Posts Tagged ‘trees’

Save Highway Trees; Urge Governor Deal to Veto HB 179

May 2, 2011

There is still a chance, perhaps a small one, but a chance nevertheless, to block the billboard industry’s attempt to clear-cut taxpayer owned trees on the state’s highways.  It will take a veto by Governor Deal. 

Former state representative and retired Columbus lawyer Milton Jones, who is an enthusiastic  Trees Columbus booster, states the problem and the solution.


House Bill 179 allows billboard companies to clear-cut every single tree in a view zone in front of a billboard. Thanks to powerful billboard interests, HB 179 passed the Georgia General Assembly despite significant public opposition.

Billboard owners can already trim and cut trees in front of billboards under existing law, but HB 179 would cut down every single hardwood and pine tree in a 250 foot view zone in front of billboards. These are trees owned by the public that would be sacrificed for private gain. HB 179 harms the scenic beauty of Georgia.


Urge Governor Deal to stand up for trees and veto House Bill 179.  You can email the governor by clicking here.

Bob Hydrick Deals with the Facts in the Billboard Controversy

March 18, 2009

Dick: Thanks for bringing to my attention Willam E. Board’s response to your post following our conversations last weekend. If Mr. Board wants to deal with the facts then let’s do so.

Fact: Under existing law and regulations the issuance of a vegetation management (tree-cutting permit) is by definition a privilege and not a right, because the DOT Commissioner has the discretion to withhold (deny) a permit if the vegetation to be removed falls into several categories spelled out in the regulations. This the basis of the lawsuit filed by the City of Columbus, Gateways and Trees Columbus.

Under SB 164, this discretionary authority will be eliminated. Mr. Board is right in that a permit is still required,  but the language reads “shall be issued.” making it a right, which takes away the DOT commissioner’s discretionary authority.

Fact: As to trees planted as a part of a beautification project, as Mr. Board stated SB 164 does protect trees planted before January 1, 2009. But, as he also noted, it makes any trees planted after that date fair game for a mandatory vegetation management permit. Here’s an example of what that could mean. Right now Gateways and the DOT and others are spending millions of dollars in public and private money to landscape the Victory Drive 185 interchange creating a Gateway to Ft. Benning that will be a community landmark. Under SB 164, any trees planted on the rights of way as a part of this project would be eligible to cut any time in the future if the billboard company decides it wanted to put up a billboard adjacent to the project.

Fact: SB 164 is a bad bill and the people of Georgia recognize it as a poll done for Scenic Georgia by the widely-respected polling firm, American Viewpoint last month clearly demonstrates.  500 respondents were asked this question: “Do you favor or oppose the State of Georgia allowing billboard companies to cut down trees on public property so that motorists can see billboards located on nearby private property?” It wasn’t even close: 72% said NO! and 24% said Yes.

Getting the Facts Straight

March 18, 2009

William E. Board’s comment following my post “How SB 164 Gives Billboard Companies More Power to Cut Public Trees”  raised some interesting points.  My post was based on what Trees Columbus Inc. Board Member Bob Hydrick,  who is a former mayor of Columbus and an adeversting comapny executive,  told me.  I published MR. Board’s   comment in the comment section of the post,  but since I am going to publish Bob Hydrick’s response as an artilce, I am given Mr. Board the same treatment.   Here is Mr. Board’s comment, which will be followed by Bob Hydrick’s response in another post.

In response to your article above, I have some FACTUAL information taken directly from the new Bill SB164. I realize that facts don’t seem to be the basis for your conversation with Bob Hydrick, nonetheless these are excerpts from the Bill as it sits passed by the Georgia State Senate.

1.      Hopefully you will do me the courtesy of publishing this, as I gave you the courtesy of reading your article, no matter how inaccurate it may have been. Below is your article with the sections of the NEW Bill where appropriate to rebut the comments the Hydrick falsely stated. They FACTS are indentified with 6 ******.

Either you are unaware or you are deliberately trying to mislead your readers. Billboard companies have the right to cut these trees now,” Anna McLendon wrote in a comment on my post about the latest effort by billboard companies to obtain the right to cut trees on state and local governmental highway rights of way. She is partially right, certainly, though, not about my deliberately misleading my readers. I don’t do that. The unaware part is the part that’s partially right. I didn’t know as much about the present law or the one that just passed the Senate as I should have. She is wrong, however, in that the billboard companies now have the “right” to cut those trees.

In order to correct my shortcoming in understand the two laws, I called former Columbus mayor and advertising executive Bob Hydrick, who is on the board of Trees Columbus Inc. Bob explained it this way: “What the billboard people have now is the ‘privilege,’ not the ‘right’ to cut trees on public rights of way. They have to get a permit from the state Department of Transportation commissioner. If their request meets certain criteria, he can grant permission to cut the trees, but he can also deny their request. The new law, the one passed by the Senate and is now in the House, gives them the ‘right’ rather than the ‘privilege.’ They won’t have to get a permit from DOT anymore.” ******This statement is TOTALLY inaccurate. The new legislation requires the billboard company to apply and have granted a permit from the Department of Transportation. (From the Bill SB164 – (d) Permit application process and fees:

(1) A vegetation permit must be secured prior to performing any vegetation removal. The permit shall be effective for one year from the date of issuance. Any permitted work not completed during that year shall require the submission of a new application to complete.

(2) Permit applications for vegetation removal will be made by the outdoor advertising permit holder upon the forms prescribed and provided by the department and shall contain the signature of the outdoor advertising permit holder. A separate application must be submitted for each work site. The application must contain all required information before a permit will be granted. The following is a list of all required information that must be submitted with the application form:)******


Now, when a billboard company wants to put up a new billboard, it has to wait five years before it can get a permit to cut vegetation on public property. Being on private property, it can put up the billboard, but it can’t cut trees on public property for five years. The new law ends that prohibition, also. ******This is a misleading statement as well. The new legislation does allow the 5 year time period to be withdrawn, but this new legislation is a pilot program. It will be phased in over the next three (3) years allowing for different districts each year. And if it doesn’t work, the legislators can return to the current system. (From the Bill SB164 – (g) Effective date:

(1) This Code section shall become effective on July 1, 2009, and shall be implemented as a three-year pilot program by department districts as follows:
(A) Year one, effective July 1, 2009: First, Second, and Sixth department districts;
(B) Year two, effective July 1, 2010: Third, Fifth, and Seventh department districts; and
(C) Year three, effective July 1, 2011: Fourth department district.
(2) As of July 1, 2012, this Code section shall become applicable to all outdoor advertising signs lawfully permitted by the department wherever located unless otherwise determined by the General Assembly. Nothing contained in this Code section shall render any sign existing on July 1, 2009, nonconforming.)******

Also, Bob told me, now, they simply cannot cut trees that were planted as part of beautification projects. The DOT commissioner doesn’t have the authority to give a permit for that. Under the new law, that would also change. They would have the right to cut trees planted as part of beautification projects. ******Once again, this is a TOTALLY inaccurate statement. If the trees or vegetation were planted as a part of beautification projects, removal would not be permitted. (From the Bill SB164 -(8) No removal of any tree planted prior to January 1, 2009, as part of any local, state, or federal government or specifically identified beautification project shall be permitted under this Code section unless written approval is obtained from the sponsoring jurisdiction.) ****** There is a suit against the DOT pending on this one, filed by Trees Columbus, Inc., the Gateway Foundation, and the City of Columbus, concerning the attempted cutting of trees planted as part of beautification projects on I-185 inside the Columbus City Limits.
I hope that clarifies what the Billboard industry is trying to accomplish with the new law, SB 164, which passed in the Senate and is now in the Georgia House. You can read the bill by going to this Georgia Senate link. I haven’t changed my mind about how I feel about the law. I don’t want beautification projects on public property destroyed to make it easier to see billboards. I hope you will let your representative in the House know that you do not favor SB 164, which expands the billboard industry’s power to cut down trees owned by taxpayers.

******Now, I’m not sure what Senate or House Bill Bob Hydrick was reciting, but the correct contents of SB164 are included in this rebuttal. The people of Georgia deserve what is right for the State from the Congress it elected. This Bill will bring jobs for the Arborists, jobs for the Landscapers, local advertising who depend on this kind of advertising (To the tune of 10,000+ employees employed by the local advertisers), jobs for the Billboard Company and money to the Georgia Department of Transportation in the form of Fees paid for application and mitigation.

Georgia has more trees and vegetation than most of the states in the country. How are they helping Georgia’s economy? How are they contributing to an increase in jobs? They give us air. And no matter how many get cut down as a result of this legislation, we’ll never run out of that. Oh, and one last thing that Hydrick failed to mention. The Billboard Company will have to lower their signs to 75’ or less in order to obtain and continue with the permit applied for under this new legislation. And at THEIR expense!!

It’s time to think with our heads and not our hates. Georgia is depending on Congress to improve our economy. SB164 is at the very least, a start!

William E Board


I Think That I Shall Never See a Billboard as Lovely as a Tree

March 8, 2009

As we knew it would, the billboard industry once again is lobbying the Georgia legislature to pass a bill that will allow clear-cutting of public trees that block views of billboards on private property.  To probably no ones surprise, the Georgia Senate has given those lobbyists what they want.  Now,  it’s up to the House to again protect our public trees from the billboard company’s saws.

I have nothing against billboards,  especially if they are entertaining – almost none are – but,  I don’t think they should take precedence over the trees that beautify our highways and supply us with oxygen.   Because business lobbyists usually get what they want from the legislature,  it takes a huge public effort to counter their influence.  That’s what happened last year and now it needs to happen again.  Contact your state representative and let him or her know that you don’t want our public trees cut so that billboard company’s can make more money.

Also contact Vance Smith of Pine Mountain whether he is your district’s representative or not, because he is the chair of the House Transportation Committee that is considering the bill.  Let him know that you prefer trees over billboards, especially trees that are owned by the taxpayers of Georgia.   His email address is and his telephone number is  404.656.7153.

Trees Columbus Inc. provides these talking points.

  I urge you to vote NO on SB 164, a bill that will give billboard companies the ability to cut trees along Georgia rights of way.

  • As a taxpayer, I help provide for the roadways and the trees along rights of way. A new survey by American Viewpoint finds more than 70% of Georgia voters oppose the State of Georgia allowing billboard companies to cut down trees on public property so that motorists can see billboards located on nearby private property.
  • These trees make travel in Georgia more pleasant for Georgians and visitors alike, thus enhancing tourism and its related economic benefits. The trees that will be cut now provide cooling, create oxygen, consume carbon dioxide, protect against erosion and reduce sediment in our streams.
  • I ask that, instead of giving preference to special interests, you vote in favor of the public interest by voting NO on SB 164
Contact  members of the subcommittee at these addresses and phone numbers:

Representative Tom McCall – Chair  – 404.656.5115 –

Representative Tommy Benton – Vice Chair – 404.656.0177 –

Representative David Ralston – 404.656.0213

Representative QuincyMurphy – 404.656.0265 –

Representative Barry Loudermilk – 404.656.0152 –

Representative Mark Hamilton – 404.656.0188 –
Please forward this web address,,  to your friends so we can get as many calls and emails to our Georgia state representatives as possible.  (Not to mention how much it will help increase hits to my site!)