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Federal court rules against tree protection ordinance

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A ruling by the U.S. 6th District Court of Appeals might put local tree protection ordinances at risk.

Environmentalists are concerned a federal court ruling this week could limit tree protection ordinances.

The ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt with landowners’ private property rights and Canton Township’s tree ordinance. The ordinance requires landowners who remove trees to plant new trees or pay into a fund to ensure there’s not a net loss of trees.

Canton Township ordered a property owner who cleared more than 150 trees from his property to plant replacement trees or deposit more than $47,000 into a township tree fund. The owner sued.

The court ruled the township didn’t show that it properly assessed the burden to the landowners.

Sean Hammond is policy director at the Michigan Environmental Council which filed a brief supporting the ordinance.

“The court basically ruled that Canton Township did not prove that it was going to benefit the city as much as it burdened the owner.”

He says the ruling could affect other municipalities.

“It really only impacts this one company in terms of direct scope. But, it sends a message to a lot of other places about how valid their tree ordinances are.”

Hammond hopes Canton Township appeals the ruling.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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