Trees in Hong Kong

Trees in Hongkong

Trees in Hongkong

Hong Kong has many old heritage trees, which are being lost at an alarming rate. From 2004 to 2012, a tenth of the urban heritage trees have been lost, according to the Leisure and Culture Services Department in the city. Although age is a factor in the removal of the 52 old and valuable trees, experts say the government’s poor maintenance of the trees is what caused the trees to need to be removed.

Lack of coordination among departments is seen as a weakness in the care of the trees. As an example, different departments care for trees located in public parks and trees located along highways. To address the need to work together, a tree-management office was set up to issue guidelines, organize training, and improve risk assessment, but because this office’s head was given the most junior rank, it is difficult to advise senior officials.

Jim Chi-yung is an expert in the tree-management office, but he is disappointed in the results of the new system. The office felt it needed to identify risky trees and so set up training for staff and workers. “But the brief training sessions given to staff and workers won’t turn them into tree scientists,” he said. “What we need are true specialists, not a large number of insufficiently trained ‘assessors.’”

Town Planning Board member Patrick Lau Hing-tat, chair of the Hong Kong Trees Conservation Association and a landscape architect, said the city needs a comprehensive tree plan. The association is now offering accreditation to tree managers, who would hopefully be hire to supervise construction and roadwork, which is a leading cause in tree damage in the city.

The city is considering a study on introducing a bill for trees, which would potentially address the need for new tree protection laws.


Santa Monica Trees

Vanefsky photos 010

Vanefsky photo

Trees in the way of the Exposition Light Rail Line in Santa Monica have been chosen to be either moved to a new location or removed and replaced. Those that were chosen to be removed are being replaced with two new trees. This means that there will be an overall increase of 120 trees in the Santa Monica area – paid for by the Exposition Construction Authority. In evaluating the trees, four arborists looked at the trees for value, cost of removal, and health. If the cost of moving the tree was more than the value of the tree, that tree was chosen to be replaced instead of being moved. Also, if the type of tree was not able to maintain health once being moved, it was chosen to be removed. There were 139 trees that were evaluated, and it was decided that 120 of those trees would be removed and replaced.

Planners chose to relocate trees, like palms, throughout the city where similar trees are located. The replacement trees will be almost exclusively be planted densely along the Colorado Avenue corridor to shield residents from the Expo Line. Community forester Walt Warriner said City Council is considering low-growing canopy trees that provide shade and spread broadly, although community input was also considered in the tree selection.

Although there will be an increase in the number of trees in the area, this increase does not completely replace full-grown trees that are to be removed. Full-grown trees are better at removing more carbon dioxide and other air pollutants, produce more oxygen, and help trap more storm water runoff. Newly planted trees will take years to reach a stage where they can provide the same benefits.



Eminent Domain of Rare Compton Oak

League City in Texas has been locked in negotiations with a landowner over an oak tree that is in the way of a road-widening project. Originally, the city agreed to keep the tree in a pocket park with the road going around the tree, but negotiations for this proposal stalled. The owner wants $60,000 more than what the city thinks the property and tree are worth.

Because of this deadlock, the city is now seeking to acquire the 0.896 acres through eminent domain proceedings. The move to start eminent domain proceedings was passed unanimously by the city council. Once the land is acquired, the city is proposing to move the rare 100-year-old Compton oak about 1,500 feet down the road on land next to the city’s Water Smart Park. Another property owner is expected to donate this land, but the city still needs to make a formal decision to move the tree.

The nonprofit Trees for Houston is offering to raise money to move the historic tree and it is also donating $10,000 of its own money for the move. The tree is 51 inches in diameter and it will be difficult to move. Earlier in the year, the city called on companies who are capable of moving the tree to respond to the moving proposal.


Eminent Domain Cases on the Rise

Eminent domain is a controversial issue for agricultural landowners – it gives public entities the right to acquire private property for public purposes, such as for highways, utility lines, etc. Frequently, agricultural production is adversely impacted due to loss of land, the inability to use current equipment for production, or the splitting up of the land.

Covey Neatherlin experienced the loss of 100 of his best pecan trees to eminent domain four years ago. This occurred when a pipeline company cut a mile-long, 60-foot-wide swath through his 200-acre farm to bury a 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline 4 feet underground. Not only is he unhappy with the seizing of his property, but he is also upset that he wasn’t compensated for the lost trees, which he had spent 45 years nurturing. The company refused to compensate for the trees because a previous court ruling had set a precedent that a condemning authority did not have to pay for removal of the trees.

Eminent domain cases involving electrical transmission lines and gas pipelines have become more frequent in the last couple of years, states attorney Alan Ackerman. “My firm probably handled fewer that 50 eminent domain cases involving electrical transmission lines during my first 35 years of practice. During the past three years, we’ve had at least 130.” In 2005, a controversial US Supreme Court ruling now allows for private property to be condemned for private property development.

There are many ways for private property owners to prepare if they have land targeted for condemnation.