Rare redwood faces chopping block in California 

It's a tree so rare that there are only 10 of its kind in the world, and it could be chopped down to make way for commuter trains in Northern California.

Preservationists are hoping to raise public awareness and save the albino chimero coast redwood growing in the small Sonoma County town of Cotati, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported (http://bit.ly/1hbUlO1 ).

Fewer than 10 of the genetically mutated trees still exist, researchers say.

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) officials say it's out of their hands, that federal regulators have determined the 52-foot tree must come down for safety reasons. The genetically mutated redwood is apparently too close to a proposed set of new tracks.

"It's a decision that's been made by federal regulators. It's not a discretionary matter. It's not a policy matter for the board. It's a safety matter," said Carolyn Glendening, a SMART spokeswoman.

But scientists and others are urging local politicians to consider a plan to move the rare genetic specimen to Cotati-owned land nearby.

Arborist Tom Stapleton says the tree is "irreplaceable."

Zane Moore, a researcher who specializes in albino redwoods, says the tree is a scientific treasure.

The tree is also a chimera -- or a plant with two sets of DNA -- which is only seen in a handful of naturally occurring redwoods on the planet.

"So understanding albino plants as a whole hinges on this species," Moore told the Press Democrat.

There is hope the tree will be saved.

SMART's board has begun discussions to see if it's possible to move the tree to city-owned land.

"It's still super tenuous," said Deb Fudge, a SMART board member. "But at least that gives it a shot. We haven't figured out who would pay or any of that yet."

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