Public Comments for: HB706 - Trees; conservation and replacement during development process.
The City of Portsmouth supports providing localiites the option to preserve their tree canopies. For Portmouth, it would be especially helpful in reducing flooding .
Each of the four bills (HB 541, 706, 1316, and 1346) deals with tree canopy, tree replacement, conservation, and credits during the development process. VLA opposes bills which grant authority to localities to dictate certain canopy cover. We fear such restriction might be construed to give localities additional authority to dictate, restrict, or prohibit legitimate silvicultural activities. We also know of situations where legitimate forest harvesters are perceived to be part of the development and localities have tried to hold them responsible for erosion & sediment regulations. Forest harvesting is often the first land disturbance activity to occur in development. Legitimate silviculture is exempt from erosion & sediment rules although subject to the silvicultural water quality law in 10.1-1181.2. Forest harvesters can inadvertently become involved as part of the development when in fact they are secured only to perform the silvicultural forest harvesting. This incorrect interpretation can result in problems for the innocent. Localities have access to many experts who can help development project leaders determine best practices for water quality, shade, aesthetics, and control of erosion and sediment movement. VLA contends it is difficult to arbitrarily set canopy tree cover standards when it should be based on the professional judgements of skilled practitioners. VLA hopes this may help you to understand the concerns of our members and business owners. We are happy to discuss and help as needed. VLA appreciates your leadership on the House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee and the work you do to help your constituents.
Please SUPPORT HB 706 by Del. Keam proposing to cut in half the time for localities to achieve minimum tree canopies on new developments, from 20 years to 10. Virginia loses 16,000 acres of trees every year to development and disease, according to the Va Dept. of Forestry. Since the area available for tree planting on county-and state-owned owned properties is limited, the bulk of tree planting will have to occur on private property, whether residential or corporate. Trees increase property values and render valuable services at low cost. They manage stormwater, give shade, lower ambient temperature, provide habitat, help combat air pollution, and absorb C02. Not only that, trees are astonishingly, endlessly beautiful. We must pro-actively replace those we are losing. 7 huge white oaks at the local pool had to be cut down last year because of oak wilt. The emerald ash borer is bringing down ashes all over Virginia, especially in NOVA. Flowering dogwoods are succumbing to the anthracnose fungus. The spotted lantern fly poses another threat. In parks and natural areas, many trees are hopelessly infested with invasive vines. Hence, we need to plant more trees in our suburbs and on private property developments to protect our tree canopy. Let's keep Virginia beautiful!
I am in support of these bills.