerned last month about losing many of their Live Oak trees. Though Gulf Power has rights to a 50-foot easement along each side of the transmission line, part of which runs through some residents’ backyards, the decision was made to reduce the clearing to 35 feet on each side, said Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers. The extra 15 feet won’t save all of the trees in question, but it seems to be enough to appease residents for the time being …

Sydney, Australia, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, December 16, 2014: ‘Flame trees’ a myth; bushfire expert

As Australia braces for another bushfire season, the predictions from scientists, meteorologists and climate authorities are grim. Councils and governments are encouraging home owners to plant more fire-resistant plants, which begs the question; is the eucalypt the problem? Myths abound that the volatile oils in the tree give it a propensity to explode. CSIRO researcher Dr Andrew Sullivan has spent almost two decades looking at bushfire behavior and combustion dynamics. He says the problem with the eucalypt isn’t the ‘volatile’ oils. The tree burns just as any tree would. It’s that the native tree drops masses of dry bark, leaves and twigs; what researchers call ‘fuel load’, and that contributes to the ferocity of bushfires …

Council for International Forest Research, Forests News, December 15, 2014: How are trees good for us? ‘Sentinels’ may hold the answer

It’s a unique, massive—and massively ambitious—research initiative, spanning nine landscapes across 20 countries on three continents. It involves scores of scientists and practitioners from 60 organizations, and employs a panoply of research methods from household surveys to soil sampling, from vegetation inventories to satellite imagery. And it’s all to answer an unusual, perhaps counterintuitive question: Are trees “good” for landscapes—and “good” for us? (And if so, how much?) “What we hope to achieve is to find out when trees in landscapes lead to better livelihoods, better nutrition, better income, happier people,” said Anja Gassner, a researcher with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Gassner leads the Sentinel Landscape initiative. She asks, “Can we quantify their contributions to a healthier environment, a more sustainable environment?”

oroville141215Oroville, California, Mercury-Register, December 13, 2014: Oroville residents ready to be jailed to save trees

Citizens in Oroville intend to stand tall in defense of trees that still remain along the sidewalk outside the Oroville Cemetery. Hundreds of trees have already been removed by PG&E along a fuel transmission line buried underground, they said. A group of about 60 stood along Feather River Boulevard holding signs Saturday morning. Many drivers blasted their horns in support. Further down the sidewalk, several large stumps are surrounded by sawdust …

 

Annals of crime:

Lewiston, Maine, Sun Journal, December 15, 2014: Trees, wreaths stolen from Maine Christmas tree farm

The owner of a Maine Christmas tree farm says customers are taking advantage of his business’ honor system by stealing trees and wreaths. Todd Murphy, of Trees to Please in Norridgewock, says about $2,000 worth of merchandise has been stolen this season, including about a dozen trees worth $400 over the weekend. Murphy says he stocked the cut trees at about 5 p.m. Saturday, but when he got in on Sunday morning, they were gone …

Huber Heights, Ohio, Associated Press, December 14, 2014: Vandals knock over Christmas trees at Ohio lot

Owners of a long-time southwestern Ohio Christmas tree lot are discouraged by weekend vandals who knocked over all the trees. Huber Heights police in suburban Dayton are investigating the vandalism at the lot run by the city’s Optimist Club. Cecilia Fox, whose grandfather Bill Fox ran the club’s Christmas tree sales for 55 years, told the Dayton Daily News her grandfather would have been heartbroken by what happened …

padlock141215New York City, Daily News, December 14, 2014: Christmas trees in Italy getting locked to curb theft

It is not the most festive thing to hang off a Christmas tree. But authorities in Naples, southern Italy, are to adorn the city’s trees with locks and chains to stop them from being stolen. The idea was the initiative of a concierge working in the center of the city who chained a resident’s Christmas tree to a staircase to stop it being taken by thieves. From there the idea has spread …

Great Falls, Montana, Tribune, December 14, 2014: ‘Elite trees’ new weapon in blister rust battle

The U.S. Forest Service is growing “elite” whitebark pine trees to improve the chances of survival of the key high-elevation species, which blister rust is wiping out in the Northern Rockies. “It’s just using the natural selection process and giving it a little bit of a boost,” said Tanya Murphy, a silviculturist with Great Falls-based Lewis and Clark National Forest. Some whitebark pine trees have genetic traits that make them more resistant to disease. And through the Intermountain Whitebark Pine Restoration Program, genetics from those disease-resistant trees are being collected and grafted into regular whitebark pines …

Sydney, Australia, International Business Times – Australia edition, December 15, 2014: Willow trees purify and restore contaminated soil

A new research demonstrates how willow tree growths restore soil fertility in lands that are high in acidity and in those contaminated by heavy industry. The study observed the presence of broad-leaved trees such as willows in areas used in mining. In Finland, field experiments were conducted in the Pyhäsalmi Mine in Pyhäjärvi. Another was carried out in the Kostomuksha mine in North-western Russia. Heavy metal loads were also studied in greenhouse experiments at Petrozavodsk State University and at the Karelian Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The researcher, Aki Villa of the University of Eastern in Finland describes how harmful elements can be removed from the soil naturally with the help of plants. This method is also called phytoremediation. Not only is this cost-efficient; it generates wood resource for energy production and biorefineries as well. “Monitoring the soil’s restoration ability takes several years of research; however, in the light of the results we have so far, it can be anticipated that willow trees may clean the soil from zinc in six years, from nickel in ten years, and from chromium and copper in 15-50 years in favourable conditions,” Villa explains …

grinch141212Augusta, Georgia, WRDW-TV, December 11, 2014: A real-life Grinch steals Christmas trees from local lot

For 48 years, it’s been a wonderful life for the North Augusta Optimist Club. They’ve been selling Christmas trees right here in this lot with no problem, but this year, it’s a different Christmas story. “The first thing that comes to mind is the Grinch stole Christmas,” said Craig Bannecke, with the North Augusta Optimist Club. Craig Bannecke says before the lot even opened someone stole 50 of their Christmas trees, worth about 2,500 dollars. “Apparently they backed a truck up to the fence and pulled the trees over the fence,” said Bannecke …

Lidar141212Spatial Media, December 11, 2014: LiDAR Feature – Mapping Northern Kentucky’s trees from above

Planners are increasingly looking at ways to increase tree canopy in order to deal with a myriad of issues from reducing the urban heat island effect to improving wildlife habitat. Earlier this year, the Northern Kentucky Urban & Community Forestry Council commissioned an assessment of the tree canopy in Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties in order to inventory the existing tree canopy and prioritize locations for planting new trees. The SavATRee Consulting Group, in collaboration with the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Laboratory, was given the task of carrying out the assessment …

Columbus, Nebraska, Telegram, December 11, 2014: Trees retaining leaves speak more to fall than winter

Trees retaining their leaves means we are in for a long, hard winter. This saying is going around, but as far as I know it is just a saying. Leaf retention on trees — those that do not typically hold onto leaves into winter — tells us more about what kind of fall weather we had than it predicts what type of winter weather we are going to have …

Stockton, California, KTXL-TV, December 10, 2014: Stockton neighborhood worries over falling trees

A Stockton neighborhood took extra precautions Wednesday, just a week after a tree fell on top of a home, right into a kitchen. The heritage oak tree that crashed through Raymond Rubianes’s home is gone. “I had the tree guys give me some estimates to have the tree to be removed because it’s really dangerous, especially now,” Rubianes said. But the root of the problem, the tree itself, still stands in his backyard …

droughtxmas141211Los Angeles, Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2014: Real or fake? Drought intensifies debate over Christmas trees’ eco-friendliness

Before they picked out an eight-foot Christmas tree, Tara White and Ed Dilks wondered whether an artificial tree might be a more eco-friendly choice. But after doing some research, the Glendale couple decided that the convenience of an artificial tree didn’t stack up against the fresh scent and homey feel of a real tree. “I felt guilty at first,” White said,  “but it’s not like they go into the great forest and kill the trees. It’s not deforestation.” The question of which tree is more environmentally friendly — real or artificial? — is resurrected each Christmas season. But the discussion has gained urgency as California limps through a third year of drought. The debate now hinges on whether plastic trees give the environment a break because they don’t soak up a scarce resource, water …

York, Pennsylvania, WGAL-TV, December 10, 2o14: Nearly 100 healthy trees chopped down at Susquehanna Valley park

A Lancaster County park surrounded by tall trees is about to lose nearly all of them. The Denver Borough is in the process of chopping down nearly 100 healthy trees at Denver Memorial Park. The problem isn’t what happened, but what’s expected to happen. Denver Borough leaders said a beetle known as the Emerald Ash Borer is making its way here and will likely take out any ash trees in its path. So the borough is doing it first. “I hate to see these trees come down,” Matt Hession, Borough Manager, said. “I understand what we’re facing. I think we made a good plan to be proactive …”

Spokane, Washington, Spokesman-Review, December 11, 2014: Researcher aims to prolong Christmas trees’ lives

In the early 1980s, Gary Chastagner took a road trip to Southern California, stopping at Christmas tree lots along the way. At each lot, he asked permission to collect twigs from the trees for sale. In a lab set up in the back of his Ford station wagon, the Washington State University researcher tested the branches for moisture content. The desert was sucking moisture out of the Northwest-grown trees, he found. The parched evergreens in the Southern California tree lots still looked lush, but they’d soon be shedding needles on an unlucky buyer’s carpet. Chastagner, sometimes called “Mr. Christmas tree” by his colleagues, has spent three decades looking for ways to preserve the shelf life of cut trees. It’s a multimillion-dollar issue for Northwest growers. “The messiness of needle-drop is one of the most common reasons people don’t buy real trees,” said Chastagner, 66, a plant pathologist at WSU’s Extension and Research Center in Puyallup …

New York City, Wall Street Journal, December 10, 2014: An old-style energy crisis leaves Vermonters with axes to grind

About 75% of Vermont is forested. But with winter weather bearing down on the U.S., people from Montpelier to Clarendon are worried about firewood. Last year’s frigid winter depleted stockpiles of wood logs and pellets around the state, and by the end of the season, people were having a hard time finding enough wood to heat their homes. This year, people trying to stock up are realizing that everybody else is doing that, too. “I knew it last winter, when I got all kinds of friggin’ phone calls” from customers, said David Poirier, 62 years old, who sells firewood in Barton with his son Jeff. “The demand is just so strong. It’s like having one egg in the basket instead of 100 …”

New Scientist, December 10, 2014: Great wall of trees keeps China’s deserts at bay

China is holding back the desert, for now. The Great Green Wall – a massive belt of trees being planted across China’s arid north in what might be the largest ecological engineering project on the planet – seems to work, according to a new study. “Vegetation has improved and dust storms have decreased significantly in the Great Green Wall region, compared with other areas,” says Minghong Tan of the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resource Research in Beijing. But whether planting trees is a long-term solution remains disputed …

fake141210Cary, North Carolina, Citizen, December 9, 2014: Christmas trees: Real vs. fake

It’s December, and Christmas trees are starting to pop up in the homes of many Cary families. Before you dig last year’s artificial tree out of your garage or head to the store to buy one, check out the benefits of purchasing a real Christmas tree instead …

San Francisco, California, Weekly, December 9, 2014: Timber! The City has given up on its troublesome trees – now they’re your problem

In 2005, Mayor Gavin Newsom launched an aggressive plan called “Trees for Tomorrow” to plant 25,000 in this city over the next five years. In that time, San Francisco carried out an equally aggressive plan to systematically eviscerate the money allocated to maintaining street trees and liquidating the workforce designated to do so. Now, facing a shortfall of green, the Department of Public Works in 2011 began fobbing off its responsibility to care for the city’s greenspace. Some 24,000 of San Francisco’s street trees have been slated for transfer to the care of homeowners (joining the 65,000 trees homeowners were already liable for) …

Willingboro, New Jersey, Burlington County Times, December 9, 2014: Mount Holly has its trees counted and accounted for

The township now has a better idea of what trees it has and which ones are dead or dying. The Environmental Advisory Committee has completed an inventory of about 1,400 trees that are on municipal-owned property. Most of the trees inventoried are between sidewalks and streets, although a few park trees near parking areas also were counted …

Santa Barbara, California, KEYT-TV, December 10, 2014: Tips to make sure trees don’t become a hazard

In the past two weeks, two large trees have come crashing down, raising concerns about safety. Monday night a tree toppled on a Carpinteria house, damaging part of the roof. Last week, a 45-foot ficus tree fell on the grounds of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Some people might want to put the blame on the drought and then a downpour of rain, but Santa Barbara City Arborist Tim Downey said don’t point the finger just yet. “It’s not the cause of the fall, it’s a contributing factor,” he said. To determine if the tree is a hazard, professionals need to look for three things. “The tree or branch has to be big enough that if it fell, it could hurt somebody or cause damage,” he said. The second part is it needs a target. In a city, that means a person, car or house. If a tree falls in a forest, it’s not a hazard because there’s nothing to hit. Third, there has to be a visible defect …

Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio, December 9, 2014: In the Italian Alps, Stradivari’s trees live on

Antonio Stradivari, the master violinmaker whose instruments sell for millions of dollars today, has been dead for nearly three centuries. Only 650 of his instruments are estimated to survive. But the forest where the luthier got his lumber is alive and well. And thanks to the surprising teamwork of modern instrument makers and forest rangers, Stradivari’s trees are doing better than ever …

Marina Del Ray, California, Daily Breeze, December 9, 2014: Environmentalists irate over removal of trees in Marina del Rey’s Oxford Lagoon

Environmentalists are lambasting the scheduled wipeout of all the trees and shrubs in the so-called Oxford Lagoon in Marina del Rey as part of a $12 million county plan to rehab the decades-old marsh.
Starting Wednesday, the county will begin cutting down all 650 trees and plants in the 10-acre flood retention basin between Admiralty Way and Washington Boulevard to make way for flooding and runoff improvements, sediment removal, new fencing and signage, observation areas, lighting and a walking path. By May, the county said it will begin planting new, native or drought-tolerant landscaping to replace the torn-down trees one for one …

palm141209Los Angeles, California, KNBC-TV, December 8, 2014: Palm trees pose hazard in LA neighborhood

Neighbors living on Palm Grove Avenue in the West Adams District of Los Angeles say the overgrown palm trees that loom over their homes pose a threat to their property and safety, but complain the city isn’t taking any action to help them. “They’re so heavy and they fall real fast, and they can fall on anybody’s head,” Elsa Lopez said, pointing to the massive palm fronds that sway overhead. “We’ve been asking the city for two and a half years to come trim the palm trees.” In that time, Lopez and her neighbors have heard little from the city, but they’ve paid out thousands of dollars to repair cars and homes damaged by the falling fronds …

Fairmont, West Virginia, Times West Virginia, December 9, 2014: Rooted Christmas trees live on in unique program

Picking out a Christmas tree may be trickier then it sounds. With so many choices, sizes and varieties, it’s not always easy to find that perfect tree. For more 25 years, since the late 1980s, MCPARC and Mt. Zion Nursery have worked together to offer a program that is unique to the area. Residents can go out to Mt. Zion Nursery, pick out a tree and then set up a delivery time with MCPARC and they will drop the tree off at the customer’s house free of charge. Customers can also set up a time after Christmas to have MCPARC come back and pick the tree up, which will then be planted in one of the local parks …

Washington, D.C., Greater Greater Washington, December 8, 2014: DC’s street trees are thriving. Here’s why

Trees give us shade and beauty, so it’s no wonder a lot of DC residents would want to help care for them. But while residents are still the first line of care for older trees, DDOT has a great safety net that boosts their efforts and helps new street trees thrive. DDOT’s Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) inspects all of its new trees within the first year of planting, and it’s quick to respond to service requests for older trees as well. Beyond that, UFA keeps notes of what its arborists find and, and it makes public its plans for resolving the issue. UFA relies on residents’ service requests to help prioritize annual street planting locations. This planting season, DDOT has a record 8,000 trees planned. Residents can watch the progress in what’s almost real time as DDOT updates its tree planting and removal maps daily …

map141209Washington, D.C., Washington Post, December 8, 2014: Map: Where your Christmas trees come from

American tree farmers harvested at least 17 million Christmas trees each year, according to the most recent USDA Agricultural Census. And nearly half of these trees — about 8 million — come from just six counties in North Carolina and Oregon. The map tells the story …

Rapid City, South Dakota, KOTA-TV, December 8, 2014: Dead trees cut down after pine beetles do damage

For Frank Carroll and Brian Brennan, the number of trees falling victim to the mountain pine beetle are starting to add up. “This is the biggest scale they’ve attacked that we know about,” Carroll said. “You can thin you can spray trees in your own yard, open up the forest, and all those things help a lot,” Carroll said. But the beetles wont slow down. According to Carroll the black hills has averaged nearly 5 million trees lost per year due to the beetles. The beetles damage trees by leaving a blue fungus behind when they eat the trees. The fungus blocks the trees ability to transfer water and sugars throughout its system …

frazier141208Boston, Massachusetts, Herald, December 7, 2014: Holiday trees branch out

Christmas shoppers trying to keep a lid on gift-buying and contending with higher holiday meal prices don’t have to worry about plunking down more money for Christmas trees this year. A strong supply has kept prices down the past few years, and that’s continuing this holiday season …

Detroit, Michigan, WXYZ-TV, December 5, 2014: DTE to be more aggressive in trimming trees after last winter’s mass outages

Metro Detroiters may see more utility crews in and out of their neighborhoods as the winter deepens. They are trimming trees – not as a friendly service, but after orders from the Michigan Public Service Commission. State officials say part of the reason Michiganders were hit so hard by outages during last winter’s ice storm was because of overgrown trees in the way of power lines. Now DTE and Consumers Energy are being ordered to be more aggressive about trimming trees that could threaten power lines …

Tampa, Florida, Tribune, December 8, 2014: Christmas trees can trigger allergies

When it comes to the possible risks of having a Christmas tree set up inside a home or business, the main concern is generally preventing it from catching fire. But there is another possible danger to be concerned with: allergies. For some household residents, a fresh or fake Christmas tree can mean bouts with sneezing, runny noses and itchy eyes while dealing with allergic reactions. Called “Christmas Tree Syndrome,” the “Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology” reported people can have an allergic reaction to either the smell of live trees from the pine resin or molds found in live trees. Within two weeks of bringing a live tree into a home, mold counts can significantly increase, according to the report …

Washington, D.C., National Geographic, December 2, 2014: Millions of ash trees are dying, creating huge headaches for cities

The emerald ash borer, or EAB, a native of East Asia, has already devastated entire ash populations in northern cities such as Detroit, where it first appeared in 2002. Since then, the insect has swept into 22 states across the country. In the summer of 2012 it reached the Kansas City metropolitan area. There are seven billion ash trees in North America, and within the next few decades, the beetle could kill most of them—a die-off ten times bigger than the one caused by Dutch elm disease …

New York City, New York Post, December 7, 2014: Luxury building fences off low-rent tenants’ terraces

A Queens luxury tower that was bailed out by the city is blocking the large terraces of a few affordable units so tenants above with tiny balconies don’t get jealous, one resident claims. Erin McFadzen chose her middle-income — and rent-stabilized — corner apartment at Long Island City’s new Q41 building because of its wrap-around terrace. But when she moved in, half of it was fenced off by what she calls a “Jurassic Park”-style barricade. The ugly 6-foot-high wire barrier also interferes with views from every window of her sixth-floor, $2,186-a-month pad …

oakwilt141205Traverse City, Michigan, WGTU-TV, December 4, 2014: Deadly fungus targets oak trees across northern Michigan

Michigan’s red oak trees are potentially facing significant die-offs due to an invisible killer, oak wilt. The deadly fungus can kill previously healthy trees within a matter of weeks. “Oak wilt kills by interfering with the vessels that transport water throughout the tree,” said Roger Mech, forest health specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Resources Division. “The fungus plugs up those vessels and is fatal; if a red oak tree is exposed to oak wilt spores, they are going to kill the tree. “It just floors me how quickly it happens. It’s dramatic …”

Cincinnati, Ohio, Enquirer, December 4, 2014: Christmas trees: Environmental friend or foe?

Real or fake Christmas tree? Apparently, it’s a debate for the ages. Not merely which choice is more convenient or beautiful – but which is better for the Earth. About 28 million real trees are sold in the United States each year, but an artificial one can be reused year after year, saving several real trees, which generally take 10 to 15 years to mature. But real Christmas trees can be recycled. They produce oxygen and many may have a smaller carbon footprint …

Xenia, Ohio, Gazette, December 4, 2014: ODNR to remove ash trees at Yellow Springs state park

The removal of dead ash trees from a local state park will not only provide a safer environment for patrons, but may also offer them some additional warmth this winter. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will remove a number of ash trees impacted by the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) from John Bryan State Park in Greene County beginning on Monday, Dec. 8. Areas of the park, including the main picnic area, will be closed temporarily. “These trees are dead due to the Emerald Ash Borer infestation,” said Eileen Corson, ODNR Office of Communications …

Houston,Texas, KTRH Radio, December 4, 2014: Homeowners beware! Know your HOA’s restrictions when planting trees

Since we sell so many trees, we have noticed a trend with new homeowners. They are not reading the fine print in Homeowner Association regulations and are a running into problems. Many HOAs take their rules very seriously. Many have a “these are the only things you can plant in your front yard” list. These lists are binding legal documents, and new homeowners need look at them before they make plant purchases. One of our customers can’t plant anything in his back yard over six feet tall without express, written permission from the HOA. He can’t even fill in a low spot without written permission. I couldn’t believe it when he told me, but I read it for myself. It was amazing …

firetree141204

Rapid City, South Dakota, KOTA-TV, December 3, 2014: Christmas trees can be a fire hazard

Your Christmas tree is one of the biggest holiday decorations in your house. But it can also be a fire hazard. And making sure your home is fire safe for the holidays starts with your Christmas tree. Both artificial and live Christmas trees can be fire hazards if placed near open flames, such as fireplaces, or candles. Also, make sure to water your tree. Oliver White, Public Information Officer with the Rapid City Fire Department, said a dry tree burns quicker than one that is hydrated. “So when you’re bringing a tree inside, you’re basically carrying a big bunch of firewood inside,” White said. “Be aware of any sources of heat, any space heaters, and any light fixtures that can be brushing up against the tree. And keep an eye on electrical outlets …”

Tallahassee, Florida, Democrat, December 3, 2014: Tree challenge seeks to identify county’s best trees

Think you have a historic live oak in your yard? Or maybe a particularly remarkable magnolia tree? If so, Leon County wants to hear from you. County commissioners and other officials gathered Wednesday morning on the lawn of the county courthouse — under the shade of a 100-year-old live oak — to announce the Leon County Great Tree Challenge. The contest seeks to identify significant trees in the community, as a way of celebrating the Tallahassee landscape – and perhaps moving toward more protection of local trees …

droughtxmastree141204Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2014: Drought saps supply of Christmas trees in California

Scott Martin surveys his Christmas trees, inspecting their needles row by row for signs of stress. The trees in his South Bay nursery differ from those in a typical Christmas tree lot: These are potted living trees, and they’re for rent, not for sale. But all share a thirst that has been difficult to quench as California fights its way through a third year of drought. This season, customers of Martin’s Living Christmas Co. won’t be seeing as much of the classic Christmas pine, which requires more water than spruce varieties and is more likely to brown in the heat. Living Christmas cut more than 200 pine trees from its roster this season — a 40% reduction in its pine offerings since last year, Martin said …

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Post-Gazette, December 4, 2014: Let’s talk about evergreen trees

It’s always a sure sign of winter’s arrival when the beautiful fall foliage falls to the ground leaving bare branches. The trees that have leaves that change into the vivid fall colors and drop each year are called deciduous trees. However, there is a bit of color to be found during the bleak winter season, look no further than evergreen trees. Evergreen trees are classified as coniferous and have needle-like foliage that doesn’t drop all at one time annually …

Salinas, California, KION-TV, December 4, 2014: Drought may cause more trees to fall this winter along Central Coast

As we continue to see more rain, we’re finding out the drought is actually causing more trees to come crashing down on the Central Coast. That’s according to tree service companies who respond to those emergencies. On Wednesday night, NewsChannel 5 was in Felton to find out why dry ground is a big problem for areas with a lot of trees. Tree experts said the Central Coast is seeing more and more fallen trees just like this one, because the ground is so dry right now, there’s not enough support to hold the roots. That means anyone living in really wooded areas like the Santa Cruz Mountains, should keep an eye out for leaning trees before its too late. Certified arborist Bryan Bradford said in a normal year, he can find water about a foot or two beneath the surface. But this year, it’s a different story. “In a drought, three years of drought, we’ve got dry soil, 8 to ten feet down, there’s no water,” Bradford said …

drought141203Forestville, California, Sonoma County Gazette, December 2, 2014: The best trees to plant in a drought

During water-challenged times, California’s trees are increasingly stressed due to the lack of deep watering. Warning signs include premature yellowing or browning, the premature dropping of leaves and a very recognized lack of vigorous growth. Another factor affecting drought-impacted trees is called the “fading of the green,” which is caused by an extreme shortage of water, which seriously limits the production of green chlorophyll that gives leaves their vibrancy and their deep, green color. Jeff Kowell, the owner of Image Tree Service in Windsor, California, has seen many droughts during his 25-plus years in this business, but this one is especially dry, he explained. “I’ve seen trees declining more rapidly this year than in the past and obviously it’s all caused by the lack of water. People have stopped watering their lawns to save water and that impacts the trees. We sit down with our customers and devise a watering strategy, based on the type of tree, the soil and the area where it’s located. If a tree is on a hillside, for example, it obviously has different needs—so it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. We work with arborists and are tree experts ourselves, so our clients benefit from our knowledge and experience …”

Buffalo, New York, WGRZ-TV, December 2, 2014: Trees planted after October surprise storm damaged

While damage estimates from last month’s storm are still being tallied by municipalities, the damage to trees planted by volunteers to replace the thousands lost in the October Surprise Storm more than eight years ago won’t be fully known until this spring …

Durham, New Hampshire, Foster’s Daily Democrat, December 3, 2014: Beware of hidden hazards when cleaning up storm-damaged trees

New Hampshire residents are urged to use caution when cleaning up storm-damaged trees and brush left by the powerful Nor’Easter that hit the Granite State over the Thanksgiving holiday. UNH Cooperative Extension Forestry Field Specialist Jon Nute, Hillsborough County, reported, “Mostly large white pine limbs were broken, but as with the surprise Halloween snow of 2011, trees with leaves, such as oaks and beech, also had limb breakage. Damage was more extensive for open grown trees in parks and golf courses, as well as along roads and field edges.” Cleanup of debris started soon after the snow storm, but the most important message for residents is that trees and forests do recover from damage, so don’t panic, be safe, and seek professional help. UNH Cooperative Extension forestry staff say the best advice is to use caution. Removing large trees or limbs is dangerous. Don’t climb a ladder with a chain saw. Don’t climb into a damaged tree. Never touch any tree near electrical wires …

Lafayette, Louisiana, The Daily Advertiser, December 3, 2014: Jindal intervenes to save oak trees

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has agreed not to cut down 13 oak trees — some 100 years old or older — along a two-lane stretch of highway in St. Mary Parish now that Gov. Bobby Jindal has intervened. A news release from the DOTD issued today quotes Secretary Sherri Lebas saying Jindal asked the department to preserve the trees “because of their importance to the parish and state.” The DOTD marked 13 oak trees along a 4.73-mile section of La. 182 for destruction in order to produce a 10-foot clear zone between the roadway and obstructions. Today, Lebas is saying the department “recognizes the cultural significane of 13 oak trees located along this scenic byway and they will not be removed …”

newyork141202New York City, New York Times, December 2, 2014: In leafy profusion, trees spring up in a changing New York

Look at old photos of New York City streets and you often notice a strangely stark, movie-set quality about them. A moment’s pondering of the black-and-white images reveals one reason: There are no trees. Go to the same block or neighborhood now and you may find a different scene: the blankness filled in and softened by soaring pin oaks, the camouflage-pattern trunk of a London plane, or a line of leggy young pears or maples …

Seattle, Washington, KING-TV, December 1, 2014: Some species of Christmas trees harder to get this year

Growers in Washington and Oregon report they’re headed toward an under supply. Some species of fresh-cut trees could be harder to come by this year. Kenny Scholz, the owner and operator of the Shoe Evergreen tree farm, has been growing Christmas trees for 40-plus years, a business he knows isn’t always as giving as the season it serves. “There’s not a huge margin in this market,” said Scholz. “They think 25 to 30 is big bucks, but I got eight or nine years in these trees without a paycheck. I don’t get one every two weeks but every eight to 10 years …”

San Francisco, California, Examiner, December 2, 2014:City eases removal of problematic ficus trees as new storm approaches

Removing at-risk ficus trees in San Francisco just got easier for property owners and The City, as the region braces this week for what could be its largest storm yet this season. Though stormy weather over the Thanksgiving weekend brought down weakened ficus tree limbs onto cars, and a construction worker was injured by a falling limb during mid-November rain, a new order easing the removal of such problematic ficus trees has been in the works for several months, said Rachel Gordon, Department of Public Works spokeswoman. The initiative, signed by DPW Director Mohammed Nuru on Nov. 24, relaxes the removal standards for individual ficus street trees across The City by requiring only one of numerous criteria to be met ..

Woodland Park, New Jersey, Record, December 1, 2014: Englewood site to get more trees

Nearly 300 trees will be planted on the site of a former East Hill schoolhouse to replace more than a hundred recently cut down, according to assistant city engineer Franz Volcy. A few residents had expressed concern when numerous trees were removed from the property, which is at the corner of Booth Avenue and North Woodland Street. But Volcy said the property owner, Englewood resident Nader Bolour, was granted a permit to remove 109 trees to make way for new construction. As part of that approval, Volcy said Bolour is required to plant 273 new trees on the property — 2 1/2 times the number taken down. “People are upset because it was a wooded area,” said Volcy. “It’s changed the area …”

xmastree141201Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch, November 30, 2014: Sales of Christmas trees starting strong in central Ohio

After the Thanksgiving turkey is eaten, after the Black Friday bargains are snagged, many folks turn their attention to decorating for the holiday season. At noon Friday near the nursery at the Andersons store near Sawmill Road on the Northwest Side, vehicles were six- to 10-deep waiting for Christmas trees. Hundreds of Fraser firs, and other evergreens, were hanging, netted or standing in the store’s big outdoor lot. The greenery ranged from $20 for a 5-footer to $80 for 8 to 9 feet of fragrant, ornamental wonder …

Sarasota, Florida, WWSB-TV, November 30, 2014: Price of Christmas trees going up?

It’s a holiday tradition so many of us are accustomed to. Going out and picking out the Christmas tree that will fit perfectly in your home. But that tradition is becoming more costly. As the Associated Press reports — while it does depend on who’s doing the selling, prices for Christmas trees are likely to go up by as much as two dollars this year …

Montpelier, Vermont, Vermont Journalism Trust, November 30, 2014: The capricious business of Christmas trees suits Peter Puritan

Tis now the season to be merry, deck the halls, jingle a few bells and celebrate a little town in Bethlehem. But for Peter Purinton and his extended family, it’s been Christmas pretty much non-stop since late spring. That’s understandable considering he’s got 16,000 balsam firs and other Christmas tree varieties growing in a field below his house in the scenic hills of Huntington. Starting this weekend, he’ll be dashing through the fields (or snow), jingling the cash register and the place will be humming in a hands-on ode to O Tannenbaum. “We’ll sell around 2,000 trees, and half of them will be sold in four days,” says Purinton, referring to the first two weekends in December. Dressed in a blue-checked wool shirt and jeans on the weekend before Thanksgiving, he’s got a cold but looks relaxed in the calm before the storm. But soon, he and as many as a dozen helpers will be busy netting and ringing up cut-your-own sales for the nicely shaped trees that run in neat green pinstripes across the southward sloping hillside, with the top of Camel’s Hump in the distance …

Waterloo, Iowa, KWWL-TV, November 30, 2014: Northey: Iowa Christmas trees contribute to economy

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is pushing Iowans to consider buying local when shopping for a Christmas tree. “Selecting a fresh Christmas tree can be part of a great family tradition and is an opportunity to connect with an Iowa farmer and support the local economy,” Northey said. “Iowa is fortunate to have more than 100 Christmas tree farms in all parts of the state, so everyone has the opportunity to get their own fresh tree to help celebrate.” An index of tree farms is on the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers website, located here. Combined, these farms devote 1,500 acres to growing trees. They harvest nearly 40,000 trees every year, making it a $1 million industry …

Canton, Illinois, Daily Ledger, November 30, 2014: Extension connection: Hawthorn trees

I was recently asked to identify a hawthorn tree growing on the Bradley campus in Peoria. Hawthorns are among the groups of small trees that are noted for their wintertime berries. Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) is a hawthorn for all seasons. The flowers, foliage, winter berries, and dense growth all make it an attention getting tree. The Washington Hawthorn starts out as a rather slender young tree, but broadens with age to a twiggy tree 25 feet tall with a 20 feet spread. It has shiny, rather small leaves that develop fall colors ranging from orange to purple. The profuse array of white flowers appears as large clusters in early June …

olemiss141128Tacoma, Washington, KPCQ-TV, November 27, 2014: College rivalry gone too far? FBI investigating threats to campus trees, shrubs

The FBI is investigating a written note threatening the trees and shrubs on the Ole Miss campus. The poorly written note would appear to be written by a Mississippi State fan, though there is no proof. The note, which was found Tuesday, reads, “What’s going to happen to ya’ll on the field Saturday Aint nothing compared to what’s going to happen on your beautiful campus. You won’t be one of the most pretty campus’s Next year. A lot of shrubs and trees are going to die; especially in the grove. Can’t stop us” (signed) “Hail State Go to Hell TSUN.” Ole Miss says police are taking the threat seriously and are encouraging fans to report suspicious behavior …

Lubbock, Texas, KLBK-TV, November 27, 2014: City of Abilene cuts down trees lining north and south First Street

Abilene’s North and South 1st Streets are looking barren after numerous trees were cut down Tuesday. The necessity of the project owed itself to the June hail storm. Most are familiar with how that storm damaged cars and roofs, but it also injured the trees along the Abilene corridor. Since then, many of those trees have started to wilt and are slowly dying off. “We left them through the growing season, hoping some of them would recover,” Richard Rogers, City of Abilene, said. Unfortunately, the summer didn’t bring the trees much relief as their condition continued to deteriorate, according to Rogers …

Raleigh, North Carolina, WRAL-TV, November 27, 2014: Christmas trees big business in NC mountains

Christmas trees grown in North Carolina are already well on their way to stores and tree stands across the country. North Carolina ranks second in the nation behind Oregon in Christmas tree production, with trees grown mostly in the state’s mountains providing about 4 million trees worth about $1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the mountains of Mitchell County, Rodney Buchanan’s family tree farm starts preparing for the holiday in March and begins cutting trees in mid-November. He estimates his Buck’s Tree Farm will provide 50,000 Fraser firs to Boy Scout and church tree lots and other small operations …

Baltimore, Maryland, Sun, November 27, 2014: Editorial: Trees make a city look more beautiful

Years ago, author Alice Walker published a book of poems entitled “Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful.” Though the landscape in her verse was rural, she might well have said the same of the urban cityscape and its mature trees. Baltimore’s leafy green canopy surely makes the city a more attractive place to live, work and play. Yet it needs to be constantly maintained and expanded if future generations are to continue enjoying its benefits …

Science Daily, November 27, 2014: As elephants go, so go the trees

Overhunting has been disastrous for elephants, but their forest habitats have also been caught in the crossfire. A first-of-its-kind study led by researchers at the University of Florida shows that the dramatic loss of elephants, which disperse seeds after eating vegetation, is leading to the local extinction of a dominant tree species, with likely cascading effects for other forest life. Their work shows that loss of animal seed dispersers increases the probability of tree extinction by more than tenfold over a 100-year period …

treeclimb141125Des Moines, Iowa, Register, November 25, 2014: Mason City man climbing trees again after 40-foot fall

An Iowa man is climbing trees again after he fell 40 feet from one over the summer, breaking multiple bones. Kevin Hardy, owner of Cutting Edge Tree Services in Mason City, fell in Charles City on July 20. He suffered several injuries in the fall, including a broken clavicle, 11 broken ribs and multiple pelvis fractures. Hardy’s family and friends say the accident broke nearly everything but his will …

Baltimore, Maryland, Sun, November 25, 2014: Avoid planting ornamental pear trees

Bradford pears are a variety of Callery pears. Callery pears are an aggressive Asian species, but Bradfords were supposed to be sterile. They are not …

Casagrande, Arizona, Tri Valley Dispatch, November 25, 2014: Mistletoe is a parasite on native trees, shrubs in the desert

Because they have the unique ability to take energy directly from another plant, the various species of mistletoe can cause the slow, steady decline of host trees and shrubs. Mistletoes are perennial, shrubby, woody or semi-woody flowering plants that attach themselves to other plants and steal water and nutrients from the host plant. Because they are dependent upon these host plants for nourishment, they are called parasites. Unlike dodder, which lacks any ability to produce food for itself, the mistletoes do contain the green pigment chlorophyll that allows them to manufacture food from the energy of the sun …

Hood River, Oregon, News, November 26, 2014: Urban logging: Crews keep busy as beetle-kill trees become neighborhood hazards

When a tree falls in an urban wood, many people hear it. And many people have feelings about it. That’s part of the challenge when it comes to the problem of tall neighborhood conifers that have been damaged or killed by bark beetle infestation, a growing problem throughout the Gorge. Arborist David Braun said, “The first line of defense is to avoid damage and maintain tree health; at the forest stand level, this means removing weak and damaged trees and maintaining wide enough spacing to maintain rapid growth …

Salem, Oregon, Statesman Journal, November 25, 2014: Planting trees in wrong spot common error

What a difference a little cold temperature makes. So much for the vision of a protracted fall going right into December; things have changed quickly. The other day I marveled at apple trees I passed still fully clothed in leaves all brown as if scorched by fire. Then walking in a park noticing the piles of bigleaf maple foliage on the ground, more of it green than golden yellow. What’s the effect on trees?

moneytree141125CNN, November 24, 2014: Timber! Why the rich are buying trees

In the rarefied world of the wealthy, timber is the hot new commodity. That’s according to Dennis Moon, head of Specialty Asset Management at U.S. Trust, a division of Bank of America (BAC), whose job it is to find, manage, and log plots of trees for the firm’s well-healed clients. Ever since the financial crisis, business is booming, as rich families have worked tirelessly to diversify their investments beyond traditional stocks and bonds. Here’s why the 1% are loving lumber, and all the green that comes with it …

Sioux City, Iowa, Journal, November 24, 2014: Preparation and care of trees and shrubs in winter

As fall quickly turns to winter, temperatures are plummeting several weeks ahead of normal. Frost and snow blanket our landscapes. For annual plants, their non-hardiness is readily apparent. For them, putting the garden to bed is mostly a matter of cleaning and clearing out. For trees and shrubs, nature has given them some excellent coping skills for dealing with winter. Deciduous plants evade the season: They drop their leaves, pull in their sap and snooze right through it. Evergreens endure the cold using a kind of antifreeze that lets them slow down and keep going until spring. In spite of these natural defenses, you can still give your trees and shrubs a hand. Even the toughest plants are not immune to three of the most common challenges of harsh winter conditions …

Terre Haute, Indiana, Associated Press, November 24, 2014: Official hopes to save park’s trees from ash borer

Crews have cut down more than a dozen trees in a park near Terre Haute that have been infected by the emerald ash borer. Vigo County parks officials have chemically treated 125 ash trees in Fowler Park in hopes of saving them from damage by the invasive beetle that’s killed many thousands of trees in several states since first being detected in Michigan in 2002. Assistant parks superintendent Adam Grossman told the Tribune-Star he spotted exit holes for the beetles last week on ash trees in the camping area of the park about 10 miles south of Terre Haute. “I thought, shoot, we’ve got it,” he said. “Immediately after that, I scrambled and got some guys together and cut down a couple a trees that were dead in the campground …”

Dayton, Ohio, WRGT-TV, November 24, 2014: Environmentalists: Climate change threatens Ohio’s buckeye trees

Researchers and environmentalists say buckeye trees — the state tree of Ohio — may not continue to thrive in the area due to climate change. The Columbus Dispatch reports researchers and professors with the Environment Ohio Research and Policy Center say buckeye trees have flourished in Ohio because of the state’s mix of temperature and moisture in the air. But Earth’s warming temperatures could be making Ohio’s climate less ideal for the state tree …

uglytree141124New York City, New York Daily News, November 22, 2014: Reading, Pennsylvania, residents say ugly Christmas tree must go

A Christmas tree that might make Charlie Brown think twice is getting kicked to the curb a little early after residents of a Pennsylvania town complained it was too ugly. Reading’s spindly 50-foot spruce drew the ire of residents who said it was ruining their holiday spirit. Now a group led by the city council president is raising money to buy and decorate a more impressive replacement. The current tree is topped with a lighted pretzel, a nod to the area’s many bakeries …

Tampa, Florida, Tampa Bay Times, November 23, 2014: Permits sold for Christmas trees from Ocala forest

The U.S. Forest Service is selling permits for Christmas trees from the Ocala National Forest. A $7 permit includes directions and maps to a designated tree cutting area within the forest in central Florida. The permits will be available Monday through Friday, from Nov. 24 through Dec. 24 …

Cleveland, Tennessee, Daily Banner, November 23, 2014: Thousand cankers disease found on Marion County walnut trees

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture announced the discovery of walnut twig beetles, which transmit thousand cankers disease, or TCD, a walnut tree-killing disease in Marion County. The county is now buffer regulated. Residents in buffer counties can move walnut tree products and hardwood firewood within buffer counties, but not outside. Products can also be moved into a quarantine county, but not taken back out …

woodtruss141124Sourceable magazine, November 23, 2014: Turning whole trees into v\high-value building materials

Architect Michael Green’s Wood Innovation Design Centre (WIDC) in Prince George, British Columbia, is a six-story building made entirely of engineered wood. Green has proposed wooden buildings up to 30 storys. In contrast to Green, architect Roald Gundersen takes a different approach to building with wood. Rather than chipping trees and re-forming the pieces with adhesive, Gundersen’s company, Whole Trees Architecture and Structures, has developed methods forusing whole peeled logs for columns and trusses. Using government grants and private investment, Gundersen’s team has performed research at the US Forest Products Laboratory to test Y-branched trees under axial loads and to test the parallel-chord trusses that join with the Y-branched trees. They then determined the design specifications of whole trees and branched columns, and designed patent-pending steel connectors that tie the parts together …

High Point, North Carolina, WGHP-TV, November 22, 2014: Hundreds of fruit trees planted to create urban orchard in High Point

Guilford County Passive Parks Department and dozens of volunteers planted hundreds of fruit trees in High Point to create an urban orchard. The orchard is located at the Thomas Built Bus Preserve near Oak Hill Elementary School in High Point. Matt Wallace, Passive Parks Program Director for Guilford County, said more 250 fruit and nut trees will help the air quality in the area and the food desert need in the community …

xmastrees141121Sunbury, Pennsylvania Daily Item, November 21, 2014: 50,000 trees pine for owners at one of biggest auctions in US

Six feet of snow wasn’t about to stop Leon Berner from his mission: getting Christmas trees from among the thousands at the annual Buffalo Valley Produce Auction, which began Thursday. Berner owns Berner Farms Market & Greenhouse in Elma, N.Y., some 18 miles east of Buffalo where a historic snowstorm has buried the area. He has lost a greenhouse in the mess. A friend and fellow garden center owner lost five, he said. Berner was among the hundreds of vendors Thursday as the annual auction got under way. People came from as far north as Maine and as far south as Virginia to choose among the more than 50,000 fir trees, more than 20,000 wreaths and ornamentals and thousands of yards of white pine roping, which was very popular and sold out quickly …

Twisp, Washington, Methow Valley News, November 20, 2014: Dead trees are part of forest’s life cycle

When forests burn, trees die. It’s a fact. Particularly in hot fires in dense fuels — cambium cooks and needles fry. Conifers are particularly flammable and can go up in a spectacular crown fire. The resulting sea of black dead stems causes some people to think we must do something immediately. Not so fast. Catch your breath …

Jackson, Mississippi, Clinton News, November 20, 2014: Mississippi-grown trees will be cut quickly

Consumers who want Mississippi-grown Christmas trees to deck their halls should shop early for the best selection every year. “Choose-and-cut Christmas tree production in Mississippi is fairly flat because there are growers each year who retire,” said Stephen Dicke, a forestry professor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “Growers still in the business are producing more trees each year, but demand in heavily populated counties is much higher than the supply of trees …”

Southold, Long Island, New York, Southoldlocal.com, November 20, 2014: Town sets public hearing on plan to allow developers to trade cash for trees

The Southold Town voted unanimously Tuesday to set a public hearing on a proposal pitched by the planning board that will allow developers planning a project in areas where trees are not necessary or where a suitable location does not exist, to create a tree bank, or fund, trading money for trees. According to Southold principal planner Mark Terry, who spoke about the proposal last month, there are certain projects where there is no need for trees, or not enough space. In lieu of trees on the parcel, the developer could give funding to the town’s tree committee, waiving the tree requirement for the planned subdivision …

stormdamage141120Salem, Oregon, Statesman-Journal, November 19, 2014: Trees may need first aid after ice storm

After winter storms, such as the freezing rain the Willamette Valley experienced last week, it’s time for the daunting task of cleaning up the damage. Trees in particular can suffer the brunt of inclement weather, cautioned Paul Ries, an urban forester with the Oregon State University Extension Service. Don’t try to repair all the damage yourself if your trees are large, Ries advised. Bring in a certified arborist if large limbs are broken or hanging. “I tell people that if the corrective measure involves using a chainsaw off the ground, then it’s time to hire a professional,” Ries said …

Manteca, California, Bulletin, November 20, 2014: PG&E cutting down 36 trees under lines

PG&E is removing upwards of 36 trees along a greenbelt walking path in east Manteca near Joshua Cowell School. Neighbors are upset since the trees provided shade for walkers plus beautified the neighborhood …

South Bergen, New Jersey, South Bergenite, November 19, 2014: ‘Rutherford is in crisis over its trees’

It greets visitors as they cross into town, a sign reading “Rutherford: The Borough of Trees.” Despite the local pride in the borough’s notable tree canopy, many are claiming the Department of Public Works isn’t taking care of its trees or replacing lost trees efficiently enough. The situation has prompted the governing body to examine and potentially change the way trees are handled by the borough …

Surrey, British Columbia, BC Local News, November 19, 2014: Letter – Trees can pose a serious threat to property

The cypress/juniper hedge blocking the sidewalk at the McCutcheon residence (Oak Bay News Nov. 7) illustrates things many people are ignorant of, besides the decency of not blocking sidewalks. Trees grow, especially quickly here on the wet coast, despite what environmental activists infer. Those ones really should be removed, then new ones can be planted further back from the sidewalk -– in a few years they’ll be an ample hedge …

San Francisco, California, AP, November 19, 2014: Downed trees in San Francisco leave 1 injured, cars damaged

Thursday’s rain and wind led to four large trees toppling over in San Francisco early that morning. The most serious case involved a massive ficus, estimated to be more than 50 years old- at Potrero Avenue and 23rd Street, just across the street from San Francisco General Hospital. A construction worker, emerging from an SUV, was struck by a branch and seriously injured. Firefighters say he was knocked unconscious and his arm and leg pinned by the tree …

protest141119Outer Banks, North Carolina, Sentinel, November 18, 2014: In Southern Shores, a pitched battle over trees

The issue of large numbers of old trees being cut down is galvanizing citizens of Southern Shores in their opposition to policies being pursued by the town. The topic has recently become the focus of a public outcry that has spread from the town to county government …

Columbus, Ohio, WTTE-TV, November 19, 2014: Crews kept busy as snow creates problems with trees

The snow is 36 hours old, but it was keeping tree companies busy Tuesday. One homeowner in North Columbus watched anxiously from her back yard as crews sawed away at a pear tree. “When I woke up yesterday morning, the tree was on the house. Some of the limbs and some of the limbs were actually on the electric line,” V Shields said. The homeowners planted the tree more than 10 years ago. Its limbs were creeping closer and closer to where V’s roommate sleeps. “Her room is right underneath were the tree was and I was very concerned that there might be some damage that would hurt her,” Shields said …

Rock River, Nebraska, Times, November 19, 2014: Environmental contest: Trees vs. prairie

This article addresses the different benefits and drawbacks of two types of ecosystems, trees and prairies. Several questions will be pertinent to this topic. These are questions that not many people have asked about the environment …

Houston, Texas, Press, November 18, 2014: City gets $300,000 for illegally removed oak trees on Kirby

Remember those massive oak trees that were illegally removed in front of the Wendy’s off Kirby a few weeks ago? You know, the ones that triggered a massive uproar after they were chopped down in the middle of the night illegally. Well, the City of Houston is about to get those dolla, dolla bills, y’all. The issue has already been settled, and to the tune a $300,000 settlement, no less. The four trees, which ranged in size from 10 to 20 inches in diameter, were situated at the corner of Kirby and North Boulevard in a public right-of-way, and had been planted more than a decade ago by Trees for Houston volunteers. The trees were illegally chopped down without a permit as part of a construction project to renovate a Wendy’s drive-thru in the middle of the night, and the city, which has been cracking down on improperly removed trees, was pissed …

Duquesne141118Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Post-Gazette, November 18, 2014: For Duquesne Light’s vegetation management coordinator, some trees are hard to trim

Jenny Arkett grew up climbing trees. She was a Girl Scout, which kept her out in the woods for hours on end. Her parents taught her to love nature and took the family camping as often as possible. “I love trees as much as anybody,” she said. So the irony isn’t lost on her that her full-time job entails cutting, pruning and removing trees from the Western Pennsylvania landscape. After all, if you love something, sometimes you have to let it go. As the vegetation management coordinator at Duquesne Light, Ms. Arkett supervises a department that scours thousands of miles of power lines searching for any type of tree, plant or shrub that might compromise power service. Sometimes that means pruning limbs. Other times that means removing a perfectly healthy, beautiful tree …

Waterloo, Ontario, Regional Record, November 18, 2014: Crews to cut down 1,100 ash trees in Kitchener this winter

Crews will continue the grim work of cutting down hundreds of ash trees throughout Kitchener as part of ongoing efforts to manage the emerald ash borer. The invasive beetle, which originates in Asia, was first spotted in Kitchener trees in 2010, and is now found in every ward of the city. The bug is expected to kill 5,000 ash trees — about 80 per cent of all ash trees in the city — within the next three years. The city is spending $11 million over 10 years to control the pest, by chemically injecting larger ash trees and systematically cutting down the rest …

Syracuse, New York, Syracuse University Daily Orange, November 18, 2014: Professors use crowdfunding to help restore American chestnut trees

After 25 years of work, two SUNY-ESF professors have developed a way to restore the American chestnut tree back to its former glory and are receiving funding from the community to help the cause. The American chestnut tree was almost wiped out due to a blight but William Powell and Chuck Maynard of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry have found a way to create blight-resistant trees. Their goal is to produce 10,000 trees while going through the regulatory process. Normal grant agencies won’t help with funding as it is not considered research though, which is why they turned to a crowd funding page that has received more than $35,000 in support so far …

Seattle, Washington, KIRO Radio, November 17, 2014: ‘Every container has a story': Christmas trees bound for Hong Kong stuck at Port of Tacoma

When Chinese businessman Teddy Chan went looking for quality Christmas trees nearly a decade ago, he called John and Carol Tillman in Rochester, Washington. Every year since, the Tillmans have delivered around 2,000 high-quality Christmas trees to Chan. Each year, the trees are loaded into shipping containers and hauled by truck to the nearest port, where they’re stacked onto cargo ships and make a 23-day journey to Hong Kong in time for the holidays. But in 30 years, nothing compares to what the Tillmans are faced with this season. As of Monday, nine shipping containers filled with Christmas trees bound for Hong Kong are languishing at the Port of Tacoma. The Tillman family’s longtime customer, Teddy Chan, expected the 2,200 trees to be loaded on a ship almost two weeks ago to make it in time for Christmas. The Port of Tacoma is among several West Coast ports at a near standstill as the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) continue contract negotiations that have been going on since May. The sticking points are unclear …

Portland, Oregon, Oregonian, November 18, 2014: Winter-proof trees to withstand snow, ice and winds: Friends of Trees

Want to make your trees winter-proof? The two best actions to winterize trees involves mulch and pruning, says arborist Andrew Land, who works with Friends of Trees, a nonprofit organization that helps volunteers plant and care for city trees in green spaces and neighborhoods. Since 1989, the group has planted half a million trees in the Portland-Vancouver and Eugene-Springfield metro areas …

jacaranda141117Los Angeles, California, Observer, November 16, 2014: Water the grass less – but don’t forget the trees

Tearing out the turf and setting that fancy irrigation system to trickle could play a part in destroying our region’s fabulous canopy of trees. That high greenery keeps us cool, produces vast amounts of oxygen, shades our homes and our cars, dampens the crash-bang sounds of the city and fills the air with bird song, not to mention providing nesting spots for said birds …

Sacramento, California, KOVR-TV, November 16, 2014: Davis community lives in fear of old, potentially dangerous trees

Vivian Brecheisen says she’s complained for years and nothing has been done to remove the several trees near her Davis home she says could fall at any moment. “We are stuck living under this pit and pending doom,” Brecheisen said. Brecheisen claims large tree branches fall in her neighborhood and put people in danger. “Right above our mailboxes over here is the most dangerous tree,” Brecheisen said. “If it comes down it could take out my house.” Brecheisen lives at a mobile home park off Olive Drive where she says many of the trees are old and in bad condition.

Montgomery, Alabama, News, November 16, 2014: The kindest cut: the importance of pruning deciduous canopy trees

As the days grow shorter and cooler, winter weather predictions have become a popular topic of conversation. In these days of superstorms and polar vortices, it seems that such conversations are concerned less with “Hot enough for you?” and more with “How many hours did it take you to get home?” or “How long were you without power?” Putting aside for the moment the larger issue of global warming, we might well consider the effects of severe weather on canopy trees and the importance of proper maintenance in preparing them to withstand it. Poorly maintained trees pose a threat to people and property under the effects of high wind, snow and ice. Effective tree pruning targets development of a stable tree structure, removes weak and diseased limbs, and maintains an open and symmetrical canopy that accommodates an evenly distributed air flow …

Southgate, Michigan, News-Herald, November 16, 2014: Trees are one of the main reasons for increase in power outages

On a recent morning, two large trucks from Davey Tree Service pulled up in front of my house. A gentleman knocked on the door and explained they were a contractor for DTE Energy and needed to prune the large silver maple tree in our backyard to ensure proper clearance from the power lines. I was a bit apprehensive due to the fact that in the past DTE tree trimming crews had a reputation as a “hack and whack” approach to tree trimming. Things have certainly changed. The crew from Davey did an excellent job of pruning our tree. Watching the crew swing around the tree 30 feet above the ground got me thinking about trees and power lines …

ficus141114San Francisco, California, San Francisco First, November 13, 2014: Troublesome ficus trees fall on cars, power line, pedestrians

San Francisco’s aging batch of ficus trees claimed a few more victims this morning, as the trees — which are known hazards — toppled across the city. In a July report, San Francisco’s Department of Public Works admitted that the decision in the 1960s to plant ficus trees throughout the city was a crummy one, as the trees are known for “limb failure.” That was all too apparent this morning, when the modest amount of precipitation we had today took at least four of the trees down …

Washington, D.C., Greater Greater Washington, November 13, 2014: Street trees can’t ask for more soil themselves, but new DC standards will help them get it

Trees are a special quality of DC’s urban environment, but the city’s tree canopy has been shrinking in recent years. A new set of design standards ensures new construction on the roads and in public space includes enough soil so that trees can thrive …

Sacramento, California, Sacramento Bee, November 13, 2014: In drought-stricken areas, thirsty trees need attention this winter

Just because we’ve had a little rain, it doesn’t mean the drought is over. The damage done by drought builds up over time and its lingering effects will take many rainy months to begin to wash away. Particularly hit hard are trees. Sacramento’s famed urban forest continues to struggle with lack of moisture. But it may be hard to tell if a tree is suffering – especially if it usually drops its leaves this time of year …

West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue University, November 13, 2014: Study: Fungus behind deadly disease in walnut trees mutates easily, complicating control

Researchers from Purdue and Colorado State universities have discovered that the fungus responsible for thousand cankers disease, a lethal affliction of walnut trees and related species, has a rich genetic diversity that may make the disease more difficult to control. Adjunct assistant professor of forestry Keith Woeste and fellow researchers analyzed the genes of 209 samples of Geosmithia morbida from 17 regions of the U.S. to determine the genetic diversity of the fungus, its possible origin and how it spread throughout the West and to parts of the East. The researchers identified 57 distinct haplotypes, or genetic races, among the samples, a curious finding for an organism that reproduces by cloning itself. The high diversity of Geosmithia morbida likely indicates that the fungus mutates readily, said Woeste, who is also a hardwood specialist with the U.S. Forest Service …

chestnuts141113Ars Technica, November 12, 2014: GMO trees could rescue American chestnut from invasive fungus

The relationship between the US public and genetically modified organisms is a bit ambiguous. Efforts to label GMO foods were defeated in California, while some Hawaiian islands have banned the planting of GMO crops. But for most Americans, these issues remain pretty abstract. That may change thanks to work taking place in upstate New York. There, scientists are planning the return of an American icon in a genetically modified form. And if all goes according to plan, ten thousand GMO chestnut trees could be ready to plant in as little as five years. People could find them in parks and playgrounds and even in their neighbors’ yards …

Miami, Florida, Herald, November 12, 2014: Doral Council to pay at least $50,000 to find a legal loophole against Trump’s trees

The Doral City Council unanimously decided Wednesday night to invest at least $50,000 in legal advice in hopes of finding legal grounds to defend its residents against Donald Trump’s walls of trees. Since early last year, more than 2,500 homeowners have made noise about the millionaire’s beautification project of the Silver Course in Doral Park. Former views of green, curvy hills or glassy waters are now blocked by trees that grow dozens of feet high. More than 100 residents showed up at Wednesday’s council meeting to voice their frustration. But the city attorney told council members that after dissecting the city’s code, there’s very little wiggle room for the city to act. “We’ve diligently been troubleshooting the issue,” City Attorney Dan Espino said. “But we’ve run out of code. There is no silver bullet that can simply cause the resort to remove their plantings …”

New Bedford, Massachusetts, South Coast Today, November 12, 2014: Dozen trees on chopping block in Fairhaven

With its venerable old trees and historic buildings, Francis Street holds a special charm for residents. But Adam Colucci says that charm would be lost if the town follows through on its plans to cut down a dozen trees on Francis, along with Massasoit, Elm and Linden avenues. “The neighborhoods of Fairhaven are dependent on the historical seaport charm of old trees and old buildings. If a Historical Society can protect an old house, they should certainly be able to protect an old tree,” Colucci wrote in a letter to The Standard-Times. “An old growth tree cannot be replaced. The charm of Francis Street will literally be lost forever if we allow the town to cut down these trees …”

Albany, New York, Times-Union, November 12, 2014: Hemlock trees under assault, Schumer says

The state’s timber industry welcomed calls Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer that the federal government do more to help New York fight an invasive insect threatening to devastate its abundant and venerable hemlock trees. The hemlock woolly adelgid — an insect about the size of a period in this newspaper — has spread north into 28 counties so far since appearing during the 1980s in the Hudson Valley. It has since moved into the Catskills, the Capital Region, the Finger Lakes and, most recently, the Zoar Valley conservation area in Erie and Cattaraugus counties …

sopris141112Aspen, Colorado, Aspen Daily News, November 11, 2014: Aspen area neighbors sue each other over felled trees

A war of words is raging between attorneys who are representing two midvalley neighbors — who also happen to be high-profile lawyers — in a legal dispute over the felling of 30 to 50 aspen trees so the defendant could have a better view of Mount Sopris. At dispute in recent court filings is whether the defendant, Walter Stuart, a part-time valley resident who also lives in New York City, can remove PVC poles put up by the plaintiff, Gerald Hosier, on Hosier’s undeveloped property on Sopris Mountain Ranch. The poles represent the trees that Stuart had cut down near the two men’s property line …

Queens, New York, Times Ledger, November 11, 2014, Neighbors call on city to ask them if they want trees or not

To plant or not to plant? That’s the choice northeast Queens residents want to make when it comes to the city planting trees in front of their properties. Neighbors are opposed to the Bloomberg administration’s Million Trees Program. So far, according to the program’s web page, the city has planted 914,165 tress throughout the five boroughs. “Homeowners should not be forced to accept a tree in front of their homes,” said Jerry Wind, president of the Bellerose Hillside Civic Association. “The Parks Department cannot adequately take care of the existing trees …”

Reykjavik, Iceland, Grapevine, November 11, 2014: The trees are coming down on Laugavegur

Many merchants on Reykjavík’s main shopping street are distressed over a recent decision to cut down many of the trees on Laugavegur. MBL reports that trees along Laugavegur are being cut down, and this has caused no small amount of concern amongst some of the street’s storeowners. “We are unhappy that trees are being cut down right above our heads, but especially during opening hours,” said Frank Michelsen, owner of the Michelsen watch store …

Los Angeles, California, Times, November 11, 2014: City Hall debates who should trim L.A.’s trees

Nearly a decade ago, Los Angeles embarked on an ambitious campaign to plant more trees across the city. Now city officials find themselves struggling to maintain the urban forest along its parkways and medians. To save money during the recession, the city began to jettison dozens of employees who trimmed trees. The city retained a small group of trimmers for emergencies. And as the economy improved, it began hiring outside companies for routine jobs — a practice meant to be more efficient …

Monroe, Louisiana, News Star, November 11, 2014: Riverside Drive trees tagged for possible removal

Riverside Drive’s majestic magnolias in Monroe have been flagged for inspection and possible removal because of damage from last month’s tornado. John Stringer, executive director of the Tensas Basin Levee District, said trees flagged by the district will be inspected and those deemed unsalvageable will have to be removed for safety reasons. Once Monroe Public Works is finished with debris removal, the city will determine what needs to be done with damaged trees, Stringer said. That could be a month away …

olives141111Istanbul, Turkey, Al-monitor, November 10, 2014: Destruction of olive trees in Turkey triggers protests

In the early hours of Nov. 7, 6,000 olive trees that were 85 to 100 years old were cut down in Yirca village, which is attached to the western town of Soma in Manisa province. The Kolin Group — one of Turkey’s biggest conglomerates and known to have a close relationship with the government — decided to build a power plant in the olive grove. “If they would have shifted their location by just one kilometer [0.6 mile], we would have kept our trees in place,” Akin said. “The Council of State decided 10 hours later that the company should stop all activities at our grove, but it was already too late. The trees are gone, and we are now waiting for the final decision of the court before making up our minds as to what we can or cannot do next.” Once the trees were gone, the villagers were numbed.

San Diego, California, XETV, November 11, 2014: Torrey Pines trees are dying from lack of rainfall

As San Diego experiences its 12th month of warmer than average temperatures, our famous trees known as Torrey Pines, are suffering, dying off by the hundreds. San Diego 6’s Neda Iranpour shows us the drought’s effects on an internationally recognized hiking spot. These cliffs bring a mix of colors: the awe-inspiring blue of the ocean seen from winding brown trails, as the sun sparkles through these not so green trees. Bill Eckles, President of the Docents Society of Torrey Pines Natural Reserve, “We’re having a bit of trouble with the lack of water.” Eckles says they’re losing hundreds of Torrey Pines at Torrey Pines State Reserve …

Ft. Collins, Colorado, Coloradoan, November 10, 2014: Trees come down for Lincoln Ave. widening

Preparations have begun for building street improvements tied to the Woodward, Inc., campus under construction near the intersection of Lincoln and Lemay avenues. Until windy weather shut them down, crews on Monday started taking down trees along the south side of Lincoln Avenue to make way for widening of the road. The city plans to take down 54 trees. The trees are hazardous, of poor quality or are non-native species, officials said …

Examiner.com, November 11, 2014: They are planting more trees in Newark in areas where they are needed

With the holiday season soon approaching, Mt. Prospect Avenue in Newark, New Jersey is a great place to shop, especially for those who like to purchase merchandise in small businesses. Even in business sector like Mt. Prospect Avenue, where business owners are friendly with their customers, not only during the holidays but the entire year, there was still something missing. What was lacking in this urban area was a gift that only nature can give us, trees. After the roads were renovated on Mt. Prospect Avenue, new trees were finally planted …

Portland, Oregon, Oregonian, November 10, 2014: Winter is arriving fast: Prepare your trees, yard and house

Weather reports are scary enough to send a chill down your spine: A large, cold area of Arctic air from Canada is causing temperatures to plummet across the central U.S. all the way into the Southeast. Faster than you might have expected, it’s time to prepare your home, yard and trees for winter. Tree care is on many people’s minds and they have cause for concern. Leaves still clinging to branches can become landing spots for heavy ice and snow, and this additional weight may cause branches to snap …

pulp141110Jacksonville, Florida, The Florida Times-Union, November 9, 2014: To cut carbon from their power plants, Europeans cutting trees in the South, sparking environmental dispute

Southern forests are drawing uncounted millions of dollars in foreign spending to help utilities overseas meet carbon-emission rules that this country is still debating as tools to limit climate change. What those rules will mean for the environment is in dispute, and will doubtless be contested again based on findings the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released this month …

Springfield, Massachusetts, WWLP-TV, November 9, 2011: Slower leaf-drop may cause problems for you later

Normally by this late into fall there aren’t many leaves on the trees, but as you may have seen there are still some trees with bright colored leaves still on the branches. The weather is the reason why the leaves are falling about three weeks later than normal. Nighttime temperatures in October were warmer than normal and we haven’t had many really cold nights so far. Cold temperatures are the main trigger for leaf change and drop. While some trees don’t have any leaves on them, others have plenty, and it’s all to do with the variety of the tree or how much that tree has been exposed to the wind …

Columbus, Ohio, The Ohio State University Alumni Magazine, November 2014: Donors In-Kind

Trees contribute mightily to campus environment A resident of the Oval and longtime Ohio State supporter has pledged nearly $12,000 to the university: Platanus occidentalis, a sycamore tree just south of Hopkins Hall, will provide in-kind donations of sewer management, air-pollution removal, HVAC services and other benefits to be delivered over 25 years. In all, about 14,000 donors with roots in the Columbus campus — many of them actual buckeyes — have made similar pledges totaling more than $25 million over the next quarter century. Everyone knows trees are beautiful — try to imagine Mirror Lake Hollow or the Oval without their leafy canopies — but who knew they actually save money?

Portland, Oregon, Portland Business Journal, November 6, 2014: The best trees in the nation aren’t always where you think

Which state has the most impressive trees in the nation? Well, Florida, but Oregon is fast gaining traction in a national inventory of the nation’s biggest trees …

Harrisonburg, Virginia, News Leader, November 8, 2014: Composting leaves from black walnut trees? Think twice

I almost made a mistake when placing grass and leaf clippings onto the garden. One side of our yard has a big black walnut tree. I mowed the area collecting finely chopped leaves and then proceeded to the garden to dump this load on bare ground. Suddenly it occurred to me that I was transporting juglone to my garden. Juglone is a chemical which occurs naturally in all parts of the black walnut (wood, bark, nuts, leaves. etc.). Research indicates juglone is a respiration inhibitor which deprives sensitive plants of needed energy for metabolic activity. Plants threatened by juglone include tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and potatoes. There are, however, a few plants that benefit from juglone exposure: lawn grasses, corn, and onions …

dangertree141106Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Inquirer, November 7, 2014, Take a good, hard look at your trees

Tree guys all over the Philadelphia region still talk about Feb. 5, 2014. That day, a brutal ice storm toppled even the hardest of the hardwood trees. Oaks, hickories, and beeches, along with the Eastern white pines and other easy marks, keeled over, ripped through utility wires, and crashed onto cars, roads, and houses. Nine months later, as another winter approaches, Chris Miller, a certified arborist and district manager of Davey Tree in King of Prussia, continues to plow through a backlog of work from the ice storm and other winter damage, especially in Chester and Montgomery Counties. “I hated last winter,” he says. “I haven’t had a vacation this year because of it.” Miller and others in the tree business have some precautionary advice for homeowners. It’s no guarantee you’ll escape the ravages of heavy winds, snow, and ice, but it might mitigate the damage …

Phys.org, November 6, 2014: Blight-resistant American chestnut trees take root at SUNY-ESF

Scientists at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) are growing the first American chestnut trees that can withstand the blight that virtually eliminated the once-dominant tree from the eastern United States. Members of the ESF research team recently published three peer-reviewed papers that, along with continuing research, support their conviction that their biotechnology work with a gene originating in wheat makes the American chestnut tree at least as blight resistant as the Chinese chestnut tree that can co-exist with blight with minimal ill effects. “Our goal was to develop an American chestnut tree that has blight resistance equal to that of a Chinese chestnut and we are there. We’ve done it,” said Dr. William Powell, an ESF professor who leads the research project along with Dr. Chuck Maynard. “The leaf assays show it, the small-stem assays show it,” Powell said, referring to the analytical processes the researchers go through to determine the level of blight resistance. “These American chestnut trees are blight resistant …”

Eureka, California, Lost Coast Outpost, November 6, 2014: CHP investigating whether trees were cut illegally for electronic casino billboard

The California Highway Patrol has launched an investigation into the recent removal of trees and brush near Bear River Casino’s new electronic billboard on Hwy. 101. State officials say the vegetation was removed to improve visibility of the sign, despite the fact that a permit for the work had been denied. Late last month, according to emails obtained by the Outpost through a California Public Records Act request, local officials with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) asked the CHP to launch a formal investigation after discovering that trees and bushes had been removed near the base of the electronic sign, which lies within the agency’s right of way …

Westchester, New York, Journal News, November 6, 2014: Dreaded emerald ash borer found in Westchester trees

The dreaded emerald ash borer has been detected in Westchester for the first time, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced earlier this week. The invasive species of beetles, originally from Asia, was discovered in purple DEC traps just north of Peekskill. It has also been found recently southeast of Binghamton, in Broome County, just outside the current state and federal quarantine zone. That zone encompasses all or part of 42 counties in central and western New York, including Putnam and Orange. Rockland is not yet on the quarantine maps, but the northeastern corner of the county is considered at risk …

St. George, Utah, Spectrum and Daily News, November 6, 2014: BLM to sell non-commercial permits to cut Christmas trees

The Bureau of Land Management Utah will sell non-commercial permits to cut pinyon pine and juniper Christmas trees beginning in early November at several offices throughout southern Utah …

walnuttwigbeetle141105York, Pennsylvania, WPMT-TV, November 5, 2014: Beetles killing walnut trees leads to quarantine

The Walnut Twig Beetle is attacking walnut trees throughout the Commonwealth. Most recently it was discovered burrowing in the bark of trees in Drumore Township, Lancaster County. “As the walnut twig beetle pierces into the tree, it deposits a fungus and creates a canker,” said Dana Rhodes, with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. That canker multiplies, causing the disease known as thousand cankers. Eventually all of the tree’s nutrients are sapped, causing it to die …

Bend, Oregon, Bulletin, November 6, 2014: Grower gives Christmas trees hot bath

An Oregon grower is giving its Christmas trees a hot bath before shipping to make sure buyers don’t get slugs and yellow jackets as unexpected presents. The Kirk Co. of Oregon City sends harvested trees on conveyor belts through an enclosed washer to kill or knock off pests, the agricultural publication Capital Press reported Tuesday. “What you’re trying to do with that is control hitchhikers,” said Bob Bishop, a trade specialist with the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The trees also get moisturized and stay fresh and green longer, he said. It’s the second year the company has tried the experiment that’s drawing attention from foreign agricultural officials and other Oregon growers who are less likely than Kirk to have the water or electrical capacity to bathe trees. “Growers in general hope it doesn’t come to this,” said Chal Landgren, a Christmas tree specialist with Oregon State University Extension Service …

Lafayette, Louisiana, The Advertiser, November 5, 2014: Snack down: UL trees have yet to bear fruit

Olivia Wineski, a sophomore pre-veterinarian major at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, had no clue that fruit trees grew on the campus as a way to offer healthful, free snacks to students between classes. “I think that’s pretty cool,” Wineski said. “It’s a healthy option, and the fact that it’s free definitely is a perk.” The only problem is that the fruit trees planted on the campus about three years ago bear little to no fruit yet because they are too small. Others haven’t survived …

Houston, Texas, Chronicle, November 5, 2014: Editorial – Respect the trees

Dr. Seuss’ Lorax spoke for the trees, because the trees had no tongues. Trees also lack a collection agency, and that is where City Hall comes in. As first reported on Swamplot.com, workers in the dead of night felled six mature oaks last week at a Wendy’s along Kirby Drive. Houston might as well echo with the call of “timber” as the march of construction dooms plenty of impressive trees on private property. Hundreds of years of arboreal history fall victim to the rise of stucco siding, and there is little anyone can do about it. But these trees on Kirby belonged to the public. Planted by Trees for Houston volunteers in a city right-of-way more than a decade ago, Wendy’s new owner had no right to tear them down without permission. Money may not grow on trees, but their value should be apparent to everyone. Trees improve property rates, bring life to neighborhoods and add a healthy sense of green to the gray of our city’s sprawling concrete. The man responsible for this defoliation, Ali Dhanani of Austin-based Haza Foods LLC, should have to write a hefty check to help replace what he stole from the city. Irresponsible businesses want to treat Houston like their own personal playground – for better or worse – and City Hall must make an example of the perpetrators …

New York City, Science Recorder, November 5, 2014: Invasive beetles are literally sucking the life out of New York City trees

New York state’s ash trees are all at risk of being infested by a small green beetle, the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB), according to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The species, native to Asia and Russia, first came to the US in 2002, where it first showed up in Michigan. It is now currently resident in 24 New York counties, with its presence in Westchester and Broome counties confirmed on November 3, 5 years after it first arrived in NY. Luckily, the outbreaks are currently small, with just 2% of New York’s forests home to the creatures. To combat the species’ spread, the DEC says the state is pursuing a Slow Ash Mortality Program (SLAM). In a statement, the Commissioner of the DEC, Joe Martens, said that the program involves limiting the spread of the beetle, as well as researching methods to get rid of the pest for good …

vote141105Baltimore, Maryland, Sun, November 4, 2014: Plant trees for a better democracy

As the dust settles on the 2014 mid-term election and the parties analyze why more Americans didn’t come out to vote, it’s time to recognize that political involvement does not come with an on/off switch. There are lessons to be learned from the example of thousands of citizens in Baltimore and around the country who participate in community-sponsored initiatives to plant trees. Yes, trees. Citizens join these efforts to make their communities greener and more resilient to floods, but it turns out digging in the dirt can be a viable way of getting people involved in the practice of democracy. Literally putting roots in the ground gets people more involved in other aspects of community life …

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Inquirer, November 4, 2014: Borers branch out from ash trees

Bad news in the bug department: The emerald ash borer, a tiny, glitter-green insect from China expected to kill virtually all ash trees in the East – unless they are treated with expensive chemicals – may have a new target. The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed recently that the borer had attacked the white fringe tree, which is in the same family as not only the ash, but forsythia and lilac. Experts don’t know quite what to make of the find yet, other than that it is worrisome.

Science Daily, November 4, 2014: Felling pine trees to study their wind resistance

Technicians of the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development NEIKER-Tecnalia in Bizkaia, Spain, have in recent days been felling trees to simulate the effect of the wind in mountains in the Bizkaia locality of Artzentales. Forestry experts of the French Institute for Agricultural Research INRA together with technicians from NEIKER-Tecnalia and the Chartered Provincial Council of Bizkaia felled radiata pine specimens of different ages in order to find out their resistance to gales and observe the force the wind needs to exert to blow down these trees in the particular conditions of the Basque Country. This experience is of great interest for the managers of forests and will help them to manage their woodlands better and incorporate the wind variable into decisions like the distribution of plantations, or the most propitious moment for felling the trees …

Biloxi, Mississippi, Sun Herald, November 3, 2014: Biloxi trees leave city at odds over development

The Biloxi council called a special meeting for Nov. 3 at 4 City Hall to consider strengthening the city’s tree ordinance. Prompting the meeting is an application to cut down 37 protected trees for a new hotel on Beach Boulevard. More than 100 trees have been lost for development in the last year, and some residents say that’s already too many. They are calling for the return of a citizen tree committee in hopes of saving more trees. The city hasn’t had a tree committee since 1999, said Eric Nolan, city arborist. The volunteer committee often didn’t meet, he said, because not enough members could attend to achieve a quorum …

Trenton, New Jersey, Times, November 4, 2014: Opinion – Street trees are far from a shady investment

Autumn is upon us. This time of year, we experience fall’s arrival and we take comfort in the crisp evenings and enjoy the splendor of autumn color. Walking or driving through town is a delight for the senses. This benefit of trees — this experience — provides warm feelings and emotions and creates priceless memories. We all have fond memories of traveling along a boulevard lined with grand street trees that form a welcoming natural archway of tree canopy above us.  As the leaves show their glorious, changing colors, let’s pause to ask ourselves: Are we investing enough time and money in our street trees? Street trees —trees planted between the sidewalk and the road — are perhaps the most valuable city trees, and it is vitally important that local communities manage them well. Street trees are a valuable community asset. The most visible swath of any community forest is its street trees …

dodder141104San Francisco, California, KPIX-TV, November 3, 2014: Killer alien weed invades Bay Area; Sucking life out of trees, other plants

An invasive, parasitic plant which grows lengthy vines and overwhelms native plants to the point of sucking the life out of them is invading the Bay Area, according to county officials. The Japanese Dodder (Cuscuta japonica), which is not from Japan but rather Southeast Asia is classified as a noxious weed by agriculture officials and has been particularly damaging to oak trees in Alameda County. “Once someone has it, for the most part it stays put, and we got to get it under control before it moves to other places,” Alameda County Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Edmund Duarte said. About a dozen oak trees in Oakland have been invaded by the dodder, and Alameda County’s Department of Agriculture has been keeping an eye on them …

York, Pennsylvania, WPMT-TV, November 3, 2014: Disease detected in Lancaster County trees; Quarantine enacted

Following the detection of Thousand Cankers Disease in Lancaster County, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture today enacted a quarantine, effective immediately, restricting the movement of wood and wood products. Lancaster joins Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, which were quarantined in August 2014, and Bucks County, which was quarantined in 2011 …

Ames, Iowa, University if Iowa, November 3, 2014: Bugs don’t always follow the trees to the big city

Adding green spaces to city environments—built by and for humans—isn’t necessarily enough to create biodiversity, a new study suggests. For a new study, researchers surveyed two types of trees in an urban area in Iowa, and recorded the abundance of two insects that interact with them. They found that while there were plenty of the trees—black cherry and black walnut—they didn’t find a corresponding abundance of the insects. In this case, they were looking for the fruit flies that feed on the walnuts and black cherries and a type of wasp that feeds on the flies. “In cities, you might have more trees, but you don’t necessarily have more insects associated with them,” says Andrew Forbes, associate professor of biology at the University of Iowa and an author of the paper in Plos One …

Springfield, Virginia, Sun, November 3, 2014: The kindest cut: the importance of pruning deciduous canopy trees

As the days grow shorter and cooler, winter weather predictions have become a popular topic of conversation. In these days of superstorms and polar vortices, it seems that such conversations are concerned less with “Hot enough for you?” and more with “How many hours did it take you to get home?” or “How long were you without power?” Putting aside for the moment the larger issue of global warming, we might well consider the effects of severe weather on canopy trees and the importance of proper maintenance in preparing them to withstand it. Poorly maintained trees pose a threat to people and property under the effects of high wind, snow and ice. Effective tree pruning targets development of a stable tree structure, removes weak and diseased limbs and branches and maintains an open and symmetrical canopy that accommodates an evenly distributed air flow …

Great Falls, Montana, Tribune, November 3, 2014: Dangerous dead trees targeted for removal

Bill Avey, supervisor of Lewis and Clark National Forest, has signed a decision to remove dead trees lining 203 miles of road in three counties within the Little Belt Mountains, primarily the southwest portion. The trees were killed by mountain pine beetle. They’re considered hazardous because they could fall down, said Dave Cunningham, a spokesman for the forest. “The whole purpose of this is to remove trees that pose a very real threat to public safety on open roads,” Cunningham said …

wettrees141103Redding, California, The Record Searchlight, November 2, 2014: With winter approaching, trees still need water

As California’s drought has dragged on during the past three years, trees all over the state have been under stress, surviving on less water than they are used to. Even with the rainy season approaching, trees aren’t out of the woods, horticulturalists and landscape experts say. Not only have trees been suffering from a lack of rain, but cities and water agencies have imposed watering restrictions that have left landscapes intentionally parched, said Julie Saare-Edmonds, landscape program manager for the state Department of Water Resources …

Lansing, Michigan, State Journal, November 1, 2014: Christmas time in the city: State tree in place

Crews installed Michigan’s official Christmas tree Saturday at the Capitol, marking the start of the holiday season in the Great Lakes State. The 63-foot blue spruce tree, harvested Thursday in Kingsford in the Upper Peninsula, arrived via a large slot-bed trailer Friday just as first snow flakes of blew through the Lansing area in a blustery preview of winter …

Yarnbombing141011Cedar Rapids, Iowa, The Gazette, November 2, 2014: Trees in downtown Iowa City get cozy with annual sweater project

It’s this time of year when the temperature drops and people throw on sweaters to stay warm. And for downtown Iowa City, that includes the area’s many trees. Participants in the annual Tree Hugger Project sewed the last stitches onto their tree sweaters, which are on display throughout the downtown and Northside Marketplace. This year, 125 trees are dressed with their own sweater design …

Riverhead, Long Island, New York, Riverhead News Review, October 31, 2014, Town to developer: Keep those trees alive or we will

The developer of the Shops at Riverhead retail center on Route 58 will be required to post a $100,000 bond to ensure dead trees surrounding the property are replaced, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio confirmed this week. The developer, Brixmor Property Group, is expected to plant new trees and the town will inspect them next year, she said, adding the town will use the bond to redo the work if the trees don’t survive. The Planning Board had required the developer to plant trees along the east and northern border of the shopping center, but many trees along the northern boundary have since died …

Kelowma, British Columbia, November 1, 2014: Trees die near development

Some Kelowna residents are concerned by what appears to be poisoned trees near a housing development in the Mission area.  About 10 trees, which happen to be below a new house in the Woodland Hills Estates development on Westpoint Drive, have had a large hole bored into them and have since begun to die. Alex Harvie said he and his girlfriend frequently walk their dogs through the wooded area below the new development and noticed the holes a while ago. He thinks someone has poisoned the trees. “We couldn’t help but notice ‘Wow, look at those trees suddenly dying,” he said. “They didn’t even bother to try and hide the fact that they drilled holes, they left the shavings there.” Harvie said the Woodland Hills Estates development has been quiet for the past five years or so, but lately work has picked back up. The trees in question are all below one of the homes that is nearing completion …

TNLBGray140407

Case of the Day – Thursday, December 18, 2014

A SLAPP ON THE FACE

SLAPP2-141219Only in California could a tree-trimming case end up as a free speech issue.

Yesterday we considered the plaint of our correspondent from Lick Skillet, Illinois, who wanted to remove a branch overhanging his yard from his neighbor’s rather substantial oak tree. We concluded that Massachusetts-style self-help might be available to him, but it was fraught with peril due to a local ordinance requiring that the tree be trimmed according to ANSI A300 standard. He couldn’t trim according to the standard, because that required going onto his neighbor’s property, and his neighbor denied him permission. He could trim to his property line, but if the tree was damaged or died because of the trimming, he faced a criminal charge and a fine of about $15,000 (or about 495,000 900,000 975,000 rubles). We suggested that the situation he described might be a case of common law running headlong into bureaucracy.

Today, we look at the kind of mischief results when good old fashioned common law self-help runs into bureaucracy.

bureaucracy141219The Dilbecks wanted to add a second story to their house, but their neighbors’ oak tree had extended its branches so close to the Dilbecks’ place that they had to be trimmed back in order to make room. No problem, right? We all know that self-help is available to the Dilbecks anywhere in California. Sure, but it turns out the Los Angeles isn’t just anywhere. In LA, oak trees are “protected,” and before trimming the oak, the Dilbecks had to get a permit from the County. And the County wouldn’t issue a permit unless the tree’s owner signed on to it.

This sounds something like the problem our complainant in Lick Skillet faces, doesn’t it?

So much for self-help. The Dilbecks did something from which our writer shrinks: they sued, asking that the County be ordered to issue the permit and that their neighbors be found liable in trespass for the tree (the theory being that the neighbors let the branches intrude over the Dilbecks’ lawn). And here’s where it got even more complicated. California has a statute concerning litigation known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” the so-called anti-SLAPP statute.  This mouthful with the catchy name is intended to stop oppressive lawsuits that are filed with the intention of keeping people from exercising their rights to free speech. 

There’s a whole cottage industry in the Golden State surrounding SLAPP actions.  And as with a lot of other good ideas (such as RICO), the anti-SLAPP statute is another tool in the canny lawyer’s arsenal, something else with which to bludgeon a plaintiff.

Here, the neighbors complained that the Dilbecks were trying to force them to petition the County to let the tree get trimmed, and the suit should be thrown out as violating the anti-SLAPP statute. The trial court refused to throw the suit out. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that the Dilbecks weren’t demanding that the neighbors do anything. They were asking the County to do something, and they were suing the neighbors for trespass because of the tree. California law would let them collect money damages if the encroaching tree was a nuisance (Bonde v. Bishop held as much). So whether the Dilbecks won on the merits or not, the action was not a SLAPP suit, and it wouldn’t be dismissed.

Whew!  Makes you long for the simple, ol’ Massachusetts Rule … no permits, no lawsuits, just an aggrieved landowner with a chainsaw.

Dilbeck v. Van Schaick, Not Reported in Cal.Rptr.3d, 2007 WL 2773986 (Cal.App. 2 Dist., Sept. 25, 2007). The Dilbecks owned a place in Altadena, next door to the Van Schaicks. The Dilbecks planned to remodel their home by adding a second story. However, the branches of an oak tree located on the Van Schaicks’ property have grown over the Dilbecks’ home, rendering the Dilbecks’ plans unworkable unless the tree was pruned.

Oak trees are protected by state law.  Los Angeles County had adopted regulations to preserve and protect oak trees, requiring a permit to cut down mature oak trees or to prune their larger branches.  The Dilbecks applied to the County for a permit, but the County would not approve it because it took the position that only the owner of the tree may obtain a pruning permit, and the Van Schaicks had not acquiesced.

So the Dilbecks brought suit against the Van Schaicks and the County for declaratory relief and trespass. They alleged the oak tree growing on the Van Schaicks’ property had encroached onto the their land and interfered with their ability to add a second story to their home. The suit said the County refused to grant the permit because the Dilbecks were not the owners of the tree. The trespass cause of action alleged the oak tree branches were encroaching on the Dilbercks’ land, and asked for an order permitting the Dilbecks or an independent contractor to prune the tree.

frivolous141219The Van Schaicks filed a special motion to strike pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure §425.16, asserting that the complaint was based on their refusal to support the Dilbecks’ oak tree permit application and therefore attacked their right to free speech. They further argued that the trespass claim lacked merit because the law forbade the Van Schaicks to prune or cut the offending oak tree branches.

The Dilbecks contended that their action did not fit within the definition of a SLAPP suit and that, in any event, their complaint had merit. They denied that the complaint sought to compel the Van Schaicks to support or sign the oak tree permit. The trial court denied the Van Schaicks’ motion to strike, finding that they had not demonstrated that they were being sued for engaging in protected activity. Instead, the trial court held, they were just being sued for trespass. The Van Schaicks appealed the court’s denial of their motion to strike.

Held:   The Dilbecks’ complaint did not arise from acts undertaken in furtherance of the Van Schaicks’ rights of free speech or petition, and the Van Schaicks’ attempt to get it dismissed was rejected.

The California Legislature enacted the anti-SLAPP statute in response to its perception that there has been an increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and to petition for the redress of grievances. The anti-SLAPP statute provides a procedure for the court to dismiss at an early stage non-meritorious litigation meant to chill the exercise of free speech rights. The statute requires the trial court to engage in a two-step process when determining whether a motion to strike should be granted, first, whether the defendant has made a threshold prima facie showing that the acts of which it complains were ones taken in furtherance of its constitutional rights of petition or free speech in connection with a public issue, and two, whether there is a probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim.

slapp141219The issue here, the Court said, was whether the complaint arose from conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition or the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest. The Van Schaicks contended the suit sought to compel them to petition the County for discretionary relief from the oak tree statutes. But the Court held their characterization of the complaint was wrong. In fact, the Court said, the suit merely sought to compel the County to review the merits of the permit application submitted by the Dilbecks, and requested an order permitting the Dilbecks or their arborist to prune the tree. The complaint did not seek to compel the Van Schaicks to become personally involved in the permit application process in any way, and thus did not violate the anti-SLAPP statute. But the Van Schaicks also contended that the complaint would indirectly force them to speak because a judgment in favor of the Dilbecks on the trespass action would necessarily require the Van Schaicks to petition the County of Los Angeles for discretionary relief from the Oak Tree statute.

The Court disagreed, finding that the Van Schaicks’ contention was based on the incorrect assumption that the only remedy available for trespass was injunctive relief. But California law held a party over whose land overhanging branches extend may either cut them off or maintain an action for damages and abatement, as long as he or she can prove the branches constitute a nuisance.

The prospect that the Van Schaicks could eventually be faced with an order to abate the nuisance and could do so only by seeking a permit from the County did not transform the Dilbecks’ lawsuit into a SLAPP action. The Court ruled that the thrust of the Dilbecks’ complaint was the injury caused to their property by the encroaching tree, not the Van Schaicks’ decision to refrain from involvement in the permitting process. The permit, although obtainable only by petitioning a governmental entity, principally concerned and affected the remodeling of a private home by private individuals.

TNLBGray

ChristmasAd141210

Case of the Day – Wednesday, December 17, 2014

SELF-HELP MEETS CATCH-22

catch22141217 Those of us old enough to remember the ‘60s – and if you were around then, you probably were in such a state that you don’t remember them – recall Joseph Heller’s book, Catch-22.   The short rocket is this: the “Catch 22” is simply illustrated – if one is crazy, one can be discharged from the army.  But one has to apply for the discharge, and applying demonstrates that one is not crazy. As a result, one will not be discharged.

The Catch 22 typifies “bureaucratic operation and reasoning,”  which brings us to today’s conundrum. An alert reader in Lick Skillet, Illinois, wrote to complain that a branch from his neighbor’s oak tree hangs over his property to a great extent, dropping leaves and acorns. He says it’s so big and long that it’s a hazard, and he fears that it will fall on his children.  What, he wonders, can he do?

Oh, yawn, you say. Being a faithful reader of this blog, you immediately recognize that the solution to this is the Massachusetts Rule, which permits a homeowner to use “self-help,” trimming the branches back to his property line.  Ah, but there’s a twist to this particular problem.  If our afflicted homeowner trims to the property line, he will leave a six-foot or so stub of a branch because he cannot go onto the neighbor’s property to trim the branch all the way to the trunk.  The city, he tells us, requires that the branch be trimmed all the way to the trunk, or it will fine him.

At this point, the notion of a lousy $25 fine leaves you still unimpressed, and you’re about to click off this blog for one of those Internet sites that no one admits to checking out, but we all do, anyway.   Not so fast.  It gets better.  Our homeowner complains that the City’s fine for improper trimming is $400 per inch of diameter of tree, and the diameter of the offending oak (at 4 feet above the ground) is something like 36 inches.  That’s right, he’s looking at shelling out $15,000 in fine (plus tree trimming costs), all to cut down a single hazardous branch.

Or so our afflicted correspondent says.  Frankly, we were perplexed by his report.  If things were as our complainant said they were, one effectively could not exercise self-help without his or her neighbor’s cooperation. That seemed to eviscerate the Massachusetts Rule, taking the “self” right out of “self-help.”  It’s the classic Catch 22 – you cannot exercise self-help without your neighbor’s cooperation, which – if you can get it – pretty much makes it anything but self-help.

Years of law practice have made us acutely aware of a sad fact of life: clients get it wrong.  They get it wrong all the time.  You could be cynical and say that clients lie, but we would never suspect that.  Indeed, you don’t have to go that far.  Whether they’re simply confused, perceive it incorrectly, or flat out fib, the result’s the same.  

standards141217Here, the Lick Skillet City Code tells a somewhat different story.  The ordinance requires that any trimming in the city has to be done according to ANSI Standard A300, which sets out best practices for tree maintenance. If a trimmer adheres to the standard, what happens to the tree is not his or her fault.  If the trimmer does not trim to the ANSI standard, and the tree later suffers “substantial destruction” – that is, it is killed or becomes a hazard tree – the trimmer is liable.  So our homeowner’s trimming won’t lead to a fine unless the tree is “substantially destroyed.”  And that will take a few years to determine.

Talking to the Lick Skillet City Forester’s office, we found out a few other facts as well, details our correspondent homeowner overlooked telling us.  It appears that our afflicted complainant may not be all that concerned with the fate of his children playing under the branch.  Instead, he wants to build a swimming pool, and the branch is directly over the new installation.  What’s worse, the branch spoils his view.

Whew!  We haven’t had a problem like this since a law school final exam. Where to start?  First, our unhappy pool-building homeowner should hire an arborist. If the arborist agrees that the branch is a hazard, our man is on much more solid ground. The neighbor should be placed on notice of the hazard determination, and the neighbor’s insurance company should be told, too. We bet the insurance company will convince the recalcitrant neighbor to let our homeowner trim to A300 standards without a whimper of protest.

But what if the branch isn’t a hazard (as we’ve heard)? Our homeowner might still have an arborist trim it to the property line according to accepted industry standard (if such a thing is possible). If it is not, our homeowner may have to risk lopping the branch off at the property line, and hoping that the tree doesn’t die. If it does, the City is going to assert that it was the the homeowner’s improper trimming that caused the hazard (or death).

We suspect our homeowner won’t find an arborist who will cut the branch other than at the trunk (which cannot be done without the neighbor’s OK).  If the homeowner is going to go ahead with the pool, he may just have to cut the branch at the property boundary and hope for the best.  If the tree withers and dies within a few years of the surgery, well, then, he has a problem.

That should not be surprising.  Even without the city ordinance, the suggestion has often been made that Massachusetts self-help requires first that the overhanging branches be doing more than just causing shade or dropping leaves. In Herring v. Lisbon Partners, the court suggested that Massachusetts self-help was only available when the overhanging branches or intruding roots were doing more than your average tree: that is, they were a danger or a nuisance, breaking up pavement or damaging roofs.  It could well be that courts will rule that self-help isn’t available merely to improve the view (although such a ruling hasn’t come down anywhere just yet).

Thus, it could be that our homeowner really isn’t entitled to do much of anything if he cannot get an arborist to certify that the branch is doing more mischief than your average branch.  Endangering kids is one thing: spoiling a view is something else. If the branch is a hazard, the homeowner might have a defense to trimming it to the property line, even if the tree dies – the defense of necessity.

Our complaining homeowner told us that he doesn’t want to end up in a lawsuit, or defending himself from a $15,000 fine.  That’s perfectly understandable.  In that case, his best course is obvious, if the branch is a hazard (as he says it is).  If his arborist will give him an opinion that the branch is a hazard, the homeowner should make sure the neighbor and the neighbor’s insurance carrier are both aware of that.  Certified mail, return receipt requested, would be prudent.  We suspect our homeowner will be happily surprised at how quickly the insurance carrier persuades his neighbor to cooperate.

peter141217Lawrence Peter postulated the idea years ago as a corollary to the Peter Principle: pull is always stronger than push.  If our homeowner gets the neighbor’s insurance company on board, he’ll have a lot of pull.

Fine aside, could our homeowner be liable for causing substantial damage to his neighbor’s tree by not trimming according to A300 standards?   Remember, our complainant wants to avoid litigation, trimming away the offending branch in a way that leaves him legally bulletproof.  Even without the city’s statutes requiring trimming in compliance with A300, today’s case from California should serve as a cautionary tale.

We have previously determined that California generally recognizes the Massachusetts Rule, which permits a neighbor to use “self-help,” trimming the branches back to the property line. Of course, California seems also to permit use of the private nuisance laws — something that seems like the Hawaii Rule or Virginia Rule — to let a homeowner like our correspondent force someone like his neighbor to remove the branch himself if it is a nuisance.
Chainsawb&w140225

Mr. Patel was unhappy that the roots from Mr. Booska’s pine tree had heaved some of Mr. Patel’s sidewalk. He excavated along the edge of his yard down to three feet, severing the roots of the pine tree that had encroached under his sidewalk. The root cutting so weakened the tree that it started dying and was in danger of falling. Mr. Booska had to take the tree down, and he promptly sued.

The lower courts said that Patel had an absolute right to cut the roots on his property, citing the holding in  Bonde v. Bishop.  Not so, said the appeals court.  Instead, Mr. Patel had an obligation to cut the roots in a reasonable manner that would achieve his aims — to stop sidewalk heaving — without undue harm to the tree.  The Court held that “no person is permitted by law to use his property in such a manner that damage to his neighbor is a foreseeable result.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the final answer.  The Booska court was swayed by testimony that Mr. Patel could have protected his sidewalks with a much less aggressive method.  We don’t yet know what the result would be if the only means of protecting Mr. Patel’s sidewalk would have required cutting that would necessarily be fatal, but our correspondent could provide us with the answer if he lands in court over cutting the branch to the property line but not in accordance with A300.

In the situation our writer presented to us, his explanation for wanting the branch removed clashed with what the city understood the real motivation might be.  In discussions with his arborist, our neighbor will have to consider whether the branch could be found to be a nuisance, a finding that Bonde suggests can be easily made in California.  Even if it is not a nuisance, our correspondent maybe can start hacking away on his side of the property line, but the hacking should be done according to A300.  Assuming that it cannot be (because the neighbor won’t permit trimming to the trunk), the trimming has to be done in a way that weighs our correspondent’s legitimate aims — whatever they are — against the health and safety of the tree. And preserves the tree, thus avoiding the $15,000 fine.

Oh, the complexity! And to make it worse, tomorrow we’ll look at a Kafkaesque result where a neighbor’s right to cut back a tree can’t be exercised without approval of the property owner, resulting in an old-fashioned California SLAPP-down.

Fool Booska v. Patel, 24 Cal.App.4th 1786, 30 Cal.Rptr.2d 241 (Ct.App. Div.1, 1994). Attorney Booska, representing himself in this action, sued his neighbor Mr. Patel. The roots of a 40-year-old Monterey pine tree owned by Mr. Booska extended into Mr. Patel’s yard. Mr. Patel hired a contractor to excavate along the length of his yard and sever the roots of the tree down to a level of about 3 feet. Mr. Booska complained that Mr. Patel’s actions were negligently performed, and the tree became unsafe, a nuisance, unable to support life, and had to be cut down at Mr. Booska’s expense. The complaint alleged causes of action for negligence, destruction of timber and nuisance. The trial court granted summary judgment for Mr. Patel, holding that under Bonde v. Bishop, Mr. Patel had an absolute right to sever the roots without regard to the effect on Mr. Booska. Mr. Booska appealed.

Held: The Court of Appeals reversed. It held that adjoining landowners do not have absolute privilege to sever encroaching tree roots without regard to reasonableness of their action or consequences to neighbors. Instead, neighbors act reasonably, and failure to do so could be basis for recovery of damages. The Court distinguished the rulings in Bonde v. Bishop and Grandona v. Lovdal, noting that neither of those cases discussed the limits on what an adjoining property owner could do. The Court observes that “[i]n the instant case, Patel has not addressed the issue of negligence in his summary judgment motion but contends that he has an unlimited right to do anything he desires on his property regardless of the consequences to others. No authority so holds. ‘No person is permitted by law to use his property in such a manner that damage to his neighbor is a foreseeable result.’”

The Patels and Booskas apparently hadn't gotten this word ...

The Patels and Booskas apparently hadn’t gotten this word …

The appeals court was apparently disturbed that these neighbors hadn’t found the time or inclination to be neighborly about the dispute. It cites language from Bonde v. Bishop: “‘Apparently this is one of those rows between neighbors in which the defendants are standing on what they erroneously believe to be their strict legal rights to the exclusion of any consideration of the fair, decent, neighborly and legal thing to do’.”

The Court then pointedly said, “It seems, in the instant case, that neither party has considered what would be the neighborly thing to do to resolve this problem. While we express no opinion on the appropriate outcome of this case, we find that there are disputed factual issues to be resolved.”

The Court reversed the decision, and sent the case back to the trial court to resolve the issue of negligence.

TNLBGray

santagives2

Case of the Day – Tuesday, December 16, 2014

FOOL FOR A CLIENT

Abe Lincoln could have been talking about Mr. Victor, who has a real dummy for a client.

Abe Lincoln could have been talking about Mr. Victor, who has a real dummy for a client.

Ol’ Abe Lincoln was right: Mr. Victor had a first-class knucklehead for a client.The old lawyer’s proverb warns that “The man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” Today’s case from Iowa puts meat on those bones.

Mr. Victor’s car was hit by a truck at an intersection. That kind of thing happens on a daily basis. After the crash, he took matters into his own hands. That does not.

Usually, people use lawyers for that kind of thing. In fact, lawyers usually take cases like this one on a contingency basis, meaning that they don’t get paid unless you win. Of course, lawyers tend to be picky about the kinds of personal injury actions they will bring, , for the same reason that more people bet on the horse “California Chrome” than lay money down on “Old Glue Factory.” Who wants to waste time and money.

Maybe Mr. Victor didn’t like lawyers. Maybe (as is more likely), no attorney would touch the case from a remote control bunker in the Amazon rain forest. For whatever reason, Mr. Victor represented himself. Apparently subscribing to the old Vladimir Ilyich Lenin maxim, “Quality has a quantity all its own,” Mr. Victor sued the other driver, the company that owned the truck the other driver was operating, the property owner whose trees allegedly obscured the stop sign, the county for poor maintenance of the intersection, and the state for poor design of the road.

Mr. Victor did it all in federal court, no doubt because suing in federal court sounds a whole lot cooler than suing in state court. And it is, too, except for those pesky rules about jurisdiction and sovereign immunity. Guess he only skimmed those chapters in Personal Injury Law for Dummies.

You thought we were kidding?  There's really such a book ...

You thought we were kidding? There really is such a book …

By the time the Court was done, the State of Iowa was dismissed as a defendant, as was the property owner. In fact, the only defendant left was the County, which was unable to prove that its tree-trimming practices were a discretionary function. Still, Mr. Victor got pretty badly decimated, proving once again that there’s a reason trained professionals cost money – it’s because they know what they’re doing.

Victor v. Iowa, Slip Copy, 1999 WL 34805679 (N.D. Iowa, 1999). A car driven by Martin L. Victor collided with a truck driven by Ronald Swoboda and owned by the Vulcraft Carrier Corp. The accident happened at the intersection of County Road C-38 and U.S. Highway 75. Then the fireworks started.

Victor, acting as his own lawyer, sued the State of Iowa, Plymouth County, Vulcraft and Elwayne Maser in U.S. District Court, apparently alleging (1) that “Iowa law regarding the right to sue private property owners for negligence is unconstitutional;” (2) that Victor should be allowed to sue Maser for acting negligently in failing to trim vegetation that obstructed his view of southbound traffic on U.S. Highway 75; (3) that the State of Iowa and Plymouth County acted negligently by failing to properly maintain a roadway, investigate the accident thoroughly, and place warning signs and markings appropriately; (4) that the highway patrol failed “to perform duties of safety officers, in assessment of dangerous conditions existing;” and (5) that Vulcraft is responsible for its driver’s failure to follow safety standards for commercial trucking. All the defendants moved to dismiss or for summary judgment.

Held: The State of Iowa was dismissed, because the Iowa Tort Claims Act, which gives permission to residents to sue the State, limits those actions to state court. The Court held that the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution barred actions in federal courts against States except under narrow exceptions. One of those is that the State have given a waiver and consent that is clear and express that it has waived sovereign immunity and consented to suit against it in federal court. Although a State’s general waiver of sovereign immunity may subject it to suit in state court, it is not enough to waive the immunity guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment. In order for a state statute or constitutional provision to constitute a waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity, it must specify the State’s intention to subject itself to suit in federal court, and the ITCA does not do so. Therefore, Victor’s claims against the State of Iowa was dismissed.

It was just your basic accident ... until Mr. Victor made a federal case of it.

It was just your basic accident … until Mr. Victor made a federal case of it.

As for the property owner Maser, the Court ruled that Iowa law put no duty on a private property owner to remove trees which obstructed the view of a highway. Although Victor claimed the Iowa law on the matter unconstitutionally deprived him of the right to sue, he never explained why. The Court observed that “while mindful of its duty to construe pro se complaints liberally, it is not the job of the court to ‘construct arguments or theories for the plaintiff in the absence of any discussion of those issues’… Besides the bare assertion that the Iowa law is unconstitutional, Victor has provided no other discussion of the issue.” Thus, the property owner Maser was dismissed as a defendant.

Victor’s claims that Plymouth County was negligent in failing to install proper warning signs and cut tree branches that obstructed his were not dismissed at this point. Section 670.4 of the Iowa Code exempts a municipality such as Plymouth County from liability for discretionary functions, if the action is a matter of choice for the acting employee, and — when the challenged conduct does involve an element of judgment — the judgment is of the kind that the discretionary function exception was designed to shield. Here, Plymouth County’s policy directed that employees “may trim branches of trees because the trees may constitute an obstruction to vision of oncoming traffic at an intersection,” thus giving employees discretion in implementation of this policy. Thus, the Court said, “the action (or inaction) of which Victor complains was a matter of choice for the county’s employee.”

However, the Court said, Plymouth County’s policy did not encompass “social, economic, and political considerations” and therefore the discretionary function exception does not apply. Victor could proceed with rebutting the County’s claim that the view was not obstructed.

TNLBGray

santagives2

Case of the Day – Monday, December 15, 2014

SO WHAT’S THE DAMN PROBLEM?

 

Bladwin140523Poor Capital One. First they wore us out with Alec Baldwin and his band of pillaging Vikings, all hawking Capital One credit cards with the annoying tagline, “What’s in your wallet?”

Now it’s Samuel L. Jackson, who lectures us in a mildly imperious way about how he is not amused by some credit card offers, like we care whether he’s amused or not. Initially, he promised credit card rewards “every damn day,” and you’d think the republic was collapsing. Angry customers threatened to close their accounts over his use of the word “damn.” Capital One promptly folded like a cheap suit, and edited the offensive word out of the ad.

It sort of makes you long for the Viking horde. Certainly, we can play from the Capital One question today. What’s in your file cabinet? That may be a lot more important than whether you have an American Express Centurion card, a Capital One VISA, or even just a SNAP card in your wallet. They’re probably people who have all three in their wallets, anyway.

All of that brings us to today’s case, where a conspiracy buff ran headlong into a City of Omaha tree-trimming crew. It seems that Ms. Richter didn’t think much of the City trimming her trees. She approached the crew to lodge her protest, only to find no love. In fact, one of the workers told her (in colorful language, perhaps) to step away from the truck. She did so, tripping on a hole in her tree lawn.

consp140523A “grassy knoll” fan, Ms. Richter claimed that the hole obviously had been created by the City’s removal of a street sign, which was mysteriously replaced sometime soon after the accident. It didn’t help the case that the City had a habit of destroying work orders on sign replacement several years after the work was done, and so couldn’t completely rebut her claims.

Lucky for Omaha (home to famous steaks), the Nebraska Supreme Court was little impressed by Ms. Richter’s “I-believe-it-so-that-proves-it” approach to the case. It held that the City’s normal-course-of-business document destruction wasn’t the effort to hide the “truth” Ms. Richter so badly wanted to be. Omaha prevailed.

Still, there’s a lesson here for businesses — sometimes, when it comes to document preservation, what’s in your file cabinet had better be more rather than less.

And a note to Alec Baldwin – chill, man!

Richter v. City of Omaha, 729 N.W.2d 67, 273 Neb. 281 (Sup.Ct. Neb., 2007). A city work crew was trimming overhanging branches from a tree located in front of Ms. Richter’s home. Ms. Richter walked outside and asked the workers to stop trimming the trees. The workers refused and told her to back away from them and their truck. As Richter backed away, she stepped into a hole with her right foot and fell to the ground, injuring her ankle and twisting her knee.

The Nebraska Supreme Court did not tell Ms. Richter to "chive on."

The Nebraska Supreme Court did not tell Ms. Richter to “chive on.”

The hole in which Ms. Richter fell was located on a grassy area between the street and the sidewalk in front of her residence. Although this section of land is a public right-of-way, Richter was responsible for maintaining the area. She claimed the City had removed a sign some time prior to the accident, thus creating the hole, but replaced it some time thereafter. City records — while nonexistent for periods of time prior to the accident — showed no change in signage at the location during the relevant period.

Not to be detained by the facts, Ms. Richter sued under the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act. She alleged that the City was negligent in failing to warn the public of a dangerous condition, failing to provide safe passage of a right-of-way, and failing to exercise due care in the operation of its business. The trial court found in favor of the City, holding that the evidence was insufficient as to how the hole came to be, when it came to be a hole, and whether the City knew of this hole prior to Ms. Richter’s injury. There was insufficient evidence that the City caused the hole or that it knew it was there so it could be repaired in a timely manner.

Richter appealed.

Held: The City was not liable.

Ms. Richter said the evidence was "spoliated," not "spoiled."  Either way, the Court said her argument stank.

Ms. Richter said the evidence was “spoliated,” not “spoiled.” Either way, the Court said her argument stank.

Ms. Richter argued that Omaha had destroyed old work orders from years prior to the accident, and this conduct indicated fraud and a desire to suppress the truth. The Court disagreed, holding that she was not entitled to the adverse inference allowed under the rule of spoliation because the record indicated that the work orders were destroyed in the ordinary course of the city’s business. The Court said that the intentional spoliation or destruction of evidence relevant to a case raises a presumption, or, more properly, an inference, that this evidence would have been unfavorable to the case of the spoliator; however, such a presumption or inference arises only where the spoliation or destruction was intentional and indicates fraud and a desire to suppress the truth, and it does not arise where the destruction was a matter of routine with no fraudulent intent.
In order to be successful on her negligence claim Ms. Richter had to establish, among other things, that the city created the condition, knew of the condition, or by the exercise of reasonable care should have discovered or known of the condition. Other than her belief that this was so, she had no evidence to support her contention.

Sorry, Ms. Richter … you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

TNLBGray

ChristmasAd141210

Case of the Day – Friday, December 12, 1014

A “READILY APPARENT” THUMP

journeyends140312Those punsters at Despair, Inc., perhaps put it best: a very long journey can sometimes end suddenly, and rather badly.

Howie Conine should have had the Despair, Inc., “Ambition” poster on his wall, where he could have contemplated its message. He surely could empathize with the hapless salmon. He and his wife had their journey end one rainy day on Washington State Route 524 – suddenly and very, very badly. A redwood tree on County of Snohomish land, the hazardousness of which was “readily apparent,” fell on their car with a readily apparent thump.

The law of the jungle gives the poor king salmon no appeal, no forum for damages suffered when her trip upstream ends so precipitously in the jaws of an ursus arctus horribilis. Fortunately for the Conines, the law of Washington State was more hospitable after the tree fell onto their passing car (with them in it). If anything, it was a perfect storm for them: they possessed evidence that the dangerous condition of the tree was “readily apparent,” they were in a notoriously friendly plaintiff-friendly, and they had two defendants to choose from, both of which were governments and thus “deep pockets.”

But who to collect from? The State of Washington, that the Conines argued had a duty to keep the highways safe from falling trees, or the County of Snohomish, that the Conines averred had a duty to protect passers-by from dangers arising from trees on its land?

Well, this is America!  Why not sue both?  

The Conines did just that.

angryjudge140312Unfortunately, they ran into an uncooperative trial court, one which held that neither the State nor the County had any obligation to inspect the trees along the road, even one with “this readily apparent hazard.” The trial judge threw the Conines out of court. They had a little more luck with the Court of Appeals, which reversed the trial court decision and sent the matter back for trial on the merits.

Conine v. County of Snohomish, Not Reported in P.3d, 2007 WL 1398846 (Ct.App. Wash., May 14, 2007). Howard and Karen Conine were driving on State Route 524 when a red alder tree standing on an embankment on the west side of the road fell on their car. The tree had been located about 10 feet outside the State’s right of way on land owned by Snohomish County. The Conines sued the State of Washington for failure to maintain the state highways in a safe condition and the County for failure to remove an obvious hazard from its property.

The Conines’ arborist testified that during the 6-12 months immediately preceding the tree’s failure, the appearance of the tree should have given anyone looking at it notice that it was dead and decaying. The arborist said the tree was probably leaning 10 to 15 degrees downhill toward the road, and would have been in the highest risk category because of its condition and proximity to the road. The DOT’s maintenance technician who removed the tree after the accident said the tree “had been a live tree and that its root ball had come loose from the soil owing to the very wet conditions we had in January 2003.”

The trial court held that neither the State nor the County had a “duty to look for this readily apparent hazard.” The Conines appealed.

Held:  The summary judgment was reversed. The State’s liability to users of a road is predicated upon its having notice, either actual or constructive, of the dangerous condition which caused injury, unless the danger was one it should have foreseen and guarded against. The Conines conceded that the State did not have actual notice, but they argued that the tree’s visibly dangerous condition created constructive notice. The Court found that the question to be answered was whether, for constructive notice, the State had a duty to look for a readily apparent hazard. Although the Washington Supreme Court had held in another case that where the tree was on a remote, mountainous, sporadically traveled road, a high threshold for constructive notice of danger was needed to trigger a duty to inspect and remove a dangerous tree. But here, the road was a state highway in a populated area, and the risk to the traveling public shifted the risk analysis. What’s more, in the other case, the Supreme Court found that the tree that fell was no more dangerous than any one of the thousands of trees that lined mountain roads. By contrast, the Conines’ expert testified that the tree that fell was obviously a hazard. The differences, the Court said, precluded a finding that the State lacked constructive notice as a matter of law. Constructive notice that a tree was dangerous gives rise to a duty to inspect. Thus, summary judgment was improperly granted on the basis of no duty to inspect.

treefalloncar140212The Conines also contended that Snohomish County faced liability as the landowner of the property upon which the tree stood, because the owner of land located in or adjacent to an urban or residential area has a duty of reasonable care to prevent defective trees from posing a hazard to others on the adjacent land. The County argued that it had no such duty, because the tree was a “natural condition of the land.”

The Court held that when the land is located in or adjacent to an urban or residential area and when the landowner has actual or constructive knowledge of defects affecting his trees, he has a duty to take corrective action. The area in question was next to the City of Lynnwood and zoned urban residential. Thus, it was urban in character. The Conines produced expert evidence that the subject tree was obviously dead or dying and leaning for two years, that it looked like a forked snag and that it lacked fine or scaffold branches. This evidence, the Court said, created an issue of material fact as to whether the tree was in a defective condition and the condition was of sufficient visibility and duration to give the County constructive notice of a potential hazard.

TNLBGray

ChristmasAd141210