Judge says historic tree in South Boston will not be cut down

It lives.

A 150-year-old elm tree in South Boston that the city wanted to remove for safety reasons will escape the axe, thanks to a superior court judge, said a lawyer for one of the neighbors who waged a dogged campaign to save the tree.

Suffolk Judge Elizabeth Fahey has blocked the city from uprooting the venerable English elm, according to Joseph A. Gregory, a lawyer now working pro bono for the pro-tree camp.

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“Permanent injunction,” Gregory said. “They’re not allowed to touch that tree or remove it in any way.”

The city’s Law Department is reviewing its options and considering an appeal, an official said.

The development caps a legal battle that raged for months, with neighbors taking the city to court to protect the Civil War-era tree, which leans toward Thomas Park.

The Hub tree warden, Greg Mosman, said the elm needed to be removed because it is dying and poses a high risk to property and power lines. At a meeting in May, he said the tree had large wounds at its base, a lengthy column of decay, and an unhealthy root system.

Undeterred, neighbors hired their own arborist who found instead that the lean of the elm was modest and posed no great risk.

Gregory and neighbors have said the dispute speaks to a broader issue of government efforts to remove trees deemed unhealthy without consulting the public.

“Our greenery, our parks,” he said Friday. “This is big business.”