As President Obama and Congressional leaders were inside the White House today trying to agree on ways to cut the federal budget, some serious trimming was going on just outside.
A more than 50-foot-tall American elm tree that since 1982 had graced the driveway leading from the Northwest Gate to the White House was cut down. Twisted during an intense storm that blew through the area Sunday night, it was a danger to anyone passing by, said National Park Service spokesman Bill Line.
"It was not commemorative or celebratory toward any particular president at all," Line told us earlier today. It was planted there during the Reagan administration, he said, "as a normal part" of caring for the grounds.
But Line said the tree, which was probably already 10 to 15 years old when it was brought to the White House, was a beauty and likely would have lived many more years if it hadn't been so severely damaged.
Line said none of the wood will be made into gifts for foreign dignitaries, as was some from a South Lawn magnolia tree that fell in 2009.
Concerned that entrepreneurs might try to make money if pieces of the tree were to get into into private hands, the Park Service is sending the tree to a mulching machine. That mulch, "will be used in different national parks in and around the Washington, D.C., area," Line said, "and nobody will know the difference."
As for what will be done in the space where the tree had stood. "We're still deciding that," Line said.
(H/T to NPR's Ari Shapiro.)