Bette Midler’s Trees

Posted By BrokenClaw on August 24, 2007

It was all over the Internet and television news the past few days. Bette Midler was in big trouble for cutting down over 200 trees on her property in Hawaii without the proper permit. The story was more newsworthy because Ms. Midler has been an advocate and spokesperson for environmental causes for many years now. The news about her arboreal faux pas broke earlier this week when the Board of Land and Natural Resources finally took official action, recommending a $6500 fine and a replanting program.

Most of the early news stories failed to report that the misdeed actually took place last fall. On October 17, 2006, conservation workers noticed the trees being cut down and reported it to the proper authorities. Ironically, it was only eight days after Ms. Midler made news in New York City with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and her New York Restoration Project, where she and Bloomberg planted the first ceremonial tree in the Million Trees initiative. In other words, while she was promising a million trees for NYC, she was already planning to cut trees on her Hawaiian property.

By all accounts, Ms. Midler was unaware that she needed a permit to clear the land. After her people were notified, Ms. Midler hired a botanists to survey the damage and identify the fallen trees. In retribution, earlier this year she also hired professionals from the National Tropical Botanical Garden to design a replanting program. Her lawyer said she was concerned with replacing some of the non-native trees with native Hawaiian species, and that she would not contest the fine.

The missing part of the story is that no one asked, or at least no one reported, who actually cut the trees down. I’m fairly certain that Bette wasn’t out there with a chain saw. Did she just hire some guys off the street? If she hired an actual landscaping or tree service, why didn’t they know about the permit? Why weren’t they named in the investigation? It sounds like they got off without a scratch. Hey, maybe they can use this incident to their advantage. They could use it as a slogan: “Permits? We don’ need no stinkin’ permits!”

Yes, I know that’s not how the line went in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but that’s the way that most people know it, and that’s the way they repeated it in Blazing Saddles.

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