Uprooted Old Tree Fine

This photo shows a 180-year-old oak tree being excavated from an property in Sonoma. A California judge ordered a couple to pay nearly $600,000 for uprooting the oak tree that later died.

SONOMA (AP) — A California judge ordered a couple to pay nearly $600,000 for uprooting a 180-year-old oak tree that later died and causing other damage to a protected property about an hour north of San Francisco. The damage was discovered in 2014, when a concerned neighbor reported heavy equipment and digging on a property protected under a conservation easement.

Sonoma Land Trust Stewardship Director Bob Neale went to check and found more than 3,000 cubic yards of dirt and rock had been removed and a 180-year-old oak tree had been uprooted without permits for any of the work, the Press Democrat reported Wednesday.

The heritage oak was uprooted and bound so it could be dragged to an adjoining ranch where property owners Peter and Toni Thompson had built a new home. That heritage oak and two others the landowners sought to move over a haul road they bulldozed through the previously undisturbed site all died, along with a dozen more trees and other vegetation, according to court records.

The damage prompted the Sonoma Land Trust to sue the Thompsons.

In a judgment finalized last week, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Patrick Broderick sided with the land trust, calling out the Thompsons for “knowing and intentional” violations of a legally binding conservation deal. He said the couple had “demonstrated an arrogance and complete disregard for the mandatory terms of the easement.”

Broderick ordered the couple to pay more than $586,000 in damages toward environmental restoration and other costs.

Shortly after Broderick’s ruling, the Thompsons put the protected property and a neighboring ranch on the market for $8.45 million.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.