Eleven months ago saw the year-end visit of a migratory flock of robins to the forest behind my home. I doubt they will be stopping off again this year. I’ve just spend two weeks watching big yellow machines do a clear-cut operation on that land, removing between 200 and 225 trees.
This will not result in a healthier forest. One-third of the land will be used for a 32-bed extended care facility, nestled in sterile green lawns, one-third will be paved parking lots, and the rest will be “dry ponds”, 2-foot deep hollows designed as catch-basins for the seasonal rainfall runoff that was previously absorbed by the forest.
I have no fence between my property and the former woodland. Palms and pines soared skyward at the boundary line, native flowering and fruiting bushes surged forward. Spanish moss dripped downwards from the canopy, poison ivy and other vines spiraled upwards. A great horned owl lived in a huge pine; armadillos crossed over for nightly forages in my back yard. A pair of pileated woodpeckers paid regular visits to harvest the fruit of a wild black cherry that overhung my lawn. I haven’t heard the owl hooting at night these past two weeks; I doubt if the woodpeckers will be back.
I’ve had an on-going battle with the gray squirrel population. They like to snack on the buds of blooming orchids. Two years ago I trapped and relocated over 50 of the little beasties. I started thinning them out again last year until I discovered one that had died of fright when a red-tailed hawk tried to get it out of the trap. I’m not going to have to worry about them any more. All the squirrels from the forest have tried to find new homes in trees within the neighborhood. Trouble is, those trees are already occupied. Fierce battles can be observed at feeding hours as the residential grays chase the intruders. I haven’t seen the hawk lately, either. Another casualty of progress.
A few years ago I wrote about the Southern live oak, citing my community as the consistent recipient of a National Arbor Day Foundation “Tree City” award because of its many residential shade trees. Apparently this award applies only to small plots of less than one acre on residential streets. I have a 30” diameter live oak in front of my house and another 25” oak in the back. If I were to request permission to remove either of these, I would be forced to plant an equal volume of shade trees – ten young trees, each with a 3” diameter trunk, to replace the grandpa shading my front porch.
The same rule does not apply to businesses. I’ve seen the approved plans for the work going on behind me. The corporation that is building the nursing home is leaving a clump of roughly 10 trees in one street front corner of their land, and a 15-foot deep strip behind me. This has exactly 12 trees and I’ve been told the ground will be cleared and covered with sod beneath the trees. Plus, the final insult, a “nice shiny white vinyl fence”.