Why is the City Cutting Down Green Trees?

Admit it. You probably didn’t even know the city had a Forestry Department, much less the important role it plays in maintaining the quality of your city parks. Despite our perceived anonymity, we’ve noticed an uptick in the number phone calls we’ve received — and they all seem to be asking the same question:

“Why the heck are you cutting down perfectly good, green trees?”

Well, it’s partly true, but there’s more to the story. When it comes to trees, green doesn’t always mean “perfectly good” since many defects can’t be seen by the naked eye. The last thing the forestry crew wants to do is randomly remove good, healthy trees, which obviously provide many positive benefits.  Besides, cutting down a tree and cleaning up the mess takes a lot of hard work.

We consider many factors before we decide to remove a tree, but our top priority is public safety. Falling trees can cause serious injuries and even be deadly. Under the Arborist Code of Ethics, we have to “…protect clients, employers, employees and the public from conditions where injury and/or harm are reasonably foreseeable …”  As professional tree people, we follow extensive guidelines and checklists, as well as good old intuition, to maintain our trees and keep them from becoming hazardous. While a tree may have green leaves and appear to be healthy, its bark and the soil underneath it often tell a completely different story. Our job is to prevent problems by detecting and removing these dangerous trees.

Here is a general tree hazard checklist from the International Society of Arboriculture:

  • Does the tree have any large, dead branches?
  • Does the tree have any detached branches?
  • Does the tree have cavities or rotten wood along the trunk or in major branches?
  • Does the base of the tree have mushrooms present?
  • Are there cracks or splits in the trunk or where branches are attached?
  • Have any branches fallen from the tree?
  • Have nearby trees fallen over or died?
  • Do many of the branches grow from one point on the trunk?
  • Have any of the roots been broken off, injured or damaged by lowering the soil level, installing pavement, repairing sidewalks, or digging trenches?
  • Has the site recently been changed by construction, raising the soil level or installing lawns?
  • Have the leaves prematurely developed an unusual color or size?
  • Have trees in adjacent areas been removed?
  • Has the tree been topped or otherwise heavily pruned?

Whether a tree lives or dies is the result of many factors. The basic elements for a healthy tree are sufficient water, ideal temperatures and light, and proper nutritional balances. If environmental stresses such as flooding, droughts, or extreme temperatures occur suddenly, the damage will be immediate. Other stresses include improper pruning practices, over-application of fertilizers, damage from lawnmowers and trimmers and soil compaction from traffic. Once the tree is stressed, insects and disease organisms attack and cause even more havoc.

If you see any trees in our city parks that may need attention, please contact the College Station Parks and Recreation Department at 979.764.3486.

Bob Cowell
Ramona S. Embry
Forestry Crew Leader| Parks & Recreation Department