Tree Preservation Ordinances:
“Crazy, Asinine, and the Biggest Scam in the State of Texas”

That’s exactly what a state legislator said to city representatives who testified against H.B. 1858 (Workman) on April 2.  The bill would allow a property owner to cut down a tree on his property if he believes it poses a fire risk, even if a municipal ordinance prohibits the cutting.  The author explained that the reason for the bill was the devastation caused by the recent Bastrop wildfires.  Witnesses for the bill showed pictures of homes that were destroyed by fire in part because of the trees surrounding them. 

While no one wants to see the proliferation of wildfires, no connection whatsoever was made at the hearing between municipal tree preservation ordinances and increased wildfire risk.  In fact, the destroyed homes that were shown in the proponent’s photos weren’t even subject to a municipal tree ordinance. 

The bill is an example of a common bait-and-switch tactic at the Capitol.  By packaging the measure as “fire mitigation,” attention was diverted from the real issue—desired preemption of municipal authority.  That became clear at the hearing when a committee member aggressively questioned a mayor who was there to explain why his city adopted a tree preservation ordinance (answer:  because the citizens demanded it) and how it works (answer: it in no way creates a fire hazard).  In fact, the mayor’s city is one of only a handful of cities in the state certified as a “Firewise Community” by the National Fire Protection Association, meaning that the city’s fire protection regulations are among the finest.

“Cities…think they’re smarter than the property owners out in the communities,” the committee member said.  Perhaps instead it was a case of a state legislator believing his judgment is superior to that of a mayor and five city councilmembers who were elected to represent their citizens locally.

To view the mayor’s persuasive testimony, and the response from the committee member, go to:

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