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BLACKSBURG, VA – August 13, 2012 – Virginia Tech officials escalated the Stadium Woods conflict when they felled one of the giant trees, number 131, on Aug. 9, further uniting environmental groups and thousands of people in the New River Valley and beyond who have opposed the destruction of the rare white oak old growth forest.
“A lack of rational decision making by Virginia Tech officials led to the felling of this 85-foot tree 4-feet in diameter, which might have been as old as 400 years,” said Alumni Distinguished Forestry Professor John Seiler. “I and others have been immeasurably saddened by this action that was taken on spurious public safety grounds and has little rational basis. The tree was sound enough to survive the high winds of this summer’s derecho in winds of 80 to 90 mph.”
He added, “The tree, now felled, was alive during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It also weathered the devastating ice storms of 1994 and likely lived with the present stem condition for 50 to 100 years. Any safety concerns could have easily been abated by the erection of a fence and warning signs.”
Virginia Tech President Charles Steger has not made any announcement stating if the University will preserve the old growth Stadium Woods, as the appointed review committee recommended in May 2012, or allow its destruction by building the proposed indoor athletic facility. The VT Arboretum Committee recommended fencing off the area around tree 131 until a decision about the practice facility is announced.
“Virginia Tech officials seem intent on erecting the proposed indoor practice facility for the football team no matter the environmental cost,” said Rebekah Paulson, executive director of the Friends of Stadium Woods. Additionally, she noted that “ignoring all requests to delay the removal of tree number 131, one of the largest trees in Stadium Woods, is another indication of the administrations lack of respect for the old growth trees and the integrity of the woods.”
After the tree’s felling, the Environmental Coalition – a student-led organization, and the Friends of Stadium Woods held a candlelight vigil at the scene.
Environmental Coalition President Erica Largen, a Virginia Tech student, said, “We are here to make sure all Hokie legacies are protected and will be shared with future students. Stadium Woods with their majestic trees and countless ecological benefits must be passed on to future generations.”
Virginia Tech students, faculty and the public are now more passionate and determined to protect the remaining old growth ancient trees and the entire forest ecosystem.
For details on the events leading up to the tree’s felling, see http://www.savestadiumwoods.com/ The website also provides steps for those wishing to take action in support of preserving Stadium Woods.
For a video created by Virginia Tech students about Stadium Woods, see http://youtu.be/ePGWN4vglyw. (The video has been viewed by more than 40,000 people.)