When the District government cuts down trees, there is often an outcry.

Two irate D.C. residents wrote the District Extra last week, complaining that the city is sending a mixed message about its interest in preserving trees. One was upset that trees along Eighth Street SE, from Pennsylvania Avenue to beyond the Marine barracks, were cut down in the fall as part of a major reconstruction project. The other, in a My Town column, bemoaned the city's decision in November to chop down two stately trees at the 16th Street Gateway Rotary where motorists enter town from Silver Spring.

In both cases, according to D.C. transportation officials who oversee urban forestry efforts, the city's arborist examined the trees. The two on 16th Street NW were dead or diseased and were cut down to make way for a planned memorial to World War I veterans. The trees will be replaced in consultation with a landscape artist.

More than 20 trees were chopped down and their stumps removed along Eighth Street SE after the arborist determined that they were damaged or diseased and would probably not withstand putting in new sidewalks and installing new streetlights with underground cables.

"Our arborist, who is a tree hugger, concluded that a lot of those trees wouldn't survive the construction process," said Ken Laden, the Department of Transportation's associate director for transportation and policy. About eight or nine trees in the five-block stretch were targeted for salvation. The city will try to work around them.

Construction is scheduled to run through September of this year, Laden said, and then 37 or 38 disease-resistant Chinese elms will be planted along the strip. "We're getting a whole new face-lift along Eighth Street," he said. "The bottom line is that there will be more trees and more vegetation when we're finished."

-- Karlyn Barker