Saturday, March 22, 2008

Demolition, man...

Stacey was too wiped out by her adventures in blunderland to squint at every tree marked on the Memphis Zoo's Teton Clearcut demolition plan, but I couldn't wait to examine our hard-won prize. I printed the six PDFs and broke out the highlighter pens.

I have to apologize in advance for the eye-glazing material I'm about to share. If you'll just try to imagine how awful it was for me to write it, I think we can get through this together.

Hold hands and jump!

Okay, so every X on the demolition plan marks an "Existing tree to be removed with root mass." Page 5, for example, shows a total of 93 trees marked for removal and 33 trees protected by fencing:

The demolition plan shows a total of 202 trees that were exed off by the Memphis Zoo. I'm giving the zoo a free pass on the one labeled "dead tree" so that leaves 201.

The labels show these tree species/genera: Ash, black gum, box elder, cherry, cottonwood, dogwood, elm, hackberry, hickory, ironwood, maple, mulberry, oak, red oak, sassafras, sweet gum, sycamore, tulip poplar, and white oak. The marked trees range in size from 4 inches DBH (diameter at breast height) to 42 inches DBH.

Of these 201 marked trees, 65 were smaller than 10 inches DBH, which is the magic number cited by the zoo's Chuck Brady and OPD's Burk Renner. Our quaint little loophole-infested tree ordinance says that trees smaller than 10 inches DBH are not considered to be "existing" for legal purposes.

My count says that 136 legally existing trees got whacked -- that's pretty close to the zoo's 139. The zoo said it protected 78 trees and my count is 71 -- maybe close enough, until we subtract the 15 protected trees that are smaller than 10 inches DBH. That leaves only 56 legally existing trees that got protected.

You know that phrase "rearranging deck furniture on the Titanic"? It just popped into my head for some reason.

Chuck Brady told the Commercial Appeal that one-third of the trees removed were 6 inches or less in diameter. I counted 33 trees in that size range, which is only 16% of the total tree count of 201. Chuck didn't mention that the zoo also cut 60 trees that were 18 inches or more in diameter (30% of the total) including two 42-inch oak behemoths.

But, hey, we could play number games all day. Just like the Memphis Zoological Society does when it calculates how many trees and dollars it can harvest from our parkland.

I still don't know whether the Memphis Zoo complied with the tree ordinance or not. I still don't know how many board feet of ancient timber was trucked to the sawmill, or how many tons of fertile topsoil are being dumped at the landfill right now.

This is what I do know:

We lost four acres of majestic oaks and hickories, graceful dogwoods and pawpaws, dainty trillium and mayapples, freaky-ass fungi and lichens, and the myriad creatures that depended on this unique habitat. It took 10,000 years for this forest to become what it was, and now it's gone forever.

We lost four acres, and that was four acres too many. It's not going to happen again.

If you want to count the trees yourself, the PDFs of the demolition plan are posted at the bottom of our sidebar.


Tasha Margette said...

that is horrible. the treeline by the lake is the most beautiful part of overton park. it's amazing and if they do it, it will kill me.

i'll help, in anyway i can.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that children in this part of the country get to go to nice zoos and observe endangered species that they might not otherwise ever see. They should just go play in the woods and see how many poisonous snakes they can catch. I notice that you fail to mention how many trees the zoo has said it will be planting.

Anonymous said...

...It's also shame that an organization that prides itself on "saving the planet's diminishing species and habitats" has no regard for the habitat in its own backyard--now that is the apotheosis of hypocrisy.

One can expect this sort of anything-goes development from a large real-estate developer, but from an organization who cannot exist without the support and funding of conservationists??????'s also a shame that Anonymous above fails to realize that the trees the zoo has promised to replant will never ever be as majestic as the trees they chopped down, nor will ever form a forest canopy, nor be a home for free's the forest, stupid.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous makes a good case for deforestation and global development: Why save ANY ecosystem such as a coral reef, bamboo forest, arctic tundra, African sahel, redwood forest, or tropical rainforest--when you can make a zoo or aquarium exhibit out of it? Yeah, why even visit these places when the Memphis Zoo can bring to you a safe and believable fascimile? Maybe if all people were as complacent as Anonymous, in the near future they will not have to worry about visiting the Old Forest to see poisonous snakes, woodpeckers, bats, tortoises, etc.--it will be GONE. In its place there will be the "Chickasaw Bluffs Trail," for the paying public to see, contained within the 12-foot high safety of concertina topped chain link's in the Memphis Zoo Master Plan, you know.

Anonymous said...

I heard reports that the topsoil the work crew has been hauling out of the 4 acre clearcut is as much as 6 feet deep!! It amazes me that the whole Old Forest sits on topsoil 6 feet + deep! That took a long long time to accumulate- and I can't believe that it is just being hauled off to the landfills. I bet that soil makes for an interesting scientific analysis and I intend on going to get a sneak peek before its all gone.
~Shawna Graves

Anonymous said...

I could understand if it was a rainforest, or an endangered species habitat, but it's one section of forest. How can you say the trees the zoo plants won't be as majestic? Is that something you saw in a hemp-induced flash forward into the future? I love that kids are able to observe tigers, pandas, elephants and other animals when they might not otherwise get to do so. You people shoul put some of this energy in trying to counter some of the real problems the city faces and realize there is life outside of midtown.

Anonymous said...

You say, "How can you say the trees the zoo plants won't be as majestic? Is that something you saw in a hemp-induced flash forward into the future?"

Go see the clearcut for yourself, as I have. The Zoo REMOVED 100% of the topsoil; and they compacted the entire area with their heavy equipment. Furthermore, look at the master plan yourself and see how much of the area will be paved, covering over any potentially healthy root system.

If you think the replacement trees will grow back as strong or healthy as the original forest trees, then it is YOU that has been smoking something.

Naomi Van Tol said...

Hi Anonymous,

I wrote this post about the zoo's demolition plan, not their landscaping plan, but since you ask -- the zoo intends to plant 574 trees at the new exhibit as part of their landscaping.

Most of the species on the landscaping plan are not native to this region and the zoo includes non-trees, like Virginia willow, in its total. Any gardener can tell you that Virginia willow is a small shrub that will never be majestic by anyone's definition.

CPOP is not saying that the zoo is evil. We're saying that the zoo's leaders made a huge mistake when they chose to clearcut old-growth forest instead of converting a few of its derelict exhibits into Teton Trek. We are not asking anyone to choose between having a nice zoo and having a nice forest -- we can have both.

The zoo says that we and other citizens don't have the right to object to losing four acres of old-growth forest. Why? Because the zoo says it decided to clearcut that forest 20 years ago. I was ten years old in 1988, so I didn't get a chance to participate in that decision.

That forest does not belong to the zoo; it belongs to the citizens of Memphis. In fact, every inch of the zoo belongs to the citizens of Memphis AND the City gives the zoo $1,000,000 or more of our tax money every year. This is why we have the right to object.

You also have the right to voice your opinion, Anonymous, but why not sign your name next time?