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Cutting Down Trees for Nature's Sake?

Posted September 20, 2013

In a bizarre set of circumstances, officials near Minneapolis are proposing the destruction of over 800 trees as part of a larger project to address pollution in Northwood Lake, Minnesota. The stand of trees involved includes a broad mixture of species that grow next to a small tributary, providing habitat to animals as well as enjoyment for the neighbors, who like watching the colors change in the fall and enjoy living close to nature.

The proposal involves cutting down trees alongside the tributary to expose the banks, allowing Minneapolis landscapers to plant grasses and plants with deep, clumping roots in their place. Officials theorize that erosion around the banks of the tributary is a contributing factor to the pollution in Northwood Lake, and they want better control over the erosion -- they claim the mature trees make it impossible for anything else to grow, creating a high risk of soil loss in the winter months. By replacing them with groundcover, they hope the soil around the tributary will stay where it's supposed to.

Neighbors aren't so sure. They want to retain their trees and nature views, and they're expressing concerns about whether felling trees to save water is really the best course of action. As the battle plays out, both sides may be drawing upon research to support their claims, but the case highlights a common problem in many regions of the United States: sometimes, you have to do something counterintuitive to resolve a larger ecological problem.

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