Concerns Halt Highway Tree Cutting

April 20, 2007

For the second time in the past several months, complaints have halted the felling of roadside trees.

According to María Camacho, spokeswoman for the National Roadway Council (CONAVI), the council has instructed all companies carrying out roadwork nationwide to stop cutting trees while it prepares an environmental advisory.

Camacho explained CONAVI is finalizing an agreement with the Highway Beautification and Security Association (ASECAN) for ASECAN environmental consultants to advise the Council on what trees are necessary to cut, and which ones are not.

She acknowledged the freeze is in response to complaints about the tree cutting she saw appearing in letters to national media, as well as a letter sent by Alejandra Mónge, the executive director of the Corcovado Foundation.

Monge, in a letter addressed to Public Works and Transport Minister Karla Gonzales, who oversees CONAVI, said workers told her the trees that she saw being cut down between San José and the central Pacific coast had to be removed to protect the asphalt and to prevent possible accidents.

“The trees that are being cut could be pruned instead of totally cut,” Mónge wrote. “These trees beautify our highways and protect the slopes from erosion, preventing landslides over our roads.”

Former Environment Minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, in an opinion piece published April 10 in the daily La Nación, called the tree felling an “ecocide” and said those responsible should be prosecuted. He claimed that among the trees cut were quarter-century-old caoba and madero negro trees, both of which are endangered species.

The CONAVI spokeswoman explained the trees were being cut according to “technical criteria,” such as if they endangered driver’s safety, or their roots threatened to break up highway asphalt. However, to show the Council “isn’t deaf” to complaints, all cutting is on hold until the agreement with ASECAN is signed.

As of Wednesday, according to a statement from ASECAN, the agreement details had yet to be sorted out.

In an earlier victory for roadside trees, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) halted a roadway project in San José in February following protests that it unnecessarily involved cutting down more than150 trees (TT, Feb. 16).

 

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