Mountain view losing trees

According to Mountain View voice, is Mountain View losing trees from breakneck development, or is the town planting enough younger trees to replenish them? It’s sort of like asking if a cup is half empty or half full — it depends on who you ask.

A new draft report by the city’s Forestry Division finds that nearly 2,400 trees have been chopped down across town over the last three years. On the bright side, city arborists report that they are replanting 60 percent more new trees and saplings compared to what’s been removed.

Yet tree advocates in Mountain View remain skeptical. Not all trees are equal, said Katherine Naegele, an arborist with the Mountain View Tree nonprofit who previously served on the city’s Urban Forestry Board.

While a higher tree count might seem like proof of success, it could also mean that a developer ripped out healthy mature trees only to replace them with saplings from the nursery, she said. After winning their approvals, many developers often pick non-native trees and then plant them too close together or in spaces that can’t support their roots, she said. These trees will end up dying, but the city’s tree count will still portray it as a net increase, she said.

“It might seem like we’re getting this lush new tree cover, but actually we’re just counting the number of trunks to satisfy the city’s policies,” Naegele said. “I would rather see someone plant two coast live oaks rather than 100 myrtles.”

The city’s policies for protecting heritage trees have come under new scrutiny in recent days following a community outcry against plans to take down a grove of redwoods off Sierra Avenue. City officials ultimately denied permits to remove the trees, yet the episode still left many residents with the feeling that the city has a “double standard” for which trees are protected.

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