By Nora Hillery Skyline High school Correspondent
ALPINE- After public outcry, Sul Ross State University President Pete Gallego has temporarily halted an initiative to cull trees on the campus while a certified arborist reviews the controversial plan.
“In politics, academics, and in everyday life, reasonable people can disagree,” Gallego said in a prepared statement, first reported by the Skyline.
The project, which Gallego said was authorized well before his tenure at Sul Ross began this year, was roundly criticized by Alpine residents almost as soon as the first tree fell.
Blue Water Natural Foods Company launched a public thread on its Facebook Page related to the initiative on which more than 20 respondents – alumni, residents and tourists – sharply criticized the removal of trees from campus.
Typical of the commentary, Kyrsta Johns said, “there’s nothing they can plant to replace these trees. What morons would think that cutting down healthy trees IN THE DESERT is remotely beneficial?!”
Another, Ginger Moore, referenced Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi,” saying “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Shawn Urban posted, “[Sul Ross] will look like a prison without trees.”
Taking full account of the community outcry, Gallego, an Alpine resident and Sul Ross Alumni, said he halted the tree culling so the program can undergo “a thorough review by a certified arborist.”
“It is not University policy to act without valid public policy reasons,” the president said in his statement.
Nevertheless, Gallego defended the initial decision, which he said was “approved for our campus with input from faculty and staff several years ago,” to move forward with the project this year as “necessary … to keep the rest of the trees and landscaping around campus healthy.” The plan, which will add 210 trees from 15 indigenous species, was intended to reduce water consumption.
Gallego’s decision to pause the project for further study was a reversal from just a few days ago, when he said in a prepared statement that he was “comfortable” with the “expert” advice the university had received to begin cutting down the trees.