Big Trees Fall in Warwick

Sad Day For Our Champions

Warwick got a little less green when four beautiful shade trees growing on the same property met the developers' axe over the past winter. All lost trees were members of Rhode Islands' Big Tree Registry. They included a Cucumber magnolia, American linden, Tuliptree and Weeping European beech ( see chart below for their vital statistics).

This rapacious tree felling did not have to happen. But trees have no protection against this type of slaughter. As of this writing, there is no regulation on the books in any city or town in Rhode Island that would have saved these trees or, at least, prompted a public hearing to discuss alternatives to their condemnation. Developers know this all too well. They know trees are the proverbial weaklings among the major natural resources in this state. Just try to alter a water body in any way, shape or form. Or, for that matter, try to bury anything in soil not rocks. There's a reason for all those hay bales popping up at construction sites and it's for protection. But when did you ever observe a hay bale around a tree? The answer is never.

This lack of tree protection is a serious flaw in state and local environmental planning policy. But don't look for change any time soon. This would require leadership and courage on the part of our elected and appointed officials. But few if any of them show any interest in going up against the builders, developers and lobbyists who will fight tooth and nail to staunchly defend the status quo.

The message here is that not all natural resources are equal when it comes to protections under the law in Rhode Island. Trees and forests got the short stick. Until trees get more respect, we can expect what happened in Warwick to recur again and again.

Species

Trunk

Height

Crown Spread

Species Rank

American Linden

158"

88'

63'

5

Cucumber Magnolia

124"

80'

58'

2

Weeping Beech

98"

67'

47'

6

Tuliptree

187"

121'

77'

4

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