MU could have taken a more responsible approach to tree felling | Letters to the Editor

A prominent plaque near the columns of the historic University of Missouri Francis Quadrangle, titled University of Missouri Columbia A Statement of Values, reads in part: “Being responsible requires us to be thoughtful stewards of our resources – responsible to ourselves, to each other, and to the audiences we serve.

A very few of us who gathered on the quad last week to question MU’s commitment to responsible stewardship listed on the plaque were deeply saddened to see the tree crews, at the request MU officials begin clearcutting 15 stately 70-year-old trees. By the time you read this, everything may be gone.

Those who gathered understand that these oaks were in their golden age and would eventually die. Additionally, they are of the pin oak variety which has undesirable characteristics, needs some maintenance, and may have harbored pests or diseases.

We were advised that the live oaks, most of which were over 40 feet in height, were to be replaced with young white oak trees about 5 years old, 24 in all, longer-lived varieties and that replacing them all at once would ensure consistency in the growth rate. But we believe these majestic oak trees providing shade are themselves valuable public resources and could have been removed more deliberately.

We believe that UM officials could have employed, and we have advocated for, a slower, more focused approach to tree removal, perhaps individual trees needed more extensive maintenance or were infested with insects, perhaps at the rate of one or two per year. , with all fifteen to be phased out over the course of a decade. In our view, the staggered felling of the trees would have had a less severe impact on the ecosystem with no appreciable difference in growth rates or additional risk to passers-by who reveled in the shade of these trees.

Instead, we watched as every large limb was cut unceremoniously from every tree trunk. Although for our safety we were kept at a distance, we could not see any trace of the internal rot that is seen in insect infested trees. We were told that color variations (from light greens to vibrant dark greens) among the leaves of an individual tree were evidence of tree disease, but at least to our untrained eyes the tree canopies looked like to the leaves that only suffered from the normal spring color. variations that so delight our visual senses. We saw dead branches in several trees that we believe could have been cut during routine maintenance.

Targeting individual trees at a slower rate at another time of year would also have mitigated the impact on the local ecosystem during the spring nesting season. Instead, we saw birds flying frantically and squirrels running, their cries, chirps and calls drowned out by the sound of chainsaws and wood chippers. An individual squirrel ran in circles around a limbed tree trunk, stopped at the top, then performed the same dance several times as if to make sure his senses weren’t mistaken and the canopy wasn’t hadn’t really disappeared. We observed birds diving and calling, swooping down on fallen limbs and nests around the base of the trunk. Neighboring plants acclimated to the shade of these trees will certainly feel the impact of the loss of the tree canopy.

Like most, we believe that climate change is a global phenomenon created by local decisions. UM officials, who are theoretically the stewards of a higher education institution, should be leaders and role models in acting locally to subvert, rather than contribute to climate change.

To be clear, we don’t blame the tree crews in any way, we admire their precision skills and commitment to safety. And while we’re no experts in economics, we believe that spreading tree felling out over several years could have provided steady employment for these crews as they supervised and carried out the routine maintenance necessary to maintain the health and well-being of the trees, ensuring the safety of those of us who approach to enjoy them.

Finally, we request a public accounting of the $100,000 in donations that MU is seeking to support The Legacy Oaks for the Francis Quadrangle Fund and the money, if any, salvaged from salvageable wood from these fallen trees.

Laurie Wern is a retired math teacher, East Campus neighbor, and tree lover.

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