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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane landowner finds way to cut through red tape and save trees from county tree crews

UPDATED: Sat., Feb. 17, 2018

Carrol McInroe is an environmentalist with a few dozen acres of land on Burnett Road in Mead. Last week, he successfully petitioned the Spokane County government to save a cropping of trees between his land and a road, something he hoped would give deer and elk  more cover from hunters. Here is one tree McInroe had agreed to be removed, but after some thought, he said he has changed his mind. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Carrol McInroe is an environmentalist with a few dozen acres of land on Burnett Road in Mead. Last week, he successfully petitioned the Spokane County government to save a cropping of trees between his land and a road, something he hoped would give deer and elk more cover from hunters. Here is one tree McInroe had agreed to be removed, but after some thought, he said he has changed his mind. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Carrol McInroe is a living contradiction.

A liberal from rural Texas. An environmentalist who hunts. An Army veteran who wears his stripes proudly on his hat, but hates war.

He’s a man who not only prides himself on shattering stereotypes, but leveraging his politics and knack for nature-saving for the good of the environment. Those skills were put to test last week, when he cordially fought a road crew from Spokane County tasked with removing a row of trees next to a small ditch near his property in Mead.

McInroe, an avid lover of all organic material, trees and animals included, wanted to save them – even if they weren’t technically on his property.

“I don’t want these trees cut,” he said with a thick Texas accent. “Plain and simple.”

The pines were part of a planned county project to widen a dead-end rural road. Officially called East Burnett Road, it has more in common with a forest trail. The crews showed up on Feb. 7, and for several hours worked their way closer to his property line, cutting and shredding saplings and the occasional towering pine.

He was able to stall them for a few days – the foreman, he said, was “one of the nicest young men” he’d ever met. Against the odds, he even secured a meeting with the crew’s supervisors to discuss the project.

The problem boiled down to this: McInroe didn’t own the property where the trees were being removed, but cutting them down would alter his 20 acres in one way or another. The 68-year-old, who’s lived on the property for more than 20 years, has been cultivating and protecting the row of trees as they provide ample cover on his property for wildlife.

McInroe said hunters would often take moonlight trips down the remote neighborhood road and shoot deer and elk from comfort of their driver’s seat. Those trees were the only barrier between animals shot on his property and a thriving elk population.

“They’re pretty,” he said of his leafy neighbors as a deer darted past. “I like trees. I think we cut enough trees down arbitrarily that don’t need to be cut.”

Last Friday, he had his meeting. And to his delight, the county agreed: the trees can stay. Well, mostly.

In exchange for saving most of the foliage from cutting, Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, the county’s public works and outreach manager, said the crews instead cherry-picked trees that were direct threats from tipping over onto the road.

McInroe, delighted, said those that were saved were the exact ones needed to ensure the safety of the herd. The group nearest his driveway, however, would have to be cut.

“They were super nice guys,” he said of the county road crew. “They went all up and down the lane with me and we discussed it all. They agreed to leave nearly all of my trees.”

With the stress of those trees out of the way, McInroe, a retired Army psychologist, can now focus on more pressing matters.

And yet there’s still one big tree set for cutting that he now wants to keep.

“They have a big one marked for death,” he said undeterred. “And I’m gonna call them back on that one. I agreed to it while I was there, but I think I want to keep it.”

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