Legislators Hear From Tree Advocates

By Wes Wolfe

Florida Politics

Conservative state legislatures like to pass municipal preemption laws to legally handcuff progressive cities, but environmental concerns often cross party lines. Residents of the heavily Republican vacation spot of Amelia Island are asking their new legislative delegation to repeal a law that prevents protection of the island’s noteworthy tree canopy.

The law specificies: “A local government may not require a notice, application, approval, permit, fee or mitigation for the pruning, trimming or removal of a tree on a residential property if the property owner possesses documentation from an arborist certified by the ISA or a Florida licensed landscape architect that the tree poses an unacceptable risk to persons or property.” Further, “A local government may not require a property owner to replant a tree that was pruned, trimmed, or removed in accordance with this section.”

The requirement to secure the work of an arborist is rife with conflicts of interest, Lyn Pannone of the Amelia Tree Conservancy told Rep. Dean Black and Sen. Clay Yarborough this week.

“Most, but not all, arborists are employed by a company that removes trees,” Pannone said. “So the arborist, for the sake of his own job, would write the letter (condemning the tree), thus getting the business for his employer. Do you think a person who works for a company that removes trees is going to turn away business? Not if they want to keep their job.”

Beyond the aesthetics and what the trees mean for Amelia Island tourism, Pannone told the legislators the trees are an important part of the barrier island’s natural protections.

“Our trees are an important part of our sense of place,” Pannone said. “Trees protect us from storm damage. Trees (mitigate) stormwater runoff by retaining water in their leaves and root systems, which prevents flooding. The fewer trees we have, the more expensive infrastructure we need to invest in to deal with flooding.”

The root systems are also important in preventing erosion, she said, something of particular concern for a barrier island.

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Diana Herman
Diana Herman(@dianah1229)
1 year ago

Let’s hope Ms. Pannone’s pertinent and sensible remarks do not fall on deaf ears. We are trying to protect our island–the trees do so much for us–clean our air, keep us cool, provide sanctuary for wildlife, and are beautiful as well.

Pam Hart
Pam Hart (@guest_66763)
1 year ago

Well said Lyn!

Tom smith
Tom smith(@high-n-dry)
1 year ago

Well, that is one point of view. I’ll. Write my own letter. Thanks for the reminder.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 year ago

Trees are such an important part of our ecosystem and in real need of protection; I appreciate the great advocacy on their behalf. And thanks to Wes Wolfe for pointing out the root cause of the problem: Republican legislators helping their wealthy friends (and their own businesses) at the expense of home rule and common sense policies.

Margaret Kirkland
Margaret Kirkland(@kirkland-mrk)
1 year ago

Florida has a diverse array of environments. What is good for one is not necessarily good for another. Local communities need to be able to develop guidelines that provide their particular community with the greatest sustainability and resilience possible,

This is not a choice between the economy and the environment. Our economy, environment and social stability are all intricately interrelated and interdependent. In our area, for example, our tourism (the largest single contributor to Nassau County revenue) and real estate markets are highly dependent on the health and protection of our environment. And protection of our environment relies on a healthy economy. We need to be working together to ensure that all aspects of our county and state are strong and well prepared for our future.

Dave Scott
Dave Scott (@guest_66780)
1 year ago

We need to curtail spending by theCity and stop making all of this fuss about trees!

Len Kreger
Len Kreger (@guest_66802)
1 year ago

You left off the last three paragraphs of this Article posted on “Florida Politics.” They reference comments I made at the Nassau Delegation relative to rescinding FS163.045 supporting the City Legislative request.