Big-Money Billboard Industry Seeks to Cut Down More Trees

Billboard Industry Wants Fewer Trees, More Ads to Uglify NC Roads

The billboard industry is asking again for the right to strip more trees from North Carolina roadsides, so that their massive advertising structures have nothing between them and distracting the attention of drivers. 

In response, Republican members of the NC Senate’s Transportation Committee last week “voted to advance some of the industry’s requests over objections from Democratic lawmakers, environmentalists, and the state tourism industry.” 

Effects of Billboard Bill

The resulting legislation is similar to a bill vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper in 2019. Republican allies of the billboard industry are working to pass the new bill this year when they can use their current legislative supermajority to override an expected Cooper veto. That bill as approved by the Senate Transportation Committee would do the following:

  • Remove the protections for redbud trees from existing law.
  • Increase the total area billboard companies can clear along major roads, from 350 to 500 feet.
  • Increase the area they can clear without a permit by 50%, from 200 to 300 feet.
  • Make it harder for the Department of Transportation to deny billboard relocations.

Opponents say the proposed changes go too far. “Billboards are visible under current law,” argued Dale McKeel of Scenic North Carolina. “This bill allows trees to be cut that aren’t even blocking the sign.” 

“Billboards distract drivers,” said Molly Diggins, former director of the North Carolina Sierra Club. “That’s the safety issue.” Diggins added, “We could lose hundreds if not thousands of trees. These are the public’s trees. What will the public benefit?”

The answer to Diggins’ question is this: There is no benefit to the public. But the billboard industry will be able to jack up their rates for advertising. That seems to hold the attention of pro-polluter lawmakers even more than the billboards themselves.

Take Action: Reach Out to Your Legislators

Take action today! Tell your legislator to oppose HB 198 and protect North Carolina’s trees.

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