Trees down on campus raise questions, concerns

Even if you don’t consider yourself a tree hugger, chances are you like trees. It may be presumptuous of me to assume that, but let’s pretend for a moment. Say you’re one of those people who does like trees: big, leafy, green ones. You like sitting in the shade they provide on hot afternoons. You like watching them sway in the breeze or stand perfectly still outside your window. You like how they make oxygen and provide habitat. And you really love climbing them.

You probably want to keep doing those things, and so do I. Once upon a time, former Whitman President Tom Cronin championed the planting of trees on campus. He tried (and often succeeded) in planting 100 trees per year. Now, that rate has dropped. Not only that, but we are cutting trees unnecessarily. The college claims they are diseased and old. However, for the construction of the new fine arts building, mature, healthy trees that weren’t interfering with the building or foundation were taken from the periphery. By a miracle, one of these trees was saved. It now stands alone along the creek, its neighbors all cut down in the name of progress.

Are we in danger of losing more trees? The fine arts building is just an example of what may be to come. As the college builds and expands, more trees will be in danger. We are already losing locusts in the amphitheater and Narnia to age and disease. If we cut down our healthy trees too, where will that leave us? Will we plant more grass and install more sprinklers? If we make good decisions and continue to plant trees that are fit for our landscape, hopefully that will never happen.

I am not suggesting that George Bridges become a champion of trees (though that would be nice), but I do believe we must all step up to the plate if we want trees to be a part of our campus. The Trees and Landscaping Committee is a group of students, faculty, and staff that advises the College on tree and landscaping issues. The meetings are open to anyone on campus, and though the group makes no final decisions, it is a sounding board for those of us who don’t have to pretend we like trees. As we strive to achieve climate neutrality and a healthy planet, planting trees is a logical and easy way to continue to offset our carbon emissions and preserve habitat and biodiversity.

The Trees and Landscaping meets once a month in Science 138. The next meeting will be at noon on Tuesday, May 1.