Ethics and Economics of Urban Tree Management

As subdivisions get smaller and urban density increases, there are fewer and fewer trees in our built environments. That’s bad news for the 300 species of native animals that make their homes in hollows. Ann Jones meets the arborists, designers and scientists trying to change the way we plant and chop down trees.

In this post we take an excerpt from our principal consultant, Lee Anderson, and look at his response to this discussion from September 2014.

The full discussion can be found here:

‘Firstly, I see there is not a lot of enforcement for existing legislation, there is not a lot of knowledge throughout the industry,’ says Anderson, adding that there are no strict industry guidelines for the humane treatment of animals.

‘A lot of the companies in tree removal and tree management are very profit driven. The unfortunate side of that is there are quite significant shortcuts taken a lot of the time.’

‘If there is no legislative requirement—or no legislative requirement is being enforced—to manage existing habitat or manage creatures that may be within the tree, then it’s going to go by the wayside.’

Tree workers at a recent workshop on the management of arboreal wildlife in felling situations seemed to concur, and shared their very mixed experiences on the job.

‘Most of the time for us it’s just damage control; you’re just cutting away and you’re just thankful you see a full possum, instead of half a possum,’ said one workshop participant.

It wasn’t the only time that animals being killed in their hollows by chainsaw cuts was mentioned during the workshop.

‘With tree cutting, it’s essentially that the guys generally aren’t taught to think, they’re taught to cut,’ says Anderson, who started his career in the UK.

‘Whereas in the UK we have very, very strong legislation which covers a multitude of different facets for animals and their habitat, to the point where if you knowingly or recklessly disturb a nesting site or a nesting site that’s even in the process of being built, there can be quite significant financial implications.’

‘I come from a nation of gardeners and dog owners and find, having worked here in Australia for some years now, that there is a cultural attitude of “it’s gotta be cut down”, which is quite confronting and quite new for me.’

‘Really, we need to strike more of a balance between the natural and the built environment in our cities.’