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Cambridge tree canopy might need a permit process to preserve it: Councilor

Private property owners would have to seek city permission to fell a healthy, sizable tree on their land

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Cambridge’s tree canopy is in such precipitous decline, according to one City Council member, that the city has to take an immediate action that will impact private property owners.

In an op-ed for Cambridge Day, Councilor Quinton Zondervan writes that Cambridge’s tree canopy declined 7 percent from 2009 to 2014. He also notes that an imminent assessment “will show even further loss.”

To stem the trend, Zondervan is proposing that Cambridge amend its tree ordinance to require that private property owners acquire a permit to cut down a healthy, sizable tree—or one of at least 8 inches in diameter and 4 feet high (per the current ordinance).

The permit would not carry a fee, and, Zondervan writes, “would be granted ... under most circumstances.”

The idea, he writes, is to get a dialogue going about Cambridge’s canopy, one that Boston is starting to have across the Charles River. Boston is falling woefully short of a goal set last decade to expand its canopy 20 percent by 2020.

In the meantime, a so-called Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force that Cambridge officials convened is supposed to put forth recommendations on the city’s canopy and other things nature-related about a year from now. Stay tuned.