Let the Oaks Stay Put

On Aug. 25 and Sept. 1, The Times published photos of a 300-to 400-year-old oak in Calabasas; it had been dug up, placed in a large wooden planter and was being moved to a new site, at a cost of $50,000. The giant oak made the error of growing for several hundred years just where a developer wants his entrance into a new 34-house tract, near the corner of Mulholland Drive and Old Topanga Canyon Road.

At another developer's site adjacent to my home in Topanga Canyon's Viewridge area, 10 of 11 protected oaks similarly dug up and moved into large wooden planters last spring have now died--moved into wooden coffins just like that in The Times photos. Only the smallest of the 11 trees is still green, and its largest stem is turning brown. Judging from The Times photos, the giant oak in Calabasas is much bigger than even the largest of the dead oaks near me. Thus, its transplantation will be even more difficult to accomplish.

According to one of The Times articles, "arborist John Mote gave the tree a 95% chance of survival." As a professional biologist, my experience watching what has happened near my home doesn't encourage me to put much trust in Mote's prediction, even if the tree is immediately replanted. At best it's a gamble. Why can't developers stop masquerading in environmentalists' clothes and just steer around these wonderful landmarks?

BRUCE VOELLER

Topanga Canyon

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