Friday, October 22, 2004

Ketchum adopts ordinance to protect trees

Legislation will open door for Tree City USA designation

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum City Council members this week unanimously adopted new legislation designed to protect trees on city lands.

Council members formally approved the ordinance at a special meeting Wednesday, Oct. 20, opening the door for the city to receive tree-management grants and to gain a ?Tree City USA? designation from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Tree City USA designations?which are given in association with the U.S. Forest Service?provide cities with support and recognition for maintaining so-called ?community forestry? programs.

Currently, the city of Bellevue is the only municipality in the Wood River Valley to receive Tree City USA status.

By establishing a new program to oversee care for trees on public lands, the Ketchum ordinance fulfills one of the primary requirements for gaining the designation.

The ordinance also enacts numerous policies that allow City Arborist Jen Smith to gain more control over how trees on city-owned lands are planted and maintained. In addition, the ordinance is intended to encourage planting of new trees.

One key provision of the ordinance requires any private arborist hired to perform work on public trees to first obtain from the city a one-year permit that will be issued at a nominal cost. Any arborist who violates the rules of the ordinance can subsequently lose their permit.

A second key provision requires any arborist to acquire specific approval from the city to remove any tree on city property.

The ordinance makes it unlawful ?for any person to abuse, poison or mutilate any public tree? and requires neighbors of public property to maintain their trees in a fashion that does not create hazards in public rights of way or endanger public trees.

Before adopting the ordinance, two council members chastised Idaho Power Co. for its efforts to prune trees along Warm Springs Road to keep them from interfering with utility lines.

Mayor Ed Simon agreed, saying the company?s work often resembles ?clear cutting.?

Smith said Idaho Power and other utility companies have recently shown an interest in doing the ?right thing? and would likely be willing to follow the intent of the ordinance.

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