Enough is enough. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has apparently adopted a reckless and callous attitude toward community assets not made of concrete or steel, assets that make living easier in this semi-arid desert, assets that often take much longer to build than a dam.
Trees are a treasure in this region, but becoming more rare thanks to decisions to cut them down at every opportunity.
To be fair to the USBR, it’s not the only agency that finds trees easier to deal with as potential firewood. Trees are messy, in the way, their roots are often destructive and a potential liability if they fall over. Facilities managers and city superintendents often find it much easier to just cut them down rather than fix sidewalks or rake leaves, or worry about correct pruning. From the perspective of someone managing the man hours it takes to care for trees, they just may not be worth it.
But we as citizens know better, and it’s up to us to speak up about it.
Monumental dams and majestic granite and basalt make for great backdrops to our lives, but up close, trees and their shade provide the contrast, the lush relief from that harsh austerity.
Stop cutting them down.
Two years ago, bureau crews took out old trees along the public pathway above Crescent Bay Lake and Lake Roosevelt in Grand Coulee. A good deal of the dead branches now grace the sidehill above the lake waiting to feed a fire. There is no more shade left for relief in hot summer along that asphalt path. They also destroyed decades-old sagebrush that had made it possible to walk up close along a paved walkway to a part of nature we often misunderstand as we drive by it at 60 mph. The pathway still looks like a war zone.
Several years ago someone made the horrible decision to cut down the sycamores in front of the USBR office building on SR155. Still looks naked.
Bureau workers did a good job of cleaning up North Dam Park a couple years ago when they at least left the most important trees, but even then had to be extolled not to top the largest cottonwood there. (Note to property managers: Topping trees is bad for them and dangerous.)
After about 60 years, the Bonneville Power Administration last year suddenly decided that a half dozen pine trees in North Dam Park were a hazard to the powerline towers and ordered them cut down.
And recently, bureau workers took out several large old trees along Banks Lake near the fish pens in Electric City. A couple were obviously rotten and needed to go. One can imagine that someone was reasonably worried about the safety of nearby residents if rotten trees had fallen on homes. That doesn’t mean they all needed to go, especially the huge cottonwood five or six feet across the trunk (now stump) that had been there for 100 years, was quite healthy and often hosted roosting eagles.
I would like our readers’ help in fulfilling this pledge: From now on, this newspaper will become a regular locust thorn in the side of any government agency that cuts down a tree in this area. If they want to do it, they can, of course. But they should be prepared to defend the decision.
Readers, please alert us if you see this happening. And don’t be shy about picking up the phone and complaining, yourself.
As the poet said, “only God can make a tree.” We should care about what happens to them.
editor and publisher