An open letter to state Rep. Bock on tree warden bill

Editor’s note: This open letter to Vermont Rep. Tom Bock was received on Feb. 26 from the Andover Select Board, prior to its Town Meeting on Saturday in which a new board member was elected.

Dear Tom,

We, the Select Board of Andover, Vermont, have read H.673, the tree warden bill that you co-sponsored and urge you to change it slightly before it becomes law. While we agree that the bill largely describes sensible practices that municipalities should be following anyway, we see two problems with it. We believe these problems can be solved with a simple change to the bill.

We ask you to exempt forested roadsides from these requirements.

The Town of Andover has many miles of road that are edged by forests. Along these roads, any single tree is surrounded by dozens of other trees. Rules that make sense for trees in parks, greens or commons, street trees or trees planted by municipalities or property owners do not make sense for these forest trees.

We believe these rules will unnecessarily complicate the work of our road crew and increase the hazards to drivers on Andover’s roads. Our road crew is responsible for thousands upon thousands of trees that grow within the rights-of-way of our town roads. Sometimes a healthy tree in the right-of-way grows a little too big and gets in the way of traffic, a roadside mower or snowplows. We believe our road crew should be able to remove these trees when it best fits their schedule, especially if that is immediately after the problem is noticed.

Giving four days of public notice might be feasible if you are only dealing with a handful of trees in a park or a suburban development, but when dealing with miles of forested roadsides, it makes the work unnecessarily difficult.

Similarly, we see a problem with the rule to burn or “remove from the area” trees that are cut. Burning is not among the “best practices” for forestry supported by the State Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. We suggest you consult with them about this recommendation or strike it entirely from the bill.

Here in Andover, landowners typically want the trees cut on their property for firewood. We believe they should have that choice. In Andover, cut trees not wanted by the landowner and left at the edge of the right-of-way are typically taken by neighbors for firewood.

When cut trees are not taken away for firewood, they return needed nutrients to the forest soil. They become shelter for small animals. In short, they play the role that any downed tree in a forest plays naturally. By mandating that these downed trees be burned or removed from the area, you are removing them from the natural cycle. You are also creating an unnecessary waste disposal problem.

We hope you will consider your constituents in Andover and exempt forested roadsides from all the regulations in H.673, including tree removal.

Thank you.

Andover Select Board
Maddy Bowden
Mark Gordon
Jed LaPrise
Chris Plumb
Barry Williams

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