NEVADA COUNTY (CBS13) — An Alta Sierra environmentalist claims a county tree-cutting program is actually causing landslides that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Virginia Moran says the day after trees she showed us in pictures were cut, that Nevada County crews were out scooping up dirt.

“It’s causing landslides,” the resident with degrees in field biology and plant ecology said. “It’s causing catastrophic soil loss.”

She showed us the remnants of a massive slide four years ago that cost the county $200,000 to clean up. She says she predicted, before it happened, that removing oak trees on the hill would cause problems.

“It’s common sense that trees, live roots in soil, are like a finger, they’re like a hand,” she said. “They hold the soil just like a hand does.”

But the Nevada County Public Works Director Steve Castleberry says the evidence doesn’t add up.

“In theory I suppose it’s possible, but that hasn’t been our experience,” he said. “We’d see it every year, because we trim about 40 miles of road a year.”

He says county geologists generally find that unique soil makes this area prone to landslides. As for the incident on Faye Road, he said they did not point to tree cutting as a factor.

Virginia, who has decades of experience herself, clearly isn’t satisfied with that explanation.

“This is not something you want to gamble on,” she said. “Regardless of my concern, does the county want to spend another quarter of a million on something like this, or do we as taxpayers?”

Public Works says the tree-cutting program is necessary for drivers’ visibility and keeps old branches from falling into the road. And until there’s proof it’s causing a problem, they have no plans to cut it short.

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