Missing: Some Trees in the Canyon

Reported by Jacks Whitehurst

During the summer of 2018, George Fox University (GFU) Plant Services staff and Portland-based contractor, General Tree Service, felled 26 problematic trees across campus that were long past their expiration date.

Those that have returned to campus this fall may notice in some areas of the canyon, there rests a large amount of debris and several large tree trunks that weren’t there last year. This may look like an unfinished project, but GFU Arborist Carl Anderson says otherwise.

“Placement of logs and debris is a valuable erosion control method and will return nutrients to the canyon floor,” Anderson said, “we plan on using many of the logs in our ongoing upkeep and restoration of the canyon.”

Anderson was the project manager and said “the decision was fairly easy” for the Plant Services staff because all of the trees had died over the past few years and needed to be removed. The project was undertaken in order to maintain a safe environment, and to remove the trees before advanced decay set it.

By observation, the trees may have looked fine from the outside, but according to the arborist they were already hazardous.

Included in the number of trees downed, four of them were “topped”--meaning that dead or extra limbs at the top of a tree were removed--to create a “wildlife snag.”

“A wildlife snag is simply a tree which has been left standing after it has died,” Anderson said. “As the wood rots, insects start to bore into the tree, then birds go after the insects eventually creating nests inside the tree. When the top breaks off of the tree, it provides a space for raptors to build nests. Since most of our dead trees are in locations where there would be too much risk in leaving them to fall apart, naturally we remove the tops.”

The wildlife snags are located near both bridges and along the trail below the Wheeler House.

Some might remember the large oak tree near Minthorn Hall that nearly struck Brougher when it suddenly tipped over on its own.  The main culprit for the falling was a fungus in the “Armillaria” genus, one that commonly affects Oregon oaks, but Anderson also mentioned over-watering.

“Any excess watering in one year or another does not have a significant effect on the tree,” he said. “It is the cumulative effect of watering the lawns during the last 30 - 40 years.”

When lawns are kept green throughout the summer, the natural cycle of drought is interrupted and the fungus is allowed to take hold of the tree and spread quicker.

“As the campus arborist, I keep a list of trees that need to be removed and ones that we are watching because they show signs of decline,” Anderson said. “Each of these trees is evaluated individually based on benefits and the risks it poses.”

Anderson said that he does not anticipate any more big removal projects any time soon, but he and the Plant Services staff will continue to remove trees as needed for safety.

Jessica DaughertyComment