Since LAM Tree Service has done so many fire mitigation projects and multiple tree removal projects over the years, we have begun to see the similarities between these two projects, both in terms of what is done and the problems that can occur afterward if the correct after-care steps are not taken.
Specifically, we’ve noticed:
- Both projects are usually done for fire suppression purposes
- The solutions for creating fire-wise properties for both projects are removing dead trees, removing diseased trees, and removing ground debris
- The properties look similar upon the completion of the project: lots of bare ground and tree stumps
Removing lodgepole pines or other trees for fire mitigation (or just to thin a too-dense forest) is an important task here in the Colorado foothills, but it is just the first step in what is really a continuous project.
In this article, we will show you why forests should be thinned, some of the issues to watch out for after removing many trees, and three steps on what to do to care for your property after fire mitigation or lodgepole pine removals.
Problems with Dense Trees
If there are issues after multiple trees are removed, why do we encourage removing them in the first place?
Remember, we do not recommend removing all trees from your property but rather thinning out the existing trees and keeping as many of the old, mature trees as possible.
Sites with exceptionally dense trees of any forest type are prone to pests and disease and present a much greater hazard when a fire occurs.
Areas like this are so covered with trees that nothing else, not grasses, wildflowers, or shrubs, can grow. This isn’t a natural setting for our forests.
So dense forests or areas of dense trees are:
- More prone to insect pests and tree diseases
- A much higher fire hazard than in less-dense areas
- Preventing other plants, flowers, grasses, and trees from growing
Thinning out the trees from these dense forests is the solution, but, as we mentioned, that can lead to other issues that require follow-up care.
Problems after Removing Many Trees
When we get into these sites with too many trees, we have to cut out, pick up and haul out so much material that the ground can get pretty disrupted. The goal is to leave behind the best trees so that there is still a forest and to have those trees separated so they can grow and become a mix of trees of all ages and varieties.
However, often there just aren’t enough trees that are good candidates to leave behind.
Or we pull out so much material the ground is scraped bare from all that stuff getting hauled out. So often, the trees are very even-aged (in lodgepole stands), or there’s simply a monoculture growing there of ponderosa or Douglas-fir.
If a fire would have thinned these areas, we would see the classic distribution of plants: The base layer of grasses and wildflowers, the middle layer of young trees and shrubs, and then the top layer of medium and large trees.
Compacted Soil Leads to Pest and Disease Issues
Conifer forests that have equipment driving through them to remove all the dead and downed material will have a higher occurrence of pests and diseases. This is because the ground is compacted and disturbed by our efforts.
Noxious or Invasive Plants Grow in the Open Area
When there’s an open space in nature, it gets filled quickly, most of the time in our area by a noxious weed when that space is bare ground. Many of the plants we call noxious weeds were brought in to combat erosion. They did such a good job they became invasive!
What To Do
Now that you know the issues that can occur after removing multiple trees, what can you do to prevent these issues?
At LAM Tree Service, we have a three-pronged approach:
- Care for the remaining trees
- Prevent erosion and noxious weeds
- Plant native plants, trees, grasses, flowers, etc.
Keep reading to learn how we can help implement each step.
Care for the Remaining Trees
The first, and debatably the most important, is to care for the trees that are left behind after the initial cutting. This can be a preventative treatment for bark beetle, root treatments to improve soil conditions and/or control disease, or a hybrid of approaches to preserve the trees.
Keep in mind that these remaining trees are often over 100 years old and irreplaceable in our lifetime, so it is well worth the investment in their care.
It’s always a good idea to implement a prevention strategy like spraying or installing pheromone packets.
For really high-value trees, soil treatment is good to help them grow back roots and combat soil compaction.
In these sites, the biggest issues are elk and deer coming in, now that they can walk through with fewer trees, and browsing or rubbing on the deciduous trees. Some type of fencing, usually temporary, is the best strategy to allow time for these trees to adjust to their new setting.
We also like to use a soil treatment to help the trees have all the nutrients they’ll need to grow into this new situation. Sometimes, we prevent and control pests in these deciduous plans where it is needed.
In all cases, it’s smart to care for those mature plants. You will be glad they are there for shade and to provide the next generation of seeds.
Prevent Erosion and Noxious Weeds
The next step is to prevent erosion and noxious weeds. There are a ton of ways to do this as well, but, at a bare minimum, throwing out grass seed is a must.
On sites where all that is left is mineral soil, without organic matter or humus, and probably without the seeds that would have been spread in a non-fire-suppressed environment, topsoil has to be added back in a two-or three-inch-deep layer.
Getting anything good to grow there makes it harder for the bad things to establish themselves. It also keeps the soil from washing away; there is so little topsoil in our area we have to keep it where it’s at.
The best approach is to loosen up the existing soil, amend it with topsoil, humus, and compost mix, then put down a seed mix with grasses, wildflowers, and shrub seeds.
On sloped areas, a second layer of straw, either loosely thrown or in the form of an erosion blanket, should be used. When it all grows in, you’ll be glad you did it, as dealing with weeds can be a huge expense.
The last step is to plant some new stuff to bring back those low and middle layers mentioned before. This is that “cherry on top” that turns your yard into a beautiful outdoor living space.
Bringing in some final touches in the form of landscape plants greatly improves the space. We like to suggest flowering and fruiting shrubs because they add so much color to the landscape. You might even be able to beat the birds to that fruit and enjoy a serviceberry or currant yourself – remember, the early bird gets the worm (or the fruit, in this case).
Choosing the right plants and maintaining them will bring years of enjoyment to that outdoor space.
Don’t forget to protect them from those animals that will be looking to come back into that beautiful space you’ve made!
Contact LAM Tree
Want to protect your remaining trees, prevent erosion, and plant native? LAM Tree can help! View the other resources on our website. Then contact us to schedule a property inspection.