Healthy trees can make homes safer

Hallie Dozier, Bogren, Richard C.  |  9/19/2008 9:15:39 PM

News Release Distributed 09/19/08

Healthy trees can make for safer neighborhoods and healthier relationships between neighbors, according to an urban forester with the LSU AgCenter.

With the large number of trees damaged by hurricanes Gustav and Ike in Louisiana’s urban areas, property owners need to evaluate what happened this year and begin preparing for future storms, said Dr. Hallie Dozier.

The result of not maintaining trees properly can lead to significant damage that could be avoided, she said.

“The vast majority of property owners won’t know if a tree is dangerous or not,” Dozier said. “Property owners should have a relationship with professional arborist to examine trees on a regular basis – ideally every two years.”

“Louisiana has the best arborist program in the country, if not in the world,” she added. “Our arborists must be licensed and participate in continuing education programs to maintain their licenses.”

That means they’re trained and have passed a series of tests, she said, adding that Louisiana provides some of the best information and training in the country.

Dozier said a licensed arborist is “somebody who knows trees.” A list of licensed arborists can be found on the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Web site under the “I want to find” link on the homepage. In addition, LDAF horticulture people can be reached at 225-952-8100.

“Always call before hiring an arborist because the list on the Internet may be a few months out of date,” she said.

If you hire an unlicensed arborist, your homeowners insurance probably won’t cover you. “It’s not worth the risk,” Dozier said.

Regarding property-line disputes, Dozier recommends being “gentle and nice with your neighbors. Bake them an apple pie before you talk to them about any property line disputes and try to make it as friendly a discussion as possible,” she said.

“We have laws because people take advantage of others,” Dozier said. “The laws are to protect homeowners, not to protect trees.”

“You can’t prune your neighbor’s tree to the point where you harm it,” the LSU AgCenter forester said. “That’s the law. And your neighbor cannot force you to remove a tree unless it is interfering with your neighbor’s use and enjoyment of his or her property.”

Because Louisiana law is not based on case law, judges don’t have to follow precedents and can rule however they interpret the law as written, Dozier cautioned.

“In other words, it’s always best to settle with your neighbor rather than taking your neighbor to court,” she said.

Dozier says if you wait too long to remove an ailing tree, the tree becomes more dangerous – both in terms of it failing in bad weather and in the cost of removing it.

“When it’s time to cut a tree, it’s time to say goodbye,” she said, comparing removing a diseased and dying tree to putting down a terminally ill pet.

Regarding urban trees, Dozier said for large shade trees, she recommends live oak, bald cypress, sweet gum and swamp chestnut oak because they’re more wind resistant than other species. On the other hand, she says trees to avoid include red oak, cherrybark oak, any pine and water oak.

The LSU AgCenter forester further cautions that no matter how sound or solid or healthy a tree appears, some trees simply will not stand up in the face of 100-plus-mile-per-hour winds.

It doesn’t make much difference with smaller trees because they don’t present much of a threat to buildings.

“One small-to-medium tree that is a poor choice is the Bradford pear,” Dozier said. “Its poor branching habit makes it very prone to breaking in the wind.”

Two publications available from the LSU AgCenter can provide additional information. They are Dealing with Storm-damaged Trees in the Landscape and Trees for Louisiana Landscapes. Both are available from the LSU AgCenter office in your parish or on the Internet at www.lsuagcenter.com and typing the exact title in the search box.

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Contact: Hallie Dozier at (225) 578-7219, or hdozier@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839, or rbogren@agcenter.lsu.edu

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