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Tree-cutting project draws complaints about barren landscape

July 7, 2018

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia road crews are in the midst of a statewide tree-clearing project which has drawn complaints.

State lawmaker Jason Spencer, a Republican from Woodbine, says his constituents are upset about the bare and swamp-like land left behind on some interstates and state highways. Little notice was given about the project, he said.

“I get phone calls from constituents, from my family, they’re going what in the hell is going on with all the trees being mowed down,” he told WABE Radio.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is halfway through the two-year, statewide project involving safety and vegetation maintenance, officials said.

Cars leaving roadways and striking trees is a major cause of deaths on state highways, officials said.

Over the past three years, 472 people have died from hitting trees in Georgia, GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said. The project also will keep more trees from falling into roadways, she said.

“We understand the desire to have aesthetically pleasing roadways but our commitment here is to create safer roadways,” Dale said. “These projects are very data-driven.”

It is widely-accepted “that managing trees by the road is in the public’s best interest,” said Doug Hecox, a spokesman with the Federal Highway Administration.

“Trees are pretty and aesthetically pleasing, we understand that, but there are a variety of reasons why they’re an unsafe choice,” he said.

However, Georgia’s project seems different from Florida’s approach, which prioritizes keeping all the trees possible, said Jeff Caster, Florida’s state transportation landscape architect.

“We selectively remove trees, thereby leaving behind trees that are desirable and safe,” he said.

Erosion control measures have also come under scrutiny by Simona Perry, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper in Savannah.

“The state disregarded, in my opinion, good environmental practice by doing it this way,” Perry said. “There wasn’t a barrier to stop sediment from running into those waterways and that was alarming.”

Georgia’s $62.5 million project covers about 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers).

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Information from: WABE-FM, http://www.wabe.org/

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