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The Heritage Tree ordinance

November 3, 2011

The draft revised Comprehensive Management Plan for the Town of Highland includes a suggestion that the Town consider a Heritage Tree ordinance, which would give willing property owners the opportunity to designate specific trees or stands of trees as worthy of recognition and protection by virtue of their size, age, rarity, ecological value or documented historical significance. Such designation might contribute to tourism, create opportunities to educate visitors and residents about the importance of responsible forestry practices, and give property owners access to grants and other assistance to save trees attacked by invasive pests such as the wooly adelgid (which is decimating Eastern hemlock forests) and the emerald ash borer – thereby helping to preserve the diversity of our forest resources.

Unfortunately, the release of the first draft for public review coincides with our local elections. One candidate, Tina Palacek, has chosen to attack her opponents through the comprehensive plan by misleading the public about the intentions and potential positive results of the suggested heritage tree ordinance. Her objections seem to boil down to the inclusion in the appendix of the comp plan a sample ordinance that, by unanimous agreement, has since been removed from the document. From this she attempts to extrapolate, inaccurately, that the task force never discussed the suggestion of a heritage tree ordinance. As a result of this effort to score cheap political points, the community has had no opportunity to discuss the actual content or potential merit of a heritage tree ordinance, or the process by which the citizens of Highland would create the criteria for heritage designation.

This is a disservice to the community, which might otherwise have the opportunity to consider the actual merits of the suggestions outlined in the plan, and to the task force members whose intentions and methodology have been unfairly attacked. Ultimately, it reveals an almost total ignorance of the genuine hard work and spirit of cooperation that goes into a task of this scope and importance. Residents of Highland should ask themselves whether deception and divisiveness – clear marks of a lack of integrity - are the qualities they desire in a town council member.

John and Debra Conway
Barryville, New York
(Members of the Town of Highland Comprehensive Management Plan Rewrite Task Force)