The Unfortunate Necessity of Large Tree Removals
This is the emotional plea expressed by many among us after we spot a dreaded white dot at the base of a large tree in our neighborhood. The white dot tells us that the beloved tree is sentenced to removal. Or even worse, when seemingly without notice, we arrive home to see one of our favorite old neighborhood trees being surgically removed by an arborist crew. We get angry, we get sad, we are furious, we want answers!
Trees evoke an emotional response. This is part of the power they hold over us. We are possessive of them. We are protective of them. When one is removed without our knowledge or understanding why, we feel betrayed. It is completely normal to feel this way, and in fact it is important that we do so. Citizens must advocate for the care and maintenance of trees, and the hallmark of an outstanding community is one that nurtures a strong and vibrant urban forest.
Part of the mission of the Lakewood Tree Advisory and Education Board is to educate residents regarding responsible tree stewardship. Understanding the unfortunate reality of why trees must be removed is a component of this. Despite the emotional attachment we have to trees, they must also be viewed from the perspective of urban infrastructure. Trees provide value not just in their beauty and ecological benefits, but also in the services they provide. Trees aid with heating and cooling and serve as windbreaks. They intercept rainfall, sequester carbon, and filter particulate matter from the atmosphere. They add value to homes and increase the attractiveness of business and commercial districts.
However, like all components of urban infrastructure, trees have a finite lifespan. Similar to a telephone pole, or asphalt road surface, objects subjected to the harsh elements of the urban environment endure constant wear and tear and eventually come to the end of their functional lifespan.
The dedicated team of Arborists that make up the Lakewood Forestry Department care dearly about trees. Their primary objective each and every day is to improve and protect our urban forest. When the decision is made to remove a tree, it is not taken lightly. In addition to protecting our trees, they are also charged with keeping us safe and protecting people and property. To do so, they must be proactive and, whenever possible, remove trees before they fail. This is why it can be so frustrating when we see a tree that was removed and think to ourselves it looked perfectly healthy. Our trained and dedicated team of arborists makes the difficult determination to remove a tree after identifying it to be at risk of failure due to wood decay fungi, root decay fungi, noticeable external decay, signs of internal decay, onset of vertical truck fracture, or poor limb attachment. Many of these conditions can be difficult to see, but can often compromise the structural integrity of what looks like an otherwise healthy tree.
It pains Lakewood’s team of Arborists as much as anybody when one of our majestic old trees reaches a point where it meets the criteria warranting removal. However, what we must all understand is that no tree lives forever, and trees in the urban environment especially live in difficult conditions that can shorten their lifespan and lead to the eventuality that one day they must be removed in the name of public safety.
Just remember, it’s okay to be mad and sad when you see a tree being removed. What would be worse is if no one cared at all when a tree was cut down. Just know that we are in good hands and that we are fortunate to have an outstanding team of arborists serving us to make these decisions in the best interests of our urban forests and the residents of Lakewood!
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