Roadways in North Carolina could very well end up looking a lot more barren and clipped, once the effects of the pro-billboard industry law passed by the N.C. General Assembly last year go into effect this spring.
Today, the N.C. Rules Review Committee (a slightly obscure rule-approving group in the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearing) approved temporary rules to allow clear-cutting of tens of thousands of trees in publicly-owned roadsides in order to make billboards more visible, according to the N.C. Sierra Club, which has been a chief opponent of the legislation.
The changes will be particularly disastrous in Western North Carolina, where many of the interstates are flanked by old-growth forests, said Molly Diggins of the N.C. Sierra Club. The new rules also don’t require replanting of trees.
Here’ssome before and after shots that the Sierra Club obtained from the N.C. Department of Transportation through a public records request , showing what the new rules would mean on a stretch of highway in Hendersonville. (DOT will be the state agency to issue permits for the tree cutting).
The cutting could begin as early as this spring. DOT estimates that $12 million worth of trees owned by the public on publicly-owned roadsides could be chopped down, according to Diggins. And, she said, the state already spends $5 to $6 million beautifying its highways, an effort that will be drastically undercut by the new laws passed by the GOP-led state legislature last year.