Opponents of PG&E tree clearing fight back with lawyer, meeting

Landowners concerned about PG&E's controversial new vegetation maintenance program that has targeted thousands of trees along a 39-mile corridor through Sonoma County have hired a lawyer to combat the plan.

Members of Save Our Sonoma Trees say that PG&E has not provided clear criteria for what trees among the tens of thousands tagged by PG&E crews will be cut down, trimmed or left alone.

PG&E says that its new policy was implemented in response to federal regulations that have increased penalties for outages and other incidents.

But homeowners contend the company's pruning program has worked well for decades.

"They are now talking about a very large-scale change in policy," said Tom Birdsall, a member of the group who owns 41 acres on Sonoma Mountain Road. "There is a very high likliehood that it should be subject to an environmental impact review."

Birdsall said he was told by a PG&E vegetation manager that up to 4,000 trees could be targeted for clear cut before June 15.

But PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Ehlers said there is not a firm tally on how many trees the company wants gone over the course of a month.

"We don't have an accurate count," she said.

The company already has delayed its deadline for completion of the work from May 15 to June 15, she said.

"We would really like to continue to work with SOS Trees and make sure they can understand this work that we are trying to do," she said.

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