Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Trees of El Dorado County: Should trees have standing in court?

MIINERAL KING made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Elizabeth Caffrey

March 7, 2011 | 2 Comments

In 1972 the Sierra Club sued the Disney Corp. to prevent the development of a ski resort in Mineral King Valley next to Sequoia National Park. The Supreme Court ruled that the club as a membership coporation lacked standing and could not bring the suit, thus ruling in favor of Disney. But the ruling opened the door to a suit by an individual or individuals of the club which was later brought. The development never developed, and Mineral King is now a part of the national forest.

But what has come down from the original case is the dissenting opinion of Justice William O. Douglas who wrote that if a ship has a legal personality, which it has, “So should it be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees”  and so forth. “The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled. . . .Perhaps they will not win. . . .That is not the present question. The sole question is, who has standing to be heard?”

What do you think?

We have an affinity for trees. Think of the numbers of businesses, unrelated to trees, that use a tree as their logo. Native Americans referred to trees as “the standing ones.” Their limbs reach out like our arms, they shelter us. It is known that the chlorophyll that trees manufacture from sunlight differs from our blood in only one respect: Where chlorophyll has one atom of magnesium per molecule, our blood as an atom of iron. Other than that, they are identical.

Naturally we want to treat such close relations the best. Can we remove those galls from the small oak trees? They disrupt the flow of sap, and, in great numbers, can be very harmful.

Mistletoe takes water and necessary nutrients from host trees. This is a good time to remove mistletoe before it produces seed and spreads to other branches and trees because it is easy to see with the leaves off the tree. Just prune the branch about a foot below the infection site. Climb right up there. I’ll wait here.

We should not leave tight bands on street trees long after they do not need the support. Trees have been reaching for the sun since the Devonian period; they know how to grow. (If you look under bands that have outlasted their usefulness you will see that they have rubbed the bark away. The bark is what is or should be keeping disease out of the tree.)

We should not leave tight strings of Christmas lights on branches year after year. Trees grow outward as well as by extension, so leaving the strings of lights on the tree year-round could be cruel.

And finally, putting rocks around the base of trees attracts heat from the sun. Do you really want to?

The Master Gardeners will be offering a free class on trees and shrubs April 2 at the Veterans Memorial Building on Placerville Drive. Call ahead 530-621-5502) in case there is a change in location.

Black willow has drunk from the fountain of age.
With all its greens glorious
Like bunches of grapes for giants
It looks at its own death and waves.
I don’t want anything to die
But think how crowded it would be if nothing did.
The world would be full of wrinkly things.
The trees wouldn’t know what to do with all those leaves.
And as for the weeds, which I know you don’t call weeds, God,
Let me not think about it.
Right now the sky is crying for the living.
Heron comes in for a landing big as a plane
And heads for his chick hidden up in the rushes like Moses.

If you wish to comment:

Elizabeth Caffrey


Discussion | 2 comments

  • Kathleen NewellMarch 08, 2011 - 8:19 am

    Elizabeth, Wonderful words. I wish our city and county officials shared your affinity for trees. The Placerville City Council will allow the roundabout construction project on Main Street to remove the two big redwoods at Clay Street and Hangtown Creek. Also, the El Dorado County Supervisors are currently changing the grading policy in our county to allow for mass pad grading. That means developers will be able to scrape land down to the bare dirt even though they don't have a building project for it. And finally, the SACOG backed Smart Growth developments that the county is now embracing allows developers to side step CEQA protections. Huge high density subdivisions like San Stino in Shingle Springs will be built on what is now a oak woodland area. In fact any rural land inside the new community regions the supervisors approved are at risk for high density development and the destruction of our wonderful rural landscapes of oak and pine.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jack MartinMarch 08, 2011 - 10:06 am

    I love trees. Love 'em. I swear. But give them standing in court? Really? If you do, then how do you later declare that a corn stalk does NOT have standing in court? They are of the same essence. And then you move on down that same slippery slope to the wild blackberries and their thorny vines that you clear off certain corners of your property every couple of years. This is the problem when people fail to consider the big picture in legal terms. Other than one atom, chlorophyll and blood are indentical? Really? That "one atom" is the CORE substance of the two. It makes them different, by their very design and function. It's like saying the atmospheres of earth and venus are identical because of the carbon content...except for that whole thing where venus is 97% CO2. I suggest getting your biological information from somewhere other than a health food store, where these days chlorophyll seems to be the cause celebre. Last, you example of Mineral King being spared from development was interesting. I should emphasize that I am glad it WAS spared from being turned into a ski resort. But the lack of development alone does not guarantee a natural area will always remain beautiful. Thousands of acres of Mineral King burned to the ground in 1987. I was there, and the campsite had to be evacuated. Leaving an area in a near-primitive state does not mean it will always remain pristine. Come to think of it, when's the last time a ski resort had a massive, devastating fire?

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