Get active: request stronger protections for our urban forest!

Headline: please sign this petition asking for higher penalties for tree vandalism. If you've got the time, read on! 

Who hasn't had the unpleasant experience of hearing several chainsaws powering up on a Sunday morning, or over the Christmas break, when resources to detect or prevent illegal tree removal are at their lowest? Who hasn't seen tree removers turn up nearby with an unmarked truck and industrial woodchipper? Or complained to a Council about illegal tree removal only to be told that 'it's impossible to prove'? 

These majestic Blackbutts (Eucalyptus pilularis) have the fortune of being on public land (Council road reserve and Education Department land), but trees up to this size may be removed without permission. Image by Emma Rooksby. 

Experiences like this are sadly all too common. We all love our urban forest, and councils across the region have developed urban greening or urban canopy strategies that aim to increase canopy cover. These urban trees are often important habitat for threatened species, or are threatened themselves. But canopy cover is actually decreasing, particularly on privately owned land. 

A large part of the problem is that collectively we don't seem to value and protect trees. Independent Lane Cove Councillor Bridget Kennedy has pointed out some institutional aspects of this problem: Councils are only allowed to levy puny fines for tree vandalism incidents ($3,000 for an individual and $6,000 for a company). And while fines are much higher if a prosecution through the Land and Environment Court is successful, Councils are not resourced or empowered to carry out the complex types of investigations that are needed to be successful in such prosecutions. The result is very low levels of prosecution. Illegal tree removal goes unpunished.  

One part of the solution is to significantly increase the penalties for urban tree vandalism. Councillor Bridget Kennedy's petition to the NSW Government is asking for exactly that. Have a read and sign if you agree. The Australian Capital Territory government can now fine tree vandals up to $80,000, more than ten times the current NSW rate, after recent reforms, so now is a good time to ask for NSW to 'level up.' 

You can also use the Snap Send Solve app to report individual cases of urban tree vandalism to your local council. But please be careful when documenting possible unlawful activity.

Finishing on a positive note, there are many many people doing the right thing and protecting urban biodiversity. Thank you to each and every one of you! 
These awesome Coast Canthiums (Cyclophyllum longipetalum) are on private property and part of a patch of critically endangered subtropical rainforest. They are being well cared for by the new owners. Three cheers for that!


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