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When To Take Down A Tree

The decision to take down a tree is easy when it’s dead. But sometimes a tree that’s still alive has overstepped its boundaries or become a nuisance, making that decision a bit harder. Thanks to storm damage and the threat of the emerald ash borer, we put an ash tree out of its misery.

John Fech is an extension educator at the University of Nebraska. He says trees are planted for a specific purpose. If the function and/or aesthetics have changed or it’s become diseased, those are reasons to cut it down. 

"Additionally, one of the things I see as a reason to cut a tree down is the location," says Fech. "If it’s planted in a location where it doesn’t have enough room for the roots to grow and the tree starts to die back as a result of it, you’re probably not going to be able to create more space for the roots to grow, so you’re in kind of a no-win situation in that regard."

When there is serious flooding, water erodes soil around the roots, making the tree’s root plate unstable. Leaning trees are an imminent fall hazard and should be removed.

Every state has regulations for tree maintenance. For example, branches can’t be within a certain distance of power lines and utility companies are required to cut them back.

"If they have to come every 2-3 years to cut that down, you’re into a situation where eventually you’re not going to be able to maintain it. Or, if there is quite a bit of droppage of debris from the tree onto the patio or into the gutters, again, you have to really make that decision," he says. "But, those are some of the things to consider. What is the maintenance, and how much is required to keep the tree alive and functioning in the landscape?"

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