Department of Forestry: Many storm-damaged trees worth saving
The recent storm events taking place in the interior western valley counties between Marion and Lane County included rain, snow and ice, and took a heavy toll on many trees in Oregon landscapes. Nonetheless, arborists usually advise homeowners and community leaders to exercise caution when dealing with a storm's aftermath.
That's because there are two very common mistakes people make when trying to clean up after a storm. The first is trying to save trees that have sustained too much damage, and are likely to become hazardous; the second is using harmful pruning techniques on a tree that perhaps only needs a light pruning.
"People naturally become anxious to have their trees examined so they can prune or take other actions," observes Paul Ries, an urban forester with the Oregon Department of Forestry. "However, it's often the case that more trees become damaged as a result of improper post-storm activities, than were damaged directly by a storm."
Incorrectly pruning a tree can weaken it, setting it up to become hazardous. Topping - the practice of removing large branches and tops of trees - creates trees that are likely to be hazardous in the future. That's because a topped tree is much more likely to break or uproot in a storm than a tree with normal branch structure.
The opposite problem --- trying to prune trees that have already lost too much of their crowns --- is another common post-storm mistake.
Mother nature - a random act...or a hidden cause?
Remember the old saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"?
While some tree failures are unpredictable, many can be predicted and prevented.
Cut roots, cavities and decay pockets, recent construction, and trees that have been topped in the past are just a few of the signs that can point toward an unhealthy or hazardous tree - good candidates for breakage or failure when heavy snows hit.
What to do after the storm
Doing the right things after trees have been damaged can make the difference between giving trees a good chance of survival, or losing them unnecessarily. Properly selecting a qualified arborist is key. "Homeowners should use caution when selecting a tree service company," said Ries, who manages the state's urban and community forestry program. Ries recommends using an arborist whose name and company are familiar to your community - even if that means waiting longer for service.
Says Ries, "be careful not to overreact or you may end up removing valuable shade trees that are still sound, and take years to replace."
Here are some tips to help you locate a tree service company with experience assessing storm-damaged trees:
* Hire a company that is bonded and insured. Although Oregon requires tree service companies to register with the Construction Contractors Board, they are not required to adhere to proper pruning standards or even demonstrate pruning knowledge in order to obtain a license.
* Beware of people or companies that show up at your door; their low prices may ultimately cost you more money in the long run.
* Most reputable companies have business cards, truck signs, and even uniforms that represent a professional level of service. Ask for references, and take your time to select a reputable company.
* Remember, the fact that someone has a business license doesn't guarantee they have the tree knowledge necessary to do the job right.
* Hire a certified arborist.
If you're in doubt about credentials, the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (PNW-ISA) maintains a list of certified arborists for hire on their website: pnwisa.org
"Arborists are often in great demand for several weeks following a storm," adds Ries, "so if your tree isn't an immediate and visible hazard, it may be worth waiting a while."
For more information about trees and tree care:
Can these trees be saved?
Tree first aid after a storm www.oregon.gov/ODF/URBAN_FORESTS/docs/Other_Publications/TreeFirstAid.pdf
Hazard tree prevention webpage