That’s a lot of green.
A California couple was ordered to pay nearly $600,000 for uprooting — and killing — a 180-year-old oak tree that sat on protected property during construction of their multi-million dollar ranch.
Peter and Toni Thompson had the sprawling heritage oak tree uprooted and bound so it could be relocated to an adjacent plot where their new home was being built in Sonoma County.
The damage was discovered in 2014 when a concerned neighbor reported heavy equipment and digging on the property that was protected under a conservation easement, the Press Democrat reported.
Sonoma Land Trust Stewardship Director Bob Neale was floored when he found the 34-acre plot of land bulldozed, trenched and reduced to bedrock.
“I was not prepared,” he said. “It was really the most willful, egregious violation of a conservation easement I’ve ever seen.”
Another two oaks and a dozen trees and vegetation also died, the Press Democrat said, citing to court records.
Sonoma Land Trust, a nonprofit, sued over the damage, which included the removal of more than 3,000 cubic yards of dirt and rock — all done without permits, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Patrick Broderick ruled.
Broderick slammed the Thompsons for showing a “persistent failure to tell the truth” and “an arrogance and complete disregard for the mandatory terms of the easement.”
Construction crews working for the Thompsons also dredged a lake on their adjacent 47-acre property — known as Henstooth Ranch — and dumped the soil onto the protected plot.
In a judgement last week, Broderick ordered the couple to pay more than $586,000 in damages toward environmental restoration and other costs.