Defender of Trees Fired

<p>Tom Coffin is tasked with fining those who remove Atlanta trees without a proper permit, but last week he was fired, allegedly for complaining about the “almost total lack of enforcement” by other arborists.</p>
August 10, 2008, 5am PDT | Tim Halbur
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So proud are Atlantans of their sprawling canopy of dogwoods, magnolias and pines - and, of course, peach trees - that builders must pay hundreds of dollars for every tree they uproot, even with the city's permission.

Tom Coffin was fired last week without explanation as Atlanta's senior arborist.

The penalty for violators is far heftier: One developer was recently fined $24,000 for illegal tree clearance, and Tyler Perry, the movie actor and director, was penalized $177,000 for unauthorized deforestation on his property.

But in the contest between trees and the area's rampant development, the bulldozers have often won. That may explain why many tree lovers were upset last week when Tom Coffin, 64, the city's senior arborist, was fired without explanation."

"'This is a much bigger story than Tom,' said Sheldon Schlegman, an architect and a former chairman of the city's Tree Conservation Commission. 'There's been a long-term, ongoing struggle for the city of Atlanta's trees. And developers and builders are winning.'"

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Published on Tuesday, August 5, 2008 in The New York Times
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