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Protecting Our Trees - Sonoma County's Tree Ordinance


Protecting Our Trees
Sonoma County's Tree Ordinance 

By Kimberly Burr

Good news on the Tree Protection front. Last fall, a majority of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors (Zane, Gorin, McGuire) voted to commit resources to work on the update of the County Tree Protection policies.

As explained by Supervisor Rabbitt, he for one does not like to make public policy in a crisis situation.  So in that spirit, it is on the Supervisors to get on this matter before another horrendous project is proposed. 

The County’s Tree Protection Ordinance is currently not sustainable (Chapter  26-88-01(m)) insofar as it allows trees including oak woodlands to be cleared for hay, wine grapes, and more.  Back in the 1980’s, the County tied its own hands when it created a Tree Ordinance that exempted agriculture and wineries and many other activities. The County places such tree removal in the “ministerial” category, so it gets no environmental review, no biological or climate change analysis, no mitigation, and no public input. The Code also outlines numerous ways in which protected trees can be cut down for “in lieu” fees and at the developers’ discretion. 

Now, however that the update of the tree policies is on the Permit and Management Department’s Work Plan, we must be sure the work is fully funded.  Final vote on this is in June. Vigilance on the part of the concerned public is key here. As the County’s Climate Action Plan states: “Global warming is a manmade crisis that is happening now. It is an unintended consequence of using fossil fuels and of deforestation.”

Please call your Supervisor and demand an update of the Tree Protection Ordinance that follows the best science and that plans for a resilient and thriving future for Sonoma County.  And finally, urge your Supervisor to support a temporary suspension of significant tree cutting activities until the policies can be worked on. The main number for the Board is 565-2241.