Tree Preservation and Maintenance Policy


I. Preamble

As the leading center for higher learning in south Georgia, Valdosta State University recognizes its obligation to preserve and manage an abundance and diversity of trees on campus for the benefit of the public and future generations of students. By its example of environmental stewardship, the University will take the lead in promoting and developing a sound preservation ethic for the region’s natural heritage. Included among the many benefits of preserving trees on campus and promoting additional plantings are: (1) improved air quality; (2) noise abatement and temperature amelioration; (3) mitigating the natural processes of water runoff, erosion, and sedimentation; (4) shading and consequently energy savings; (5) education; (6) aesthetics; (7) historical significance, and (8) intrinsic value.

II. Scope

All trees on campus, particularly species native to south-central Georgia, are to be preserved and managed in such a way as to minimize damage and prolong their life. Especially important are stands of mature native trees and native species no longer abundant on campus or in the area. Existing trees should not be removed for merely aesthetic, design, or landscaping reasons. Long-term plans should promote new plantings that will increase the diversity of native species, contain more canopy species, and enhance fall color.

III. Special Management Zones

Special zones on campus established to protect and manage critical, or sensitive, areas of mature trees include the following: 1) the entire stand of mostly mature longleaf pine, between Patterson and Oak streets, stretching southward onto the main campus. This stand, in particular, which pre-dates the settlement of Valdosta and contributes substantially to the unique character of the VSU campus, is especially vulnerable to slight changes in environmental conditions; 2) stands of mature native trees along One-mile Branch, especially near Patterson St.; 3) the mature mixed woodland at north campus bisected by Two-mile Branch; and 4) the dense woodland/swamp west of Sustella Ave. parking lot. Practices to be avoided in these zones include (a) trenching, filling, or other soil disturbances, including unabated erosion; (b) repetitious driving or operation of heavy equipment over the ground; (c) parking of vehicles or heavy equipment or storage of materials; and (d) paving or introduction of impermeable surfaces on the ground. These and other activities resulting in soil compaction, root damage, and depletion of air and water supply to the roots should be avoided. Also, it must be recognized that thinning of groves, especially pines, increases susceptibility of remaining trees to storm damage.

IV. Preventive Maintenance and Care of Existing Trees

Prevention of tree damage or disease must be an ongoing commitment, particularly of older, still-healthy trees. Such prevention may necessitate pesticide treatment and reconstruction and rerouting of pavement or other physical structures so as to enhance and prolong a tree’s vigor and reduce susceptibility to disease and weather damage. When renovation or construction occurs on campus, the driplines of nearby trees should be cordoned and contractors forbidden to store equipment and building supplies within the cordoned area. The cordoned area should be demarcated by a 4-foot high fence completely surrounding the tree or group of trees and at least ten feet outside the trunk of each tree or the outer perimeter of trunks of the group of trees. Specific language to this effect should be written into every private construction contract on the VSU campus, as should penalties for violating these provisions and required remedial actions to mitigate any losses of trees not approved for removal (see Section VII).

V. Campus Planning to Minimize Tree Loss

As the campus continues to undergo development, special consideration must be given to the design and placement of new buildings to minimize the loss of trees. Landscape aesthetics or design preference should not take precedence over tree preservation. The time to look at existing trees is before siting decisions are made, i.e., during or before the Pre-Design Phase of new projects. Also, landscaping associated with new buildings should be designed to replace as closely as possible the number and the species that were lost to construction so that no net loss of trees occurs. This policy affirms the preservation aspects of the 1999 VSU Master Plan, in which the special management zones herein established in Section III have been identified as Permanent Open Space/Trees and further requires that any new properties added to the campus undergo the same tree-loss minimization planning with regard to new construction.

VI. Prior Consultation Requirement

This policy mandates that the Campus Beautification and Stewardship Subcommittee (CBS) of the Environmental Issues Committee be invited to and involved in all Pre-Design Phase and Design-Phase meetings--involving the VSU Administration, campus planners, state officials, and private contractors—during which any decisions can and will be made affecting the fate of campus trees. This policy also designates CBS as the consultative body to be integrally involved in environmental, historical, and cultural impacts reviews of proposed campus projects as mandated by the Georgia Environmental Policy Act of 1991 (Georgia Code Title 12, Chapter 16).

Whether due to major or minor construction or renovation, or any other causes, before any individual trees are removed or any plans are finalized for tree removals or for construction or other activities that may result in tree removal or could potentially damage trees, VSU Plant Operations officials and/or the appropriate representative of the VSU administration must seek the consultation and recommendations of the Campus Beautification and Stewardship Subcommittee of the Environmental Issues Committee, except in emergency situations, where imminent damage to property or individuals is involved. In the latter event, the subcommittee is to be immediately notified by e-mail of the action to be taken. Reasons to be considered as valid for proposed tree removals will generally include only the following: (1) prevention of the impending spread of disease by the affected tree; (2) likelihood of imminent damage to property; (3) existence of a threatening safety hazard to individuals; and (4) any unavoidable constraints of construction or renovation that remain after completion of the planning and consultation requirements as specified in Sections V and VI.

VII. Monitoring and Enforcement

The VSU Administration shall ensure that any trees scheduled to be removed after consultation as specified in Section VI be clearly marked a suitable period of time before their scheduled removal and the Campus Beautification and Stewardship Subcommittee be notified and given the opportunity to inspect the marked trees before removal. For any construction projects, the VSU Administration shall periodically throughout the duration of the construction make arrangements for the Campus Beautification and Stewardship Subcommittee to inspect the site and ensure that the protection provisions specified in Section IV are being observed. If they are not being observed, the VSU Administration shall immediately report the failure to the contractor and Georgia State Finance and Investment Commission official. Failure to remedy the problem within one business day will constitute a violation of the contract provisions and trigger assessment of a penalty. Destruction or life-threatening damage to any tree not previously identified for removal in accordance with Section VI will be subject to damages to be paid by the contractor, not out of state funds, into a tree-bank fund to be administered by the Campus Beautification and Stewardship Subcommittee for replanting efforts on campus. We urge the Board of Regents to determine the dollar amount of damages to be paid by the contractor at the completion of the project, in consultation with a recognized University System of Georgia authority on urban forestry, on a per-tree basis, being equal to the aesthetic, scientific, ecosystem-services or commercial value of the tree(s), whichever is highest. We urge the Board of Regents to ensure that all contractors for work on the VSU campus abide by this Tree Preservation and Maintenance Policy of Valdosta State University. Willful and/or repeat violations of this policy by any VSU employee will constitute cause for disciplinary action, possibly including suspension or termination, as specified in Section 806 of the VSU Personnel Policies Manual.

Amended and Passed by VSC Faculty Senate: May 27, 1993
Adopted as VSU Policy July 27, 1993, according to VSU Statutes, Chapter 4, Article I, Section 3.
Revised and Amended by Environmental Issues Committee: 9 May, 31 May, and 2 Nov. 2000
Amended and Passed by VSU Faculty Senate February 15, 2001
Adopted as VSU Policy April 16, 2001, according to VSU Statutes, Chapter 4, Article I, Section 3.