Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to re­move hun­dreds of trees along the Po­tomac will harm the re­gion.

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - HEDRICK BELIN The writer is pres­i­dent of the Po­tomac Con­ser­vancy.

While Don­ald Trump’s decla­ma­tions on immigration have caused na­tional out­rage, his re­cent re­marks at Loudoun County’s Trump Na­tional Golf Club re­veal a sub-par en­vi­ron­men­tal strat­egy. In an ef­fort to cre­ate a world-class coun­try club, the pres­i­den­tial hope­ful or­dered his “artists with bull­doz­ers” to cut down more than 460 trees along the shores of the Po­tomac. He didn’t buy the prop­erty, said Trump, to have a “lit­tle glimpse” of the river.

Trump’s “un­ob­structed views” come at a high cost, and this time, lo­cal res­i­dents will pay the price. The pro­tec­tive trees and shrubs that line our lo­cal river and streams form an un­par­al­leled nat­u­ral fil­tra­tion sys­tem. In ad­di­tion to sta­bi­liz­ing the shore­line with its deep root sys­tems, the green fil­ter strip run­ning along the Po­tomac sub­stan­tially re­duces top­soil ero­sion and helps to pre­vent chem­i­cal pol­lu­tion and farm run-off from flow­ing into the river be­low.

The will­ful de­struc­tion of more than a mile and a half of ma­ture trees will worsen wa­ter qual­ity for thou­sands of out­door en­thu­si­asts who fish, pad­dle, run and bike along the Po­tomac. More sig­nif­i­cantly, how­ever, these ac­tions will have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the nearly 5 mil­lion peo­ple — more than 85 per­cent of area res­i­dents — whose drink­ing wa­ter comes from the Po­tomac.

It might be too late to save Trump’s trees, but a com­bi­na­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tally sound and busi­ness-smart strate­gies can help en­sure that this clear-cut­ting de­ba­cle doesn’t hap­pen again.

Na­tional and lo­cal pol­i­cy­mak­ers, busi­ness lead­ers and en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions can con­tinue to work to­gether to ex­pand in­no­va­tive green de­vel­op­ment prac­tices. In re­cent years, tra­di­tional bat­tles be­tween “tree-hug­ging” en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and ruth­less de­vel­op­ers have given way to col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts such as green land­scap­ing, low-im­pact de­sign and river-friendly growth that im­prove en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic out­comes. Still in the plan­ning stages, the 11th Street Bridge will cre­ate a green civic space that will also help drive eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment along the Ana­cos­tia River. On the K Street cor­ri­dor, new build­ings such as Ar­ent Fox’s of­fice show­case build­ing prac­tices de­signed to cap­ture pol­luted run-off.

Re­gional elected of­fi­cials and agency lead­ers must step up ef­forts to strengthen lo­cal codes and or­di­nances to pre­serve trees and limit the vol­ume of pol­luted run-off in our drink­ing wa­ter source. Ad­di­tional fund­ing is needed to retro­fit city and residential streets to cap­ture con­tam­i­nated rain­wa­ter be­fore it flows into our neigh­bor­hood streams.

Sup­port of such mea­sures is en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and smart pol­i­tics. In a re­cent Fred­er­ick County poll con­ducted by the Po­tomac Con­ser­vancy, nearly 8 in 10 vot­ers sup­ported restor­ing re­cently re­pealed reg­u­la­tions that pro­tected lo­cal wa­ter­ways from ir­re­spon­si­ble con­struc­tion and de­vel­op­ment. In 2013, the Mont­gomery County Coun­cil voted to re­strict the un­nec­es­sary re­moval of trees in residential build­ing projects. Sim­i­lar pro­tec­tions ex­ist in Ar­ling­ton and Alexandria.

Great lead­er­ship re­quires wise de­ci­sion-mak­ing. Trump missed out on an op­por­tu­nity to build a world-class golf course, pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment and be a good neigh­bor and re­spon­si­ble mem­ber of our com­mu­nity.

He could have worked col­lab­o­ra­tively with lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­mu­nity lead­ers to pro­tect some of the ex­ist­ing for­est, strate­gi­cally plant new sycamores and other ero­sion-re­sis­tant trees and cre­ate a golf course that would have won de­sign awards for its in­no­va­tive land­scap­ing.

He could have mod­eled the welcome and grow­ing trend in this area of prop­erty own­ers, de­vel­op­ers and busi­ness lead­ers who adopt smart plan­ning so­lu­tions that em­brace eco­nomic growth and pro­tect our nat­u­ral re­sources.

But he didn’t. And for mil­lions of lo­cal res­i­dents, that might be the clear­est, most mem­o­rable view of all.


A view of the shore­line at Trump Na­tional Golf Club in Po­tomac Falls in 2010.

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