There’s an old joke about a guy who brags that he’s the greatest lumberjack of all time: “Why, I was the lead 'jack in the Sahara Forest.”
His companion: “You mean the Sahara Desert.”
Lumberjack: “Yeah, now . . .”
A proud N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis may be telling that joke a lot in the near future. You’ll understand when you see the results of the pro-billboard industry law that Tillis helped ram-rod through the General Assembly last year. The specifics of the law, which is set to go into effect this spring, are being hashed out by the state Rules Review Committee. So far, according to ProgressivePulse, the committee has “approved temporary rules to allow clear-cutting of tens of thousands of trees in publicly owned roadsides in order to make billboards more visible.” Well, isn't that just great? Tens of thousands of trees - gone — just so you'll be able to fully appreciate the wonderful messages and images along the highway.
N.C. Sierra Club’s Molly Diggins said the new law, if enacted according to the rules committee’s standards, will be a disaster for western parts of the state, where old-growth forests flank many of the interstate highways. At the very least, the travel and tourism industry should be raising hell about the rules. Plus, whatever happened to the federal Highway Beautification law passed nearly 50 years ago, that was supposed to curtail the spread of roadside billboards — which, ad industry claims notwithstanding, any state would be better off without?
Here are photos the Sierra Club fished out of the state transportation department through a public records request, revealing what the new rules would mean on a stretch of highway in Hendersonville.