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Trees: Nature's Erosion Control

Trees such as Douglas fir and Pacific madrone are irreplaceable for erosion control on Puget Sound bluffs. Trees help stabilize bluffs, offer habitat to wildlife, and keep soils from being over-saturated with water.

Trees and a View  
What can you do when a tree is blocking that gorgeous waterfront view? Before reaching for the chain saw, think about limbing or pruning to frame a view. Some pruning techniques for conifers include: windowing, interlimbing, and skirting up. Keep in mind that pruning trees is a hazardous activity best left to professionals.

Windowing Interlimbing   Skirting Up  

Instead of removing a stand of trees, try removing a few. Remaining trees stabilize the soil and provide privacy. If a tree must come down, leave its roots in place. Plant deep-rooted bushes or ground cover around the stump to help make up for lost functions that the tree once provided. Stumps may be ground down, but should never be removed if they are near a steep slope.

Avoid Topping Trees  
Topping is not recommended as it can harm the trees' health. Topped trees can develop unsafe top-heavy growth or rot from the top. Consult the "Trees Are Good" website for more information about topping and tree care.  
Snags are dead standing trees. In the case of conifers, they are seldom a blowdown hazard. In fact, large conifer snags can remain standing for as long as 100 years. Snags offer important nesting habitat for wildlife and birds such as bald eagles and osprey. If a snag is not a hazard, keep it on your property.

Before Removing Trees Consider:

  • Trees are your erosion defense. Don't assume that cutting trees will remove weight from a slope and improve stability. Often it will not.
  • Topping does not make a tree safer; topping makes a tree hazardous.
  • Consult a professional arborist and discuss limbing, pruning, or skirting if necessary.
  • Trees attract and shelter wildlife: Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons need shoreline trees for nesting. Trees help stabilize the shoreline and offer important habitat for developing fish such as salmon and surf smelt.

Related Links

Managing Vegetation on Coastal Slopes, Department of Ecology. Vegetation management during site development to reduce the hazard of erosion and landslides.   

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Comments? E-mail: Shellyne Grisham