Alaska National Forest Service Assess Hazard Trees for Visitor Safety

Photo Taken from the Alaska Forest Service Facebook

Juneau, Alaska (USDA) – Insects, diseases, decays, and other forms of tree defect and mortality are important parts of a healthy, functioning forest ecosystem.

They play many ecological roles in forests such as altering plant succession and providing wildlife habitat. In forest settings, trees die and fall to the ground where they become recycled.

Although dying and falling trees are important in the development of forests, they are not welcome in high use recreation areas where they risk human life and property.

Hazard is the exposure to the possibility of loss or harm. With regard to trees, it is the potential that a tree or part of a tree will fail and cause injury or damage property.

All standing trees of sufficient size, alive or dead, present some hazard. All trees will eventually come down. But high potential for tree failure by itself does not automatically mean a tree is hazardous.

Hazard exists when a tree is within striking distance of an object of any value.

Hazard tree assessments in developed recreation sites help the Forest Service to increase visitor safety.

Assessment involves inspecting trees within fall-distance of cabins, shelters, picnic tables, and other infrastructure for signs of significant structural problems inside trees such as conks, large wounds, hollow cavities, and cracks.

In April, Forest Pathologist Robin Mulvey led hazard tree trainings in Petersburg and Ketchikan for Forest Service staff involved in these systematic assessments.