A Jacksonville environmental nonprofit says its recent settlement with the city is a win for foliage and government transparency.
The Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute filed suit two years ago claiming a special tree fund wasn’t being spent on trees.
Jacksonville voters expanded the tree mitigation trust fund in 2000.
It’s purpose: “To have the community be able to plant trees on public land after private developers ever moved our canopy throughout the city,” said Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute Executive Director John November.
His group sued because, he said, the fund’s millions were being spent in areas other than restoring the tree canopy, although the city denies wrongdoing.
The Public Trust along with other environmental organizations including the Sierra Club met with the city eight times to mediate a solution, which City Council approved this week.
“We’ve been able to establish a tree commission,” November said. “We’ve been able to add two new urban forestry staff positions, and we’ve also been able to create a lot more transparency in the removal of trees and exactly where those trees are going to be planted.”
He said the tree commission, to be made up of experts and two city officials, will have this task:
“Plant trees throughout the community as effectively as possible over time.”
The settlement also requires an online portal, so people can monitor tree removals and plantings. And there’s an ordinance underway to implement stricter penalties for disobeying tree-removal rules.