OR Looks to Avoid Excessive Tree Cutting

Last year’s wildfires have left many half-burned trees in their wake. An estimated 140,000 burned trees are to be cut down because of the potential danger they pose during decaying and ultimate fall. Pacific Northwest-based arborist Galen Wright from Washington was hired recently by the Oregon Office of Emergency Management to review the controversial removal of trees along roads and properties in wildfire burns.  

Wright was brought in after the workers of two contracted companies CDR Maguire from Florida and Mason, Bruce & Girard from Portland — hired to remove the unsustainable trees– alerted the state about several problems with the task. In their testimonies at the legislative oversight hearing in April, the workers reported that their employer has failed to develop proper guidelines and train staff to correctly identify trees destined for removal. As a result, in many instances trees not posing a danger were also marked for removal, erroneously. 

Wright’s review is expected to produce a full assessment report by June. “Because the scope and scale of this effort is unlike anything Oregon has seen before, Wright will provide additional subject matter expertise, share helpful perspectives, and add an extra level of quality control moving forward,” said Mac Lynde, of Oregon Department of Transportation, also the director of the three-agency Debris Management Task Force. While we work to ensure no more lives are lost to the 2020 wildfires, we will continue to incorporate feedback from a range of partners to make sure this work is done right. 

The removal will continue under proper guidelines, with specific training and with additional checks-and-balances. For example, tree markers are to be paid hourly rather than by the number of trees marked, and tree cutters are liable for a $2,000 fine for each unmarked tree cut. 

 A report from the State of Oregon said, “While state-led work is happening only along state highways and near fire-impacted home sites, local and county crews are cleaning up roads; utility companies are working near power lines and other easements; public land managers are removing trees on state and federal land; private property and timberland owners are managing their forestlands and performing restoration and fire-resiliency work; and nonprofit groups and volunteers are working with property owners and watershed councils to plant trees and other vegetation.”   

By Joanna Rosińska