The Tree Vandals Again

The blue gum tree recently removed at Phillip Island was estimated to be at least 150 years old. Photo: Lisa Schonberg

It has come to my notice that the tree vandals are at it again. Last December my most read post was on the removal of a very old yellow box tree on the Great Alpine Road. Now in an article in the Bass Coast Post John Eddy has documented the removal of a number of trees by the local shire, including a 150 year old blue gum, for a ‘transit hub’(bus station?) in Cowes. In the article entitled ‘How much is a tree worth?’ John wrote: “Last month 15 trees were removed to make way for the new transit hub in the centre of Cowes. They included a magnificent southern blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) that was probably in the order of 150 years old, perhaps older”.

John noted this particular tree was 1.3 metres in diameter (storing approximately 50 tons of CO2) and commented on its environmental and cultural significance. On their general removal he stated that “However, the value placed on individual trees by shire engineers and planners may be quite different from the value placed on them by many in the community, and the planners have limits in how far they are prepared to compromise their projects” and that “We need to work together towards a better outcome for our significant trees and our native vegetation in the face of future development. We must nurture a continuing change in culture to see the true value of trees and their fundamental part in our lives.”

Also currently in the news is the Vic Roads plan to remove 260 trees for road duplication between Ballarat and Stawell. A spirited defence has been made of these trees by Aboriginal groups and their supporters as some of the trees have Aboriginal heritage significance and may be as old as 800 years – four times as old as the European occupation of the continent. I support them in their quest and if the project is so important why don’t Vic Roads realign the road? And we should never forget that loggers are still rampaging through our forests on a daily basis.

The tree vandals are everywhere, chain-sawing and bulldozing, and they seem to have no respect for life. The tree is seen as an obstruction in the way of some project or as a source of income that has to be exploited or removed. Not as something that is precious to all life. Amongst a tree’s many attributes is the oxygen it makes through transpiration helping provide the vital part of the air we all breathe. Another increasingly important attribute is the carbon that it stores.

It is essential that we preserve as many trees as possible and embark on a massive program of reafforestation to start drawing down the CO2 from the atmosphere. As many have pointed out trees are the only method of carbon capture and storage that actually works.  The real monetary value of a tree as a carbon store has never been truly quantified but if it were done properly it would be forbidden to remove any tree except under exceptional circumstances. In every exceptional case each tree removed should be replaced by at least 100 tree seedlings. And these must be nurtured until mature.