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Majestic Trees Are Being Clear-Cut in American Suburbs

For builders, leveling a lot is easier. And lots of buyers like the clean look


Mature trees in residential areas are beautiful, good for the environment—and in grave danger of being cut down. In places without protective ordinances, homebuilders routinely remove every tree or nearly every tree on a property when they build on it for the first time or replace a torn-down house with a new one. Even trees that are on the edge of a property, far from the footprint of the new house, are at risk of removal.

Even if you aren’t a tree-hugger, it’s hard not to feel your stomach churn when big, healthy trees are reduced to stumps. It also seems financially nonsensical. Handsome trees can raise the sales price of a house; the Council of Tree & Landscape Appraisers even has a formula [PDF] for how much trees are worth. Most species of oaks, maples, beeches, dogwoods, spruces, and firs earn top scores, while many pines, ashes, willows, poplars, mulberries, and locusts are deemed of relatively little value.