Don't Blame Trees for Storm Damage, Manage Them Better

Dear Friend of Trees and CFPA,

You may have heard stories in the media blaming trees for power outages and storm-related damage, but you may have missed that solutions to reduce power outages and storm-related damage have been proposed. The Final Report of the State Vegetation Management Task Force, released at the end of August, recommends several solutions. This report is worth reading, and I’m not just saying that because I served as the Chair of this Task Force.

The unifying theme of the report is a simple question: “How can towns, landowners, and the state manage roadside forests better to enhance the benefits we enjoy from healthy trees, AND to reduce the damage and power disruptions associated with trees falling on electrical utilities and roads?” Perhaps an even bigger question that we should all ask ourselves is “When will we take action on the lessons that these damaging storms keep teaching us?”

As Connecticut recovers from Hurricane Sandy and prepares for future storms, it is time for the following Task Force report recommendations to become reality:

  1. The state must dedicate funding (the report recommends $100,000 for each town over the next 2 years) to assist cash-strapped municipalities in developing “roadside forest management plans” to both a) guide their approach to how trees will be maintained (pruned, removed, and planted) over time with an eye to local aesthetics; and b) address the deferred maintenance backlog of dead, dying, and diseased trees that pose immediate risks to public health.
  2. We must ensure that municipal tree wardens are knowledgeable about trees and the arboricultural/forestry practices required to sustain healthy trees. Municipal tree wardens, under current law, are not currently required to know anything about trees.
  3. Right Tree, Right Place guidelines should be utilized for planting/re-planting trees that make sense next to roads and electrical poles and wires.
  4. A centralized resource to provide authoritative advice on tree care to private and municipal forest landowners needs to be created and be made public.
  5. The state must develop standards for tree removal to ensure tree removals are done based upon science-based professional training, shared methods of hazard assessment, and planning for tree replacement.

Blaming trees won’t fix chronic problems, managing our trees better will. Your support will be essential as we encourage political leaders to implement these actions that we believe are necessary investments in the future of Connecticut.

Thank you!

Eric Hammerling, Executive Director CFPA