DEBATE OF '98- responsibilities of forest land owners

mcour at mcour at
Thu Apr 23 13:23:35 EST 1998

In article <353F457D.EC110F89 at>,
  Joseph Zorzin <redoak at> wrote:

I wrote:

> > Consider the local ordinance of a nearby city that wants to annex some
> > property that I own.  This ordinance states that I cannot cut down any
> > tree
> > with a diameter greater than 12".
> Is that ordinance just for roadside trees or also on trees not visible
> to the public? It sounds like a bad ordinance to me. And it's not
> irrelevant, as "urban forestry" is part of forestry.

The law actually applies to any tree greater than 12" in diameter.
But suppose it only applied to trees visible from the road.  Would this
make the law less of a "taking of private property for public use"?

I wrote:

> >I am higher on the authority chain than the Supreme Court, though this
>  > authority is shared wih every other
> > citizen.  The people have the power to change the makeup of the Supreme
>  >Court
> > if we disagree with the manner in which they interpret the constitution.
> Does it say that in the constitution? The Supreme Court can't be touched
> by anyone, not even the President can fire them. And that's for a good
> reason. You wouldn't want some liberal president like Clinton packing
> the court would you? <G>

We can't fire the supreme court, but the balance of power could be shifted by
adding new members.  If the people's president nominates and the
people's senate confirms, the number could be raised to, say 21 members, and
if the 12 new members could do anything they wanted.  This is all
constitutionally valid and it was attempted once, but the liberal president
could not get the senate to go along.

> > When the government tells me I can't fill in a wetland and farm on it
> > because
> > they need it to act as a big water filter for the "publically owned water"
> > is this not a taking of private property for public use?

> Because if you destroy a wetland, that may cause flooding to someone
> else on THEIR land or you may be contributing to the extinction of
> species.

The key word is _may_.  If it can be demonstrated that destroying the wetland
will cause flooding for a neighbor or the demise of an endangered species,
then one can argue the restrictions are acceptable under the "nuisance"
doctrine which allows for restricting property use without compensation.
However, under current wetland laws, I cannot reduce the amount of wetland on
my property even if I prove that my proposed changes do not present a nuisance
to anyone.

> But I'll agree that wetland preservation has gone too far. I
> can think of some swamps I'd like to drain. But it seems that currently,
> every square of wetland is sacrosanct.   A reevaluation is needed.

I agree.

> But, I
> agree 100% with you that the community has no business telling you you
> can't cut your trees just to make the land pretty. I'm sure if you cut
> trees you want it to look good too, and it's your right to decide what
> looks good.

Fortunately I sold my timber before the city was able to complete the
annexation.  A neighboring farm where I manage the agricultural operations
might not be so fortunate.  Our foresters have suggested we wait a bit until
the trees are a better size.  But if the farm gets annexed to the city before
the trees reach their prime, we're in for a legal battle.

One up side to the wetland laws though is that wetlands are classified as
untillable and once we plant all our tillable land, we're tax exempt on the
untillable land also.  The mature timber is all close enough to wetland or a
100' high ridge to be considered untillable, so we don't have to cut it down
to become exempt from our $8000 annual tax bill (for 100 acres).  However, we
do have to destroy about 20 acres of 15-20 year old poplars in our quest for
property tax freedom.

Michael Courtney

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