Aggressive tree-trimming triggers reaction from group formed to protect Puerto’s trees

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If people don’t like the aggressive tree pruning carried out by the electricity commission they should consider having the trees trimmed themselves, suggests a local organization that seeks to protect trees in Puerto Escondido.

During the past week, a crew wielding chainsaws clearcut their way through trees that threatened to affect power lines, leaving an untidy mess of unsightly stumps on the roadsides of Puerto.

Arboles VIVOS is a group that’s working to protect Puerto Escondido’s rapidly decreasing tree population.  As Puerto continues to grow, the group’s main concern is preserving the monumental trees of the area, which often fall victim to development and construction projects — and eager loggers contracted by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). 

Claudi Ivette Zamora
Claudi Ivette Zamora has been protecting trees for more than 20 years.

One of the people taking the lead in the VIVOS movement is Claudia Ivette Zamora. “Every October, the CFE cuts the trees that get in the way of the lines, but they cut so much that it leaves them bare. So I need to submit a formal request so that they cut them with more awareness.”

Claudia Herrmann, also at the forefront of VIVOS, said they took their concerns about the over-trimming of trees to the municipality. “We complained about all the trees getting cut . . . but the municipality told us that it’s up to the CFE. So, the only thing we can do is have people hire their own gardener to cut those trees that are ‘interfering’ with the cables. Because the CFE often over-trims them unnecessarily.” 

Zamora and Herrmann hope to prevent a repeat of the cutting next year by being prepared and taking the necessary legal steps to protect as much green space as possible. The group is aware that the fight to save trees can often feel like an uphill battle. However, they’ve had their successes. 

The first was three years ago. “We had our first success with a ceiba. It’s a beautiful tree that’s considered sacred . . . It was on the Colotopec side. So according to the law, if the community isn’t in agreement with what you do with your land, they can stop the project. So we actually convinced the owner not to complete his project, which included cutting down many trees on his land to put up a big hotel. He ended up not wanting the trouble of going against the community and decided to try to sell the land.”

The presence of the community is vital when a tree is in urgent danger. Zamora is usually at the forefront of these battles. “When there’s a tree being cut, I’m the one who goes running to stop it.” 

Residents showed up to protect this ceiba tree
Residents showed up to protect this ceiba tree almost three years ago, at the start of the tree protection movement.

But the legal process is what will save these large trees long term. That’s why both Herrmann and Zamora are not only on the frontlines, but are also doing work behind the scenes. 

One of the largest threats to trees in Puerto is the cleaning of lots by owners in order to sell. Landowners will often cut down all the trees in order to take a photo of the lot after it has been cleared. However, Zamora makes a point that many aren’t aware of. “There’s a law that says you’re the owner of the land, but not the trees. The tree doesn’t belong to anyone because it’s a primary resource . . .” 

Herrmann also says there’s a law that says you can’t cut trees of a certain height. “But no one is enforcing it. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Arboles VIVOS is working toward creating a map of monumental trees that are formally protected. The ceiba that first spurred the movement was one of the trees on a list of many that are protected by law from being cut down. Hermann says, “According to the law, there are certain types of trees that are protected because they’re endemic species or very large trees that can live many years or contribute something special. One of the trees we have here is the parota.”

The parota and ceiba are just two on a long list of trees that are technically protected according to the federal environment ministry. Zamora says the community can help support the cause. “If you see one of these huge, monumental trees, you can take a photo and send the location to Arboles VIVOS and we’ll put it on a list to be checked by a biologist who will tell us if it’s protected. If so, we can add it to the list of trees to be formally protected . . . To start the process with the biologist, we’re waiting to have many trees, so we can submit them all at once rather than one by one. That’s why it’s so important for people to participate. It would be wonderful if we had over 100 trees.” 

Herrmann offered advice for these apartments built by the Rotary Club in Rinconada
Herrmann offered advice for these apartments built by the Rotary Club in Rinconada, which are an example of how trees can be incorporated into new construction.

After identifying these trees, a tourism route will be created. With the boom in tourism in the area, Zamora sees this as the only way that these trees will be truly protected long-term. However, right now the most urgent need is reporting trees in order to keep them from being cut down. 

Hermann, who has lived here since she was 5, says the effects of losing many trees over the years can be felt. “I’ve never felt so much heat as this year. We don’t have enough shade. And then there’s also more flooding. The roots of the trees help prevent land from being washed away . . . And the rains have changed. The treetops actually regulate rain.” 

With their ability to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, trees are essential to human existence. Zamora observes, “I think humanity still sees trees as objects, not the base of our survival.”

Zamora and Herrmann said they aren’t against development but believe that it should be done sustainably. An architect, Herrmann notes that trees never get in the way: you just have to get creative with your designs: “There are always ways to integrate nature into what we want to do. Trees are a priority.”

• Arboles VIVOS can make a bigger impact with more participants so they have tried to make it easy to participate. People can simply contact the group via WhatsApp in order to report trees for protection. Simply connect to the group’s link, take a photo of the tree, and send the location. 

El Sol de Puerto


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