My working title for today’s article on storm damage was, “It’s the Trees, Stupid.” But I ditched the idea early on in my research, because it seemed too flip and simplistic for the complicated relationship we as homeowners and Kitsap County residents have with trees.
We love our trees, they provide privacy and a sense that we are living in the wilderness. They also serve important ecological functions in terms of absorbing groundwater, which prevents flooding and erosion. The trade-off is that when major storms come through, trees and limbs fall. This should not come as a surprise.
Kitsap County clearly is tree-central. With 240,000 residents, the county is suburban in population, but rural in character in many areas, especially in South Kitsap, where numerous homes are nestled in heavily wooded areas or next to greenbelts. If you doubt it, see Puget Sound Energy’s statistics on outages related to limbs or trees on lines. Of the 100,000 PSE customers who lost their power, an estimated 70,000 to 75,000 were in Kitsap, according to Dorothy Bracken PSE spokeswoman.
But arborist Jim Trainer, an advocate for trees, criticized the article as being incomplete to say the least. Trainer, who lives and breathes trees, said there are measures that can be taken to minimize the danger of trees falling, while leaving them standing (see below). Trainer wasn’t the only one to mention the idea of trimming branches to create less “sail” in the trees, enabling them to better withstand high winds. “Nobody,” commenting on the article, described trimming done on his (or her?) property in Mason County.
Trees are not the bad guys, Trainer says, and it serves them poorly to fan the flames of fear that incite people to simply be rid of them.
Trainer’s point, if I take it correctly, is “think before you just start blindly whacking down trees.” The Kitsap Sun published an article in 2008 (right after a big winter storm) interviewing Trainer and others on the benefits of doing a health evaluation and pruning of trees on or around your property.
The article raises and, I will admit, does not fully address the complex issue of who is responsible for trees. Literally, it is the individual or entity who legally owns the property on which they grow. But these folks or groups have to work within local regulations, made, as I mentioned in the article, by public officials who try to balance to environmental and aesthetic benefits of trees with public safety and the pressures of commerce.
Here’s what Jim had to say.
I have read your article on the trees that were taken down due to the storm we had and have given it a lot of thought.
What the county needs to do is develop a Tree Safe Program for property owners with a local Arborist. The project would be to window the large Douglas Fir trees by removing 10% to 15% of the limbs in the canopy of the tree. The wind will go through the area where the limbs were removed taking the sail out of the tree. This is a lot cheaper than having the tree fall on the house. The homeowner needs to check with their insurance company to see if they are willing to subsidize the cost of the Arborist visit.
Buffers were mandated and the width of the buffer is too small to stand high wind events. When trees blows over inside buffer areas where the trees are not replaced it makes it more vulnerable to high winds. Heavy rain events along wih the wind also make buffer areas trees more susceptable to fail. Most buffer areas will have tall and small trees mixed in with very large trees. This would be a domino effect making the tall trees susceptible to blow over and knock the small trees down.
It is really a treeacide every time you guys do an article about trees that are laying on the ground. How about a positive article about what to do to help prevent these problems? You need to talk to an expert in the field, not county staff who don’t have the knowledge of trees.
Please contact me if you have any questions or comments.