Salem, Oregon is steadily strengthening its reputation as the city where public officials are either incompetent or uncaring when it comes to our trees.
Today I talked with an anonymous reputable source (love that term! makes me sound like an investigative blogger!) who told me some disturbing tales about the black walnut trees being cut down on the State Hospital campus.
A black walnut tree
Here's an excerpt from a recent Statesman Journal story by Tracy Loew, "Historic Salem trees felled due to new disease."
Six century-old black walnut trees on the Oregon State Hospital campus are being felled this week due to infection with thousand cankers disease.
The disease already has forced the removal of 15 historic black walnut trees at the hospital, and has infected 32 more that eventually will come down as well.
And, it’s spreading into the surrounding neighborhood. Experts say the disease could eventually kill all of Salem’s black walnuts.
To everybody who loves trees, this is bad news. But there's more to the story. Here's what I was told by Mr./Ms. Reputable Source.
The trees are on state property. But a required Notification Permit wasn't obtained prior to the removal work by R & R Tree Service. (My source knows all about this permit; I don't; it might relate to this.)
The State Forester confirmed that the required permit is lacking. With no permit, the mill that is getting the black walnut remains shouldn't accept the wood.
Even more disturbing, the fungus infection reportedly has been known to tree officials for three or four years. I assume this includes Salem's Urban Forester, Jan Staszewski. Yet nothing, or not enough, was done to control the infection.
Now many other black walnut trees in the area near the State Hospital have been infected. Partly, I heard today, this was due to inadequate trimming work, and maybe also poor planning by whoever requested the work.
Reportedly the trimming was delayed for several months.
So I was told that most of the leaves on the black walnuts were down by the time the trimming of infected limbs occurred. This made it difficult to identify the infected parts of the tree. By spring it was obvious that many infected areas had been missed, allowing the fungus infection to spread to other black walnuts.
I also recall my Reputable Source saying that there was a problem with how wood from diseased trees was handled. If my scribbled note is correct, this had something to do with chipping the wood before infected material was separated from normal wood.
Now, the handling of the black walnuts on the State Hospital property is just one of many instances where trees have been, and are, being cared for poorly in Salem. I've documented this in numerous blog posts, including here, here, and here.
It's also disturbing that this is the second time in just a few months that required permits haven't been obtained before trees have been cut down on the State Hospital property.
Back in September I asked City of Salem officials why a large red oak was removed prior to the appeal deadline -- which obviously prevented concerned citizens from challenging the decision to cut down the tree.
Below is the response I got from the Interim City Manager. He said that the State Department of Administrative Services (DAS) was hit with a $250 fine for removing the tree prematurely.
This may not seem like a big deal. But taken in the context of how many other questionable tree removals have been happening in Salem, it's understandable why tree-loving citizens are dubious about how committed City and State officials are to caring for our leafy friends.