Caring for Kalispell’s Trees

Urban trees live fast and die young when compared to their forest counterparts

As Kalispell’s city arborist, I am tasked with the hands-on care of our city’s urban forest. One of the activities that our Forestry department has been working diligently on this winter is young tree pruning, and this particular activity seems to elicit a number of questions from the public. I plan to address some of the reasons for and strategies behind our approach to pruning young trees here.

First, it is important to note that trees in the urban environment do not “behave” in the same ways that trees in the forest do. To put it simply, urban trees live fast and die young when compared to their forest counterparts. This fast growth can be an advantage when it comes to the shade trees provide to our homes, streets, and sidewalks; but often it also means that these trees develop less than ideal structures. These can include a high number of branches rubbing against one another, branch unions that are prone to failure, and multiple stems competing with one another for the dominant position within the tree.

Because urban trees have it hard enough due to the limitations of the environment they grow in, human intervention becomes necessary to set them up for long-term success. This more often than not means pruning them in such a way that to the untrained eye can appear aggressive, but in fact is merely eliminating issues that if left unchecked will become a serious detriment to a tree’s long-term viability in the urban landscape. Pruning young trees for structure early on allows them to develop a healthy, sustainable form for years to come.

If you would like to learn more about pruning young trees, I invite you to join a pruning workshop that our city tree board is hosting at Lawrence Park on Saturday, April 13, from 10 a.m.-noon. We will take a deeper dive into the topics covered here and there will be an opportunity to test your new knowledge on some of the young trees in the park under the guidance of a certified arborist (yours truly).

Josh Keene
Kalispell City Arborist