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The Billboard Industry's War on Trees

Across the country, the billboard industry is fighting to prohibit tree planting on public spaces that might block their billboards.
September 15, 2008, 8am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"There is a strip of US 192 in Osceola, Florida, that people used to consider 'Tacky Town,' a drab stretch of road that was filled with junky tourist amusements and strip malls – a place with ditches lining the side of the road and no sidewalks. In the 1980s, as National Public Radio reported in a wonderful segment yesterday, the community decided to tax itself – to the tune of $29 million – to make the roadway safer and more attractive. It put in ten-foot sidewalks, bus shelters, and hundreds of trees and shrubs.

But the community's effort to reclaim its space and make it beautiful didn't count on one thing – the billboard industry. Clear Channel Outdoor, a major national purveyor of billboard space, complained that the trees planted on the public right-of-way were blocking the view of its billboards. Craig Swygert, the head of the Orlando division of the company, argued that the government was unfairly diminishing the value of Clear Channel's investments in billboards, and so the tree needed to come down. 'The billboards were there first ,' he told NPR."

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Published on Tuesday, September 9, 2008 in On The Commons
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