Chainsaw backlash


It’s difficult in our region, not to have been affected by the hurricane / tropical storm Sandy.  It’s a painful time for many, but also a time where some reflection can yield valuable lessons.

Much of the resulting damage came from trees. And sadly, a substantial amount could have been avoided. Typically, after theses events there is “chainsaw backlash” an over-reaction or unnecessary removal of perfectly good, sound trees and limbs.

We have all seen it – a neighbor takes down a beautiful tree because he or she is afraid of what might happen when a storm strikes. And with the tree go all of the benefits that trees provide: cleaner air and water, soil conservation, climate moderation, drainage collection, higher property values, shade and beauty. In regards to trees, people seem to fall in with either tree cutters or tree huggers. The sad fact is that because of this dichotomy, many perfectly good trees are removed because of fear of what might happen while others of us hang on to our trees unaware that perhaps some of these older, larger specimens may not be structurally sound. So we end up losing good, sound trees and hanging on to the rotten ones that will fail when the storm strikes.

So how do we choose wisely which trees to keep and which to remove? A lot of factors come into play when making the decision to remove or retain shade trees on your property. How old is the tree? How big is it? How much damage would it do if it came down during a storm? How much will it cost to have it removed? And how much will you miss the amenities it offers?  It’s also important to note that trees and their maintenance are the responsibility of the property owners. Property lines operate vertically too- so a tree trunk may be on your neighbors  property but the branches that hang over onto your property and are your responsibility- really! Review the subject tree with a qualified arborist and ask their “opinion to fail and maintain”.  Don’t just opt for the nearest and next “tree cutting guy” for obvious reasons.


The main factors that lead a tree or major limb to topple are wind, snow, soil conditions, leaves, care/maintenance/health, tree species and nearby activities.

Trees require pruning- this helps strengthen the good wood and reinforces the trunk while eliminating the dead or sick wood that takes away nutrition or light from the better parts. This pruning generally needs to be done in the late winter when growth is dormant. Don’t do it in the fall because decay fungi spread their spores profusely in the fall and healing of wounds is slower during the fall on cuts.

Tree roots don’t like to be disturbed-the root structure is roughly equal to the 2/3 diameter of the tree canopy (the area of the leaves) so don’t pave over them, compact them, don’t dig near them, and please fertilize occasionally. Honor the characteristics of the tree. Observe how the tree grows- big “Y” forks often need to be cabled together to stop the tree from splitting.  Remove stray sucker branches.

Get into a habit of annual review and proactive maintenance rather than “pray and react”.