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Our View: Barking up the wrong tree

The Union Editorial Board

It seems like the Nevada City tree issue isn’t going to leave anytime soon.

A groundswell of support for keeping the trees was followed by a local judge granting an injunction to stop PG&E from cutting them. The judge then reversed course and said he didn’t have that authority.

Fast forward a bit and supporters this week climbed into the trees at Pioneer Cemetery as PG&E workers waited nearby. Officers responded to the scene. A police blotter entry states PG&E asked police to move the protesters so it could remove the trees.

The situation deescalated when the workers left.

All this makes you wonder what happened to the spirit of compromise around this issue.

The organizer of the Facebook group “Saving Nevada City’s Trees” has said he realizes most of the trees have to go. There’s over 260 of them. The group has indicated there are around two dozen of them that should be saved, with about half of those on private land and the other half on city-owned property.

And everything seemed to be going swimmingly, even with the judge’s ruling that the trees couldn’t come down immediately. There was talk of a working group comprised of several different factions that could reach an agreement.

Discussion amongst different groups with opposing goals reaching compromise — a fever dream realized.

Now we’re awake and reality has dealt us a hard lesson.

As with most problems, no one side holds all the blame, though all can play a role in bringing this situation to a successful conclusion.

For starters, PG&E could stop trying to cut every tree on its list while crowing about a fiat granted by the Public Utilities Commission. We get it. You have the authority to cut the trees. Now sit down at the negotiating table and work with the other players. It’s much wiser to build goodwill in this way instead of burning it up.

And God knows PG&E could use some goodwill after the debacle of the past two years.

The Nevada City Council should take a stand instead of meekly ceding power to PG&E. Does it support the trees’ removal? Then do something about people loitering in trees on city property. Want PG&E to shove off? Then take the issue to a higher court.

Looking for the middle road? Then help bring everyone to the table. We’ll all be better for it.

As for the tree supporters — don’t say you’ve done everything you can, so now you’re going to sit in a tree and risk arrest. Many of these trees are on city property. If the city wants them gone, that’s it. Getting council members on your side is a better, and more effective, method of achieving your goals.

As for private property owners. Many, if not all, want their trees removed. That’s their business. They’re not telling you what to do with your property.

But if tree advocates feel that strongly about it, maybe private property owners would like a seat at that table, too.

There’s a lot more at stake here than the loss of some trees. There are liability issues when a tree falls during a storm and takes power lines with it. No one wants to go to court to find out who’s at fault.

Let’s take a few steps back, take a few breaths and think this through. No side involved in this needs to go to extremes. A working group could reach an agreement, and identify the trees that absolutely must go.

If this is the route taken, a deadline must be set. Government meetings already can drone on for hours. Put time limits on discussions, and circle a day on the calendar.

In the meantime, cut the trees everyone agrees need to go. This is a compromise already forged.

It’s worth giving this a shot. Invoking the power of the Public Utilities Commission, or alternatively camping out in trees, doesn’t help, and only exacerbates the problem.

We need to work together on this, instead of barking up the wrong tree.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.


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