Leave a standing dead trunk near a house?

WoodScaper

New Member
Location
Pittsboro
A friend of a repeat client asked me to look at a big old Tulip Poplar (36" dbh, 100' tall) growing not more than 20 feet from his house. The tree has a slight lean away from the house. The trunk is clear for about 50 feet, then a couple large limbs grow toward the house, but most of the crown is not over the house. My recommendation was to leave it alone, or if anything, have the couple of limbs on the house side removed. He still wanted a quote for removing the tree. Then today he emails to ask about limbing and topping and girdling the tree, to leave it (like, 50' of it) for wildlife habitat.
My initial reaction is that, despite the slight lean away from the house, I wouldn't want the liability of leaving such a large dead trunk standing so close to a dwelling. I just found out about this site today while looking at the new Sherrill Tree master catalog. So I thought maybe somebody here would have some thoughts.
Thanks for any insights.
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
Welcome to Treebuzz!

The metaphor I used in situations where a procedure from outside standard accepted practices was desired was: Its like painting over rust.

If you client understands what they are creating and will take on 100% of the liability then, well maybe, do the work.

A better plan would be to bring in a BCMA or ASCA consultant to write a report. Then, have a routine reinspection every 2-3 years. An attorney would be able to write a contract for your protection.

Please let us know how this project develops.
 

arborandearth

Well-Known Member
Location
Chico
While I love wildlife habitat, I wouldn't leave it for your same reason. I'd let the client know that as well. In reality, it doesn't cause an immediate risk, but who knows what would happen in the future. I'd mitigate the risk and do a prune or whole removal. Drop it in the yard for skunk, racoon, opossum, mice, and rat habitat. Lol.
 

metaspencer

Member
Location
Urbana, IL
I was wrestling with a related conundrum yesterday: I recommended removal (by another company with a crane) annnnnd the homeowner wanted me to do some minimal pruning. In both cases, what gets left behind could be a hazard. At least your hazard will be full of snakes and squirrels.
 

RyanCafferky

Well-Known Member
A few weeks ago I helped remove a giant wildlife snag off of a house. It was a giant grand fir spar (30+”) that the client had let decay next to her house until one day it just fell over and landed on the house causing significant damage to deck railings on two floors of the house. I am sure she enjoyed the squirrels, and woodpeckers for years but my feeling is that trees like that should be shortened to the point that they cannot strike nearby structures or guyed so there is no physical way for them to reach them.
 

arborandearth

Well-Known Member
Location
Chico
On a cool note, a retired client had me top out a couple ponderosa pines in a grove that succumbed to pine beetle and install owl and bat boxes he found online. After the fires in Paradise, he called me out and said there was this weird sap under one of the dead pines. I went out there - it was bat shit. I guess he forgot about the bat boxes and to look up. He was so excited that he ran and got his shovel and put the crap right in is raised beds. Lol...I can't wait to be retired.
 

Chaplain242

Well-Known Member
There is some hardwood spars around here that are twenty years old and full of rot, 40’ high, 5’ diameter. Now have fits of how to get them down with outbuildings erected all around them. Looked okay for a while - now just a headache...
 

27RMT0N

Well-Known Member
Location
WA
Leaving wildlife snags is VERY common where I am, and something I do frequently. That said, it's case by case basis and since people have more space where I am, it's usually a tree well away from any structures or any possibility of structures. Still, my general rule is make it short enough it can't reach a building, take lean into account and know the species so you have an idea how long it will last. Out here, a 2' DBH 20' doug fir snag could last 80 years when cut green.

Often when a shoreline removal permit is given, leaving a snag is REQUIRED by the county. I'm actually dealing with that right now and the safety issues involved. A bunch of alders, some just mushy snags already, hanging over a driveway. The permit didn't specify what height satisfies the 'leave a wildlife snag' requirement, so that took some back-and-forth, and eventually they said it would be decided by what the arborist (me in this case) feels is safe. Even 5' is good enough to satisfy the rule.

Here are two recent snags, both doug fir. The first was a live tree I stripped and carved up the top, as well as shaved some bark and bored some holes to accelerate the decay process, the other was an old and long dead fir I was just taking the top out of, so it couldn't reach the building but could continue to be habitat.


snag.jpg

snag 2.jpg
 
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moss

Well-Known Member
Just finished up removing 7 dead red pines. Customer wanted trunks left standing for habitat. For each tree they came out and commented “Oh that’s fine, you don’t have to make it lower”. Number one rule: don’t let customers make safety decisions. I told them it would be malpractice to leave that much weight up there over their yard. I brought every one of them down to the height I was comfortable with. Still though, they challenged me for every tree ;-)
-AJ
 

evo

Well-Known Member
Location
My Island, WA
Leaving wildlife snags is VERY common where I am, and something I do frequently. That said, it's case by case basis and since people have more space where I am, it's usually a tree well away from any structures or any possibility of structures. Still, my general rule is make it short enough it can't reach a building, take lean into account and know the species so you have an idea how long it will last. Out here, a 2' DBH 20' doug fir snag could last 80 years when cut green.

Often when a shoreline removal permit is given, leaving a snag is REQUIRED by the county. I'm actually dealing with that right now and the safety issues involved. A bunch of alders, some just mushy snags already, hanging over a driveway. The permit didn't specify what height satisfies the 'leave a wildlife snag' requirement, so that took some back-and-forth, and eventually they said it would be decided by what the arborist (me in this case) feels is safe. Even 5' is good enough to satisfy the rule.

Here are two recent snags, both doug fir. The first was a live tree I stripped and carved up the top, as well as shaved some bark and bored some holes to accelerate the decay process, the other was an old and long dead fir I was just taking the top out of, so it couldn't reach the building but could continue to be habitat.


View attachment 74034

View attachment 74035
Sounds like your county is way more environmentally progressive than ours.
I had to pull teeth with a permit inquiry about a dead grand fir, steep slope and wetlands. Two different departments, wet land folks agreed that leaving the material as it lands would be best. Steep slopes said all the material had to be removed. Soo? The neighbor who owned the tree (my client wanted to pay me directly to do it for the neighbor) reduced it into a snag at 50’. Issue is my clients home is 30’ away, and they left all the material.
Got denied a removal permit on a pine by the city of langley (pop 2k). The reason for the denial was the client wanted to leave 20’ of the trunk to hire a wood carver. City said since the trunk is to be retained it’s not a removal?!? The asshole city planner and I got into it the year before because I called him out on a conflict of interest in a city hall meeting. Had the feeling this was his power play.. all small town life

Alder snags are stupid, as they will likely resprout and create a bigger future hazard and can of worms. If you do it, try to aim for when the leaves are about half way expanded. Highest chance of actually killing the tree, exhausting them of resource
 

Stumpsprouts

Active Member
Location
Asheville
A 50’ tuliptree spar will assuredly sprout back the next year.

Outcome would equal a tree with greater risk due to poor attachment points than the current tree.

I love to leave habitat spars when I can. My rule is usually if it were to fail (even against its natural lean), it needs to be short enough it wouldn’t hit a structure or HVAC or whatever. 50’ is pretty silly.
 

27RMT0N

Well-Known Member
Location
WA
Sounds like your county is way more environmentally progressive than ours.
I had to pull teeth with a permit inquiry about a dead grand fir, steep slope and wetlands. Two different departments, wet land folks agreed that leaving the material as it lands would be best. Steep slopes said all the material had to be removed. Soo? The neighbor who owned the tree (my client wanted to pay me directly to do it for the neighbor) reduced it into a snag at 50’. Issue is my clients home is 30’ away, and they left all the material.
Got denied a removal permit on a pine by the city of langley (pop 2k). The reason for the denial was the client wanted to leave 20’ of the trunk to hire a wood carver. City said since the trunk is to be retained it’s not a removal?!? The asshole city planner and I got into it the year before because I called him out on a conflict of interest in a city hall meeting. Had the feeling this was his power play.. all small town life

Alder snags are stupid, as they will likely resprout and create a bigger future hazard and can of worms. If you do it, try to aim for when the leaves are about half way expanded. Highest chance of actually killing the tree, exhausting them of resource

Yep, sounds like we deal with exactly the same issues, both with regulations and small communities. Only the island where I l mostly work has 12% the population as yours and the island where I actually live has .003% :p

As for the alder snags..... yah, probably shouldn't go into detail or share my feelings about that on a public forum...
 

evo

Well-Known Member
Location
My Island, WA
Yep, sounds like we deal with exactly the same issues, both with regulations and small communities. Only the island where I l mostly work has 12% the population as yours and the island where I actually live has .003% :p

As for the alder snags..... yah, probably shouldn't go into detail or share my feelings about that on a public forum...
Careful with those stats, your population sign might go up by four... does that include second homes? I’ve noticed a freakish amount of Californians Texans and folks from Colorado buying up places here. When I ask most site climate change in one form or another. Then there are the Seattle folks who can now telecommute with the pandemic. It’s getting pretty weird, but it’s a uptick in business.
 

Cereal_Killer

Well-Known Member
Location
Ohio
I called the city. We saw 3 Mexicans, clearly not from a tree service, out there hacking it on the way back to the shop yesterday then later on my way home I saw that. It was still 30ft tall and that's one of two notches, it's also back cut...
 

Redtree

Well-Known Member
Location
Mt. Albert
Three details are required for context. degree of lean. The existence of a footpath or potential target. And three, protection in the direction of lean, where a storm may threaten a heavy force against the lean. previous mention of a guy wire I would support, depending. Otherwise. if there is a lean more than 15 degrees from vertical, and a hill or dense forest beyond the tree, then leave the stump 40'
One piece of history comes to mind from Ontario near Toronto at a particularly popular park. A school class was walking through a wooded area on a used footpath. It was a windy day and some neglect left a natural spur unnoticed for too long. A child was taken, right in front of the class. So I think a pathway is a potential target.
It has become more common to leave dead trees, tall stumps, deadwood, and compromised trees (mitigated). One thing is that we need to apply this new nature fad carefully. It can be good, especially retrenchment of live trees for the sake of maintaining a canopy and an acceptable level of risk. It can save money or cost more, or a lot more as pointed out on the broken deck. In this Tulip tree situation felling might be cheaper? These situations often require monitoring, mostly on the client's behalf, under the arborists direction. "call me if this changes" "observe this tree in high winds". "don't water the lawn here". "give the next owners my number, and a briefing" "don't hang around here on a hot, sunny, windy day". I guess this last point focuses on retrenchment more than snags but the main thing is that accountability for the risk is best in writing. Doesn't even need much. You just document what you already recommended. If it is on a quotation and they had less work done, that is fine, they accept the risk, and are likely to be aware of the tree as the swiftly pass by underneath.
Does it have to come down? once a guy wire is in, would a reduction or retrenchment be enough? Cut it to 25-30 feet and don't girdle it? If it has happy roots it will probably shoot? Im not familiar with Tuliptree. Mostly small ones here. Hydro cut a Two stem, 90 foot Tuliptree in half, where it splits 3' up. So now one stem, nearly untouched, leaning away from hydro but right beside it. 10-15 degree lean. I see less risk here than if you were to top it.

Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Tapatalk
 

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