Campus trees deserve more


Dan Oliver
The Broadside

I know, I know – “trees grow back.” But they take time to grow – especially given the harsh climate of Central Oregon. The Ponderosa and Juniper trees that populate our campus do more than you may realize. They provide shade in the heat of summer. They act as windbreaks. They help to clean the air. Studies have shown that patients recover more quickly after surgery when their rooms offer a view of trees. Workers have been shown to be more productive when their offices overlook trees. Though we often fail to acknowledge the good they do for us – there is a certain comfort provided by the presence of these woody dicots (that’s the nerd name for trees).
Imagine what this campus would be like without its urban forest – a maze of parking lots, some rocky high-desert hillside, and some buildings. Picture yourself sitting in the quad studying on a sunny day with no trees overhead. Maybe it’s just me, but I shudder at the thought of it. Our trees make the campus what it is. The trouble is, by the standards I’ve seen at work, they aren’t being treated as the assets they are.
There is a science to the care of trees called arboriculture. There are evolving standards by which we can best manage them. Not so long ago, for example, topping was commonplace, now it is known to cause long-term harm to trees and is strictly avoided by anyone with a tree’s longevity in mind. Then there is the issue of “hooking trees,” (using spikes to climb a tree). This pokes holes right into the cambium layer which act as little gateways for pests and diseases. The advised practice is only to use hooks on removals, and yet, if you look closely at the recently trimmed trees in the quad – they were hook-climbed. The trouble is, though these practices are known to cause harm, stress, even death to the trees, it will typically take three to five years for the affected trees to decline.
I’d like to know, why aren’t there standards in place on campus to ensure quality work to our trees? The use of hooks to trim is blatantly negligent and driven solely by a quantity over quality mind-set. There are good arborists out there – why aren’t we giving them the work?
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