I read an article today about a homeowner in Gresham, Oregon who has agreed to pay a 135k dollar settlement...for cutting trees on their property. (1) Ok...what they thought was their property. Turns out, it wasn't, it was part of public land purchased for preservation purposes. Every good homeowner knows that trimming back ugly or dying branches or even removing some trees altogether can improve property values. This is especially true of those homes that have excellent views. These homeowners claimed to have cut a few dead and worthless trees. The public trust, however, states that the trees ranged from 4 inch diameter cherry trees, to a 43 inch Douglas Fir. In photos presented, it can be clearly seen that some trees have been de-limbed up to just the tops.
So what's the big deal? Well, it may not seem like much, cutting down a Douglas Fir tree, but one of the problems is that a tree this big can support a diverse range of wildlife. (2) Eagles use this tree for nesting as well as smaller birds as a source of seed. Elk, deer and bear can survive harsh conditions by browsing on a Douglas Fir. Mice, and various forms of insects support themselves by living near, in, or on the tree. There could be hundreds of types of wildlife that can depend on one tree.
People intimately familiar with a forest know that the diverse nature of the environment is what helps it to thrive. A stand of these trees encourages the growth of other species, as the Douglas Fir lives quite well with sugar pines, ponderosa pine, cedar, and various oak trees. All these trees have their own support systems. As the stands grow older and the organic material from those trees drifts to the ground it builds up the soil, allowing for not only other flora such as ferns to take hold, but stabilizing the soil system itself. Without stable soil, a hill will succumb to heavy weather, which means that house won't be there for long.
Our own greed for property values and status, is quite literally killing the places we love to be. A house on a hilltop may be very pretty, but destroying the vegetation around the hilltop for a better view is going to destroy that house itself as well as the pretty wildlife that we first encountered when we moved there. We can live with nature, we can't live with it while killing it at the same time.