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Opinion

Can you see the forest for your trees?

living in the woods Logging trucks have become a familiar sight in our neighborhood. Some days, smoke from burning branches permeates our home. I hear chainsaws as I write. This scene is threatening to our neighborhood environment.
   About six years ago, my husband and I moved to Woodinville. Our builder created a neighborhood nestled in the woods. We liked getting as close to a pristine experience as possible and still be able to commute to work.
   Our family has learned that one must quickly adjust to a different ecosystem living in the woods. Along with our neighbors, we created lawn and some flower beds and have settled in with tiny tree squirrels and coyotes and deer and dozens of species of birds.
   Hundred-foot firs still tower above us, protective at times ... threatening at others. It's advisable for people to prune and thin those few trees that are dead, if your home is directly threatened, because Mother Nature has her own technique for pruning and thinning trees: the wind kicks up and the giant towers rock back and forth; fear takes over the human heart as you listen to crackling branches or tree trunks.
   During winter storms, a few of our neighbors evacuate with their children and spend the night elsewhere. We sleep in our living room, hoping the beams will protect us overhead. It's pretty scary.
   This winter was a tough one. We survived a number of wind, ice, and snow storms and flood damage. Some of our neighbors have decided to take control beyond reasonable pruning and thinning; they are clearcutting large proportions of their properties to eradicate the threat. It's swift and lucrative.
   There's a problem, though. As they remove their trees, ours become more vulnerable. Our families are at higher risk because our trees are more exposed to the down drafts and wind currents that will whip through our yards; we are losing the thick towering barriers that protect individual trees within the ecosystem. The hillsides may erode, even though the re-landscapes are pretty, and small seedlings are planted. We, too, have felt the fear: should all of us clearcut our trees and plant seedlings?
   I guess I'm extremely sensitive right now. Downtown Woodinville is also under siege. Loggers are in our neighborhoods; developers and contractors are in our town. I feel strongly that I'd rather Woodinville remain charming and friendly. We have all the malls and warehouse stores we could ever dream of within 20 or 30 minutes. Take a short drive or move closer if you want to hook up with urbanity; we're surrounded by it: Redmond, Issaquah, Kirkland, Bellevue.
   My husband and I choose to live in the woods because we like to see the forest for the trees. Little can compare with the beauty of the moon rising above cedars silhouetted against the horizon of a hill or the sound of a breeze whispering through the fir trees. It's quiet here. We can take a walk in the evening and feel safe; there are comforting sounds ... not freeway din or inner city sirens.
   But it does take a certain type of individual, I guess, to be crazy enough to tolerate moments of fear--real terror--during a wind storm, just to be able to enjoy the moments of natural beauty and peace.
   Residential wooded areas are dwindling. There's always someone who will appreciate living in this ecosystem. I hope some of this beauty will remain as a legacy to our children and grandchildren.
   After all, if we all clearcut and plant seedlings and tear down local businesses and plant cement, during the whole next generation and beyond, the character and beauty of our community identity will fall like our towering giants, and we'll have to change our name from Woodinville to Plainsville.

Ellen Williams, Woodinville