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Trees – Worth more Dead than Alive (to Wildlife)

Snag at Greenbelt lakeWalking around Greenbelt Lake, I’ve noticed the preponderance of snags – dead trees left standing. Here’s one along the path.

Knowing they’re important for wildlife, I was happy to see so many, but it took a bit of googling to discover just HOW important. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, they actually provide MORE habitats for wildlife dead than alive. No wonder they’re also called “wildlife trees.”

wildlife-001Thanks to that link, I’ll forever be envisioning these adorable critters whenever I see a snag. But they’re just the poster animals for snags: “In total, more than 100 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians need snags for nesting, roosting, shelter, denning, and feeding; nearly 45 species alone forage for food in them.”

That link goes on to tell us how to look at them up close, which trees make the best snags, how to create them from live trees, and how to relocate them (which seems crazy, right?).

So now that we’re all in for snags, can we have them in our yards? Large yards, maybe: “Try to incorporate one or more snags into your landscape keeping old and damaged trees when possible. Retain trees and tall shrubs near the planned snag to protect it from wind and provide a healthier environment for wildlife.

“In urban areas, tall snags are best located away from high activity areas, where they won’t pose a hazard if they fall. Trees that lean away or are downhill from structures and other areas of human activity present little or no risk.”

That was disappointing to read, so in search of a second opinion I asked the experts at the Garden Professors Facebook Group (which just added its 10,000th member) if they’d leave a snag anywhere near their home and the grown-ups responding included actual risk-assessing arborists – certified ones!
Snag at Greenbelt lake

Their advice: IF an expert has concluded that a tree must come down, it’s okay to leave some standing for wildlife, as long as it’s not tall enough to fall on something in a bad wind. One recommended leaving the cut portion of the tree on the ground at the site. (Got room for that?)

Others said they’d sure like to see more in the media about wildlife trees and their importance. One ray of hope? Efforts to change forestry policies to leave more for wildlife.

Here in Greenbelt, the powers that be may be more enlightened than elsewhere. I’m told that the city leaves short sections standing where possible. When a tree in a GHI yard poses a risk, the member is asked if they’d like to leave the snag standing for wildlife; in wooded areas, this is done quite often.

Snags at Greenbelt lake

 

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Susan launched the video blog "Susan's Hoop Dancing Journey" after trying hula hooping during the 2022 Crazy Quilt Music Festival.

2 Responses

  1. Don
    | Reply

    Great Post!
    I grew up in the country, and my Dad always had me take our Christmas Tree up to the fence at the end of our property, which was about 3 hundred yards from the edge of the woods behind my house. Rabbits would shelter under it during the winter, and of course, birds would rest in it as well. It was always such a good feeling!

  2. Mary Ann Canter
    | Reply

    Thanks for this timely article.

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