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Jane Castor stresses the importance of Tampa tree preservation and proper removal

a tree with many branches and leaves against the a sky backdrop
City of Sarasota

“Trees are an essential element of a community's health and of a resident's health as well," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is stressing the importance of preserving trees in the city, and the potential penalties residents and businesses can face if they cut them down without city approval.

“Ensuring the health of our tree canopy is in our sustainability plan. It's one of our 58 actions to take,” Castor said during a Monday news conference. “And trees are an essential element of a community's health and of a resident's health as well.”

During the news conference, Castor brought up an August 2019 incident in which tree-cutting firm Millers & Sons cut down 28 trees at a former mobile home park on Gandy Boulevard.

The removal of the trees led to pushback from environmental groups and the city alike, followed by a lawsuit where the city argued that the company didn’t have the legal authority to cut down the trees.

In early 2019, the Florida Legislature passed a law that largely stripped local governments of the authority to regulate tree removal.

Miller & Sons argued that the state change, along with approval from an arborist greenlighting the removal, cleared them of any wrongdoing.

In late August, a circuit judge ruled in favor of the city, meaning Miller & Sons has to pay nearly $235,000 in fines.

The city also filed a complaint with the International Society of Arboriculture against the arborist who approved the cutting.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor speaking in front of several microphones as she stands in front of city hall and shrubbery
City of Tampa
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor spoke about the city's lawsuit on tree cutting and the current regulations during a Monday press conference

In a public reprimand aimed at arborist Jonathan Lee, the organization said, “Your actions were clearly in violation of professional, ethical, and legal standards governing the professional practice of arboriculture.”

Castor said since the Florida law was enacted, the city has worked on local guidelines to keep them closer in line with what state law has in place.

Due to the city’s work to closely align its guidelines with the state, Castor urges residents, businesses and builders to go on the city’s website to determine whether they can proceed with tree cutting.

Castor said knowing the regulations can also prevent residents and businesses from dealing with tree cutting businesses that don’t follow proper practices.

“What we have also taken on is to educate the community, educate businesses, educate developers, about the importance of our tree canopy, but also the rules as they apply to what permit you need, what trees can be taken down, and which ones are illegal to destroy,” Castor said.

Earlier this year, the city launched an analysis of Tampa’s tree canopy to determine if its shrunk or grown. The last study conducted in 2016 found that 32% of the city was covered in tree canopy, increasing home values by about $5,200 on average.

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