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Aubrey's Notebook:
For the Oaks

The diversity of opinion expressed by people commenting on Fayetteville's tree-sitting grandmother and others who oppose the destruction of the majority of trees in an ancient grove to make way for a retail development is thought-provoking.

The woman who has given up home and hearth for some time now is serving as a visible, living symbol of a major split in the thinking of human beings. While she has been quoted relatively little, people on both sides of the divide are saying a lot. No one, of course, can ever be fully objective and see all sides of an issue; however, a few have tried. Those are the people who point out that the retail development could be built in the area without destroying the old-growth timber. Unfortunately, the voices heard most often seem to miss that obvious fact. The experiences people have had in life, their education, training, upbringing numerous factors play a part in which side they relate to. It appears that people who have grown up with central heat and air-conditioning in well-insulated homes without much outdoor experience don't have much notion of the value of trees.

Those who have spent time in houses that depend on shade trees to help regulate temperature, understand shade.

Those who have worked outdoors or hunted or fished or hiked or watched birds understand not only shade but many other benefits that trees provide. People have depended on trees for building material and fuel for untold centuries. The idea of building a house of wood surely occurred first to a person who envied another person who occupied a large hollow tree in some ancient forest.

One could imagine that person deciding not to fight for possession of a fine hollow living tree or stump but to shape himself a shelter by combining logs and brush. In a natural forest with a balanced population of human beings and other creatures, enough giant hollow trees would stand to provide shelter for many, and storms and occasional fires would bring down plenty of trees for building.

Anyone who values wildlife, whether for hunting or simply as a valuable part of God's creation, can't easily accept the needless destruction of wildlife habitat.

And that brings up the point that is so obvious to many in Fayetteville. There is no need to destroy those trees.

Assuming Northwest Arkansas needs more retail stores and restaurants, then why not use existing buildings or construct new ones in already cleared areas? At the other extreme are the comments that suggest that not putting the shopping center where the trees now stand means not getting to build. That isn't true.

Developing only the open land ought to be less expensive than clearing trees to build. Oh, yes, it is true that developers in this area seem to just burn down fine groves when they get ready and then bulldozing away whatever remains.

Not only do they destroy the wildlife habitat and waste the potential lumber and firewood but also they add insult to injury by forcing people and other living things downwind of their property to breath the smoke. A really smart builder would incorporate the timbered area into the development to create a park-like atmosphere. Isolated trees could have a few parking spaces under the edge of their canopy if designers and builders were careful to protect the roots of the trees. Who wants to park in a paved lot without shade, anyway? Which brings up another point: Why pave parking lots? Pavement near Mud Creek and Clear Creek causes flooding of the Illinois River. People in Oklahoma angry over such flooding are likely to file lawsuits against the Fayetteville officials who ignored the city's tree-protection ordinance and authorized the destruction of the trees in CMNII.

Some writers criticize the people protesting the destruction of trees as though these people were speaking against the use of trees. That, too, misses the point. These trees likely won't be used for lumber, firewood, the making of paper or any such things. Most developers in this area burn the trees they bulldoze on site, creating air pollution sometimes for days.


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Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

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