Gardnerville cottonwoods coming down |

Gardnerville cottonwoods coming down

Associated Press

GARDNERVILLE – Ignoring the pleas of residents, a developer is cutting down a small grove of stately cottonwood trees to make way for a new subdivision in Gardnerville.

H&S Construction last week had a tree trimmer remove a 100-year-old tree – the oldest on the old Stodick Ranch about 50 miles south of Reno. Plans call for several more trees to come down over the next week or so.

Leaders of a citizens’ group opposed to the cutting complained they did not have enough time to organize. They failed in a last-minute bid to have Douglas County officials halt the cutting.

“It’s very sad,” resident Ana Amicarella told Gardnerville’s Record-Courier. “It’s not like we have a lot of trees in this valley … I’m very disillusioned.”

But certified arborist Jim Estabrook said the trees should be removed for safety reasons. His business, Estabrook Tree Works, was hired to chop them down.

“Once the houses are built and the fields are no longer irrigated, it will radically alter the trees’ water source” and lead to their eventual deaths, Estabrook said.

A trunk of the oldest tree is dead, and it could take from one to 10 years for the giant to fall, Estabrook added.

Nancee Goldwater of the county’s Animal Control Department said owls nest in the trees, and disturbing the process is a violation of federal law.

But Kevin Kritz, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. and Wildlife Service, said his agency lacked the authority to stop the cutting. The nesting window has passed for the owls, but some could nest again if their initial efforts fail.

“It is regrettable that these birds are losing their habitat, but there are limits to our authority,” Kritz said. “If the incident occurs late in the year and there’s no prior evidence of damage to the birds, there isn’t much law enforcement people can do.”

The oldest cottonwood was registered as a historic tree with the Nevada Division of Forestry, said resident Barbara Havens, who opposes the cutting.

“Developers are motivated by profit. They have little concern about the history, culture or the future well being of a community,” Havens said. “These trees should be allowed to die in their own time.”