Urban Tree Management   

TOPIC: Pittsburgh Cutting Trees

== 1 of 9 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 5:48 am
From: "Edward Frank"


On the Channel 11 news last night was a report that the city of Pittsburgh has scheduled for cutting about 5000 trees in the city, including some of the cities oldest. There were large numbers of people protesting the action at a public meeting, claiming it would change the character of their neighborhood, lower their property values, and affect the air quality of their neighborhood. An interview with public works director was shown in which he said, "These trees were pointed out to be a hazard, so to avoid liability they need to be removed." He seemed rather smug about the entire issue and clearly was not going to be moved by public meetings. I wonder what authority informed him the trees were a hazard... Maybe a tree removal company with a city contract? The entire situation smacks of kickbacks... Pittsburgh city government in general, and the Public Works department has always be a hotbed of bribery and corruption.


-I try to take one day at a time, but several days attack me at once!

== 2 of 9 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 6:12 am
From: "Will Blozan"


Not necessarily. I did a hazard tree inventory for my little town here in
western NC and found over 100 trees in hazardous condition and in need of
removal. These were just tree with immediate danger, not future. You know
me; I wouldn't cut a tree if it didn't need to be removed for liability
reasons. Some of the trees I identified were huge, old, landmark trees. One
of these trees that was not removed at my recommendation had a top that
later failed and crushed a stroller. Fortunately, no one was in it.


== 3 of 9 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 6:32 am
From: "Will Blozan"


One thing is almost certainly for sure; the 5000 trees in need of removal
are probably in that condition form neglect and/or poor pruning and care.
Here in Asheville, NC the quality of tree care by public crews is absolutely
horrid. Trees are being pruned (hacked) now for lack of some much smaller
pruning cuts or placement selection decisions that could be made with
kindergarten level foresight. The level of training of the workers is either
negligible or not done or enforced. Trees are one of our nation's most
common victims of ignorance.


== 4 of 9 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 6:49 am
From: Elisa Campbell

there is a professor at UMass Amherst, Dennis Ryan, who regularly points
out that many of the dying and/or hazardous trees around here were made
that way by damage from human activities - on the UMass campus, mostly
from construction. I imagine that is often the cause of hazardous trees
in other urban and suburban areas, too.

== 5 of 9 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 7:25 am
From: Anthony Kelly


I am a resident of Squirrel Hill, one of the Pittsburgh neighborhoods that will be greatly affected by this. One of the things that makes this elegant old neighborhood a wonderful place to live is that its streets are lined with glorious old trees (a number of which my laser rangefinder and D-tape have come to know I might add). You never get the impression that you are smack in the middle of a big city here. I am not yet aware of just what percentage of trees will be affected by this, but I wouldn't be surprised if the city planned to just come in and raze pretty much all of them. It would completely change the character of the neighborhood. It simply wouldn't be the same with out them.

Like most people this caught me completely by surprise. From the Channell 11 article below, it seems like the tree removal plan is pretty much a done deal. I really hope that something can still be done about it. I was not able to attend the meeting mentioned in the article, but I'll be contacting the people involved in trying to stop this.

Your theory of kickbacks to city officials from tree removal companies is certainly a plausible one. The city's liability argument then could well just be a convenient PR ploy. It would be interesting to see how the various liability assessments were made and by whom. Before this issue even arose, though, I'd heard stories that, in general, insurance companies want to just get rid of old trees wherever they may be seeing even the slightest risk of liability from them as being an unnecessary one. Neither the aesthetic, nor ecological value of trees figure onto their balance sheets. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that pressure or even outright demands from insurers has a lot to do with this, too.

See the two brief articles below.



Anthony Kelly

== 6 of 9 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 7:27 am
From: "Lee E. Frelich"


This might represent corruption, or it might also mean that hazardous trees
that should have been removed were left standing. Its hard to tell without
more information.

A city forestry department should do continuous evaluation of hazard trees,
as opposed to doing them all at once every so many years. In Minneapolis
the forestry department has an prehazard paint marking that they put on
trees several years before they become an imminent threat, and those trees
are observed frequently to determine when they merit hazard status and be
removed. The markings are relatively inconspicuous, but are still noticed
by people in the neighborhood, so they have time to ask questions about the
tree well before it has to be removed, and they know that the tree has a
problem and may only be there a few more years. There are a set of
standards for hazard trees that students in our urban forestry program
learn and that are used when determining hazard status. If trees in poor
structural condition are removed on a continuous basis, then there is less
damage to buildings, cars, and power lines from falling trees when major
storms occur.

I wonder how the program works in Pittsburgh? That fact that they are
doing 5000 at once could mean that their forestry program is not very good,
since they should be doing them a few at a time on a continuous basis. In
any case, it sounds like the situation was handled poorly. One should never
underestimate the magnitude of the fuss that people in big cities will make
over every tree. A tree that is a half-rotted overgrown weed to a forester
trying to grow timber might be the source of wonder and delight to someone
in the city.


== 7 of 9 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 7:49 am
From: pabigtrees

I wonder how many new trees will be planted in their place? none I
bet. A policy for tree replacement would quell some of the outcry.
Why not take down 2,500 of the worst and plant 2,500 new ones. Then
do 100 a year or so to maintain it. This would alleviate the hazard
trees and still provide contractor work and kickbacks (lol)

Liability is ruining this country in many ways, including unecessary
tree takedowns. Like I said in a previous post, when someone can tell
me when a tree will fall, I will start a church for them. I am pretty
sure more people are killed a year by cars, but no one is calling to
get rid of them. I would argue that trees are needed just as much as
cars are to the general public.

5,000 trees. They must have not cut any trees for 20 years in that

== 8 of 9 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 6:56 am
From: Kirk Johnson

Years ago, I worked one season for a tree company out of Monroe, MI that had
a big contract to work on the street trees in Toledo, OH. I don't remember
doing any tree removal, but we did prune many large trees with large limbs
overhanging homes, growing into utility lines, etc. Mainly selectively
removed problem limbs, removed deadwood, thinned, reduced crown size. That
kind of thing. Spent weeks on the project. Sycamores, maples, oaks, etc.

5,000 trees seems like an awful lot to be simply removing all at the same
time. What will they be doing with the material? Perhaps there is an
incentive to feed some kind of commercial interest that would utilize the
wood fiber.

Kirk Johnson

== 9 of 9 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 8:00 am
From: Anthony Kelly

Lee and Will, I'll let you know more when I get more information about how many and which trees the city is planning to remove. I'm not sure exactly what the city's procedures for evaluating tree hazards. Urban forestry has never been a big interest of mine. As I've gone around measuring the bigger trees in my Pittsburgh neighborhood, I never paid specific attention to what hazards an old tree might pose. Dead limbs here and there have caught my attention, but in general the trees I look at seem to be in pretty good shape. Certainly some trimming would be in order, not mass scale removal. Lee, your description of Minneapolis' tree program seems to be a sensible one.  Like I said above, urban forestry has never been a big interest of mine, so I've never looked into how it's done here. My bet, though, is that Pittsburgh's program is probably not as sensible as that of Minneapolis. Pittsburgh is well aware that Minneapolis does pretty much everything better than them. A few years ago the city sent an entire delegation of city, business, and community officials and leaders to the Twin Cities to study just how they do things so well. There were reports and much to-do about the whole thing, but I don't know that anything has changed here as a result.

 Anthony Kelly 

== 3 of 4 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 2:12 pm
From: Carolyn Summers

Weıve had this problem, or a similar one, with Con Edison being urged on by
the Public Service Commission. Trees next to utility wires are taken down
in advance of storms as a way of preventing power outages that go on for
days after storms. We actually had a tornado in Westchester 2 years ago and
I think thatıs when concerns mounted. Iım always happy to see Norway maples
cut down, but when they go after the old oaks...... My advice to Pittsburgh
is to try to stop it, but settle for a publicly funded independent arborist
who will represent homeowners and monitor the cityıs contractors. Thatıs
what we did and the outcome was not too bad.
Carolyn Summers
63 Ferndale Drive
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706

== 4 of 4 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 11 2008 2:51 pm
From: "Edward Frank"


I would be more inclined to believe there was an actual issue if they did not plan to remove every single tree in several neighborhoods totaling about 5,000 trees. I am sure that most are completely healthy and do not need to be removed, except to line someone's pockets.