Commentary: Let’s talk about trees

Chagrin Valley Times

Thursday, March 22, 2018 12:15 am

The citizens of Geauga County have demonstrated their passion for the environment time after time. Whether it’s the Geauga Park District or the Russell Township Park District, residents have not hesitated to speak out about conserving green space, preserving habitat for wildlife, keeping water pure and more.

So, it’s not surprising that people are concerned about a plan announced this past November by the city of Akron to fell about 420 mature trees on 42 acres of land surrounding the Wendell R. LaDue Reservoir in Auburn and Troy townships.

This appears to be the first major logging in decades proposed for LaDue, which was dedicated in 1961 as a secondary drinking water source for the city of Akron. Some 57 years ago, Akron officials acquired the land – much of it by eminent domain – and dammed Black Brook and Bridge Creek. In all, Akron owns about 12,400 acres in Geauga County and 6,000 acres in Portage County encompassing LaDue Reservoir.

Residents have basic questions. One is, why cut down so many trees now?

We can sum that answer up in one word – money.

In short, Akron plans to sell the timber from the felled red maples, red oaks, yellow poplar, black cherry, ash and other trees.

More than 135 people showed up at a town hall meeting in Auburn last week to ask questions, get answers and share ideas. They repeatedly invited Akron to send a representative, but no one showed up.

Akron Watershed Superintendent Jessica Glowczewski told Akron City Council several months ago that this is a pilot program with the short-term goal of making as much as $70,000 in new revenue for the water department and a long-term goal of bringing back the city’s forestry management program abandoned in the 1980s. Ms. Glowczewski assured city officials the department can both maintain water quality and generate funds from selling the wood. She points out the city in years past has planted thousands of trees around LaDue annually.

But while Akron officials are talking about this program, they aren’t including their neighbors at LaDue.

Geauga County residents have legitimate concerns for the environment and some ideas about other ways Akron could earn income without cutting down so many trees.

These Geauga residents are concerned that the tree cutting could interfere with eagles that nest in the area, create bank erosion, destroy habitat, cause flooding or put an imbalance in the natural water filtration process that keeps the LaDue water healthy. They also fear the logging could continue unchecked.

Bainbridge resident and well-know area conservationist Bill Ginn wanted to know if Akron considered selling carbon credits to create revenue instead of selling timber from chopped down trees.

Selling the wood is a one-time deal, he said, but selling carbon credits would draw in a significant amount of extra dollars for years without chopping down any trees. Albany, New York, he said, has reservoirs surrounded by forests as well as a carbon credit program. The Nature Conservancy developed a plan in which more than 60,000 acres of forest in Pennsylvania are being used for carbon credits.

In a typical program, entities sell the credits to coal, steel, airline and other industries with the agreement to maintain trees that reduce carbon dioxide emissions and release beneficial oxygen into the atmosphere.

That’s not all, residents have other ideas that they are willing to share.

Akron at the very least should send a representative to Geauga County.

The people who care deeply about the environment of this area deserve honest dialogue and straight answers.

Categories: Commentary

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