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Court Puts San Diego County Backcountry Tree Removal Plan On Hold

Superior Court Rules San Diego County Must Follow CEQA

A court has ruled in favor of the California Chaparral Institute in a lawsuit challenging San Diego County's plan to remove dead trees in backcountry areas.

The court rejected the county's position that its three-to-four year, $7-million tree removal and vegetation management plan was a short-term project addressing an immediate, emergency occurrence.

Senior Deputy County Counsel Carra Rhamy said the San Diego Superior Court decision means the project is not exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.


"The ruling does mean that the county needs to do further review under CEQA. It hasn't been determined whether or not just yet it will require a full EIR (Environmental Impact Report) or not, but that is a possibility," said Rhamy.

Rhamy said the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will decide at a future date whether the ruling will be appealed. In the meantime, the project is on hold.

California Chaparral Institute Director Rick Halsey says the county's tree removal plan is a bad idea.

"It's not a reasonable use of taxpayer money to do what they want to do, which is reduce fire risk," said Halsey. "Because, for the most part, those dead trees are not a significant fire risk."

Halsey said the money should be used instead to create defensible space directly around homes and communities.


The money for the county's tree removal and vegetation project comes from federal stimulus funds.