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2005-09-21
Nebraska City, NB. Wal-Martís Arbor Day Award Hits Buzz Saw

Wal-Mart issued a two page press release yesterday announcing that the company "took home the coveted Award of Excellence for the National Arbor Day Building With Trees Program" at a national conference in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Giving Wal-Mart, which has created more impervious surface than any other retailer in the history of earth, an environmental award, is like to giving Coca Cola the Nutritional Award of Excellence. Wal-Mart received this spurious award for relocating 4.7 acres of wetlands in Olsdmar, Florida. The National Arbor Day Foundation said that Wal-Mart was "committed to saving trees during construction." Wal-Mart claimed that in building its store in Oldsmar, that "we took a stand to do the right thing, and transplanted more than 1,400 trees." The company claimed to move Bald Cypress, Black Gum, and other species, some up to 40 and 80 feet tall. "We moved an entire ecosystem," the company bragged. The fact that the store shouldn't have been built in the first place, and the ecosystem left intact, failed to draw the interest of the Arbor Foundation. Environmentalist Sydney T. Bacchus, Ph.D., who lives in Florida, and has studied these ecosystems extensively, fired off a letter to the Foundation which concluded, "there may be a "nonresidential" developer whose activities have resulted in the direct and indirect destruction of more trees in Florida than Wal-Mart. If the mining industry is excluded, however, I cannot think of a single nonresidential developer that could match the level
of Wal-Mart's destruction of native trees in Florida...I am confident that the egregious error of selecting the Oldsmar, Florida Wal-Mart site will be corrected before the awards are presented on September 19, 2005." Bacchus said she assumed the award was a "spoof," and said she was in a "state of shock" after learning of the award. "Are these awards supposed to be serious, or is this humor?" Bacchus wrote."The referenced wetland ecosystem was a mature pond-cypress (Taxodium ascendens) wetland... In reality, the "Cutting edge techniques" that were used by Wal-Mart involved: 1) severing the network of interconnecting roots and "knees" essential for stabilizing these reportedly 90-foot tall trees in saturated/inundated conditions; 2) transplanting those trees - habitat for a federally-listed species - to the excavated stormwater pit in the rear of their store; 3) subjecting the transplanted trees to the un-natural hydroperiod regime created by flushes of stormwater runoff containing all of the pollutants from the vast Wal-Mart parking facility and single-story box store; and 4) subjecting all of the animal species attempting to use this artificial wetland to those harmful urban contaminants." Bacchus said Wal-Mart should have built "a multi-story Wal-Mart Supercenter... at the site of one of the numerous shopping centers abandoned by Wal-Mart and other merchants. That approach would have spared the natural wetland ecosystem that was paved-over for the new Wal-Mart AND would have reduced the amount of impervious surface that generates contaminated stormwater runoff and prevents natural aquifer recharge." Bacchus added, "all of the locations for new Wal-Mart stores I am familiar with in Florida (since approximately the early 1980s) involved densely forested sites. The majority of those sites also included pristine forested stands and natural wetlands... their target sites often are located in rural areas, where the residents have virtually no money or other tools to defend their natural resources - including trees - against Wal-Mart "super" box stores." Bacchus filed a report on the Oldsmar site, and took pictures of "the toppled cypress trees, despite attempts to hold them upright using heavy cables." Her photographs also show that the "cypress trees still standing are in a state of severe decline. Even the most hardy tree species "planted" in Wal-Mart's artificial wetland (stormwater pit) -red maple and black gum - are struggling to survive." In short,Wal-Mart altered an entire ecosystem for no good reason, and then transplanted it to another location, where it is struggling to survive.

What you can do: Bacchus notes that Wal-Mart has a "history of removing trees literally in front of houses and replacing former forested areas with concrete, asphalt and stormwater pits" She says the conversion of unpaved land into vast new areas of impervious (non-porous) paved parking lots and single-story "super" box stores... "prevents essential natural recharge of the aquifer system, and reduced natural recharge results in the alteration of the natural hydroperiod in surrounding areas, and is instrumental in the premature decline and death of existing trees not located directly under the surface footprint of their sites." She also faults Wal-Mart for selling Cyprus bark, which is encouraging the destruction of these trees. Dr. Bacchus is right: this Arbor Day Award is a spoof. It is a joke on the American public, who watches the trees disappearing from their neighborhood as Wal-Mart destroys site after site of forested land to make way for another dead piece of architecture. For information on Sydney Bacchus, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
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