a great day for a ride. The temperature is perfect, the sky is
shining blue, your rig is running perfectly, (for now). This is
what itís all about. You just climbed a rock garden and sit triumphantly
at the top, for a second anyway, until you need to move for the
next guy. You start turning back onto the trail and start sliding
left. Reverse, readjust, and still you slide, narrowly missing
a large tree immediately out your door. You have gotten wedged,
and your next move to attempt escape grinds your roll bar against
the tree, and a large piece of bark comes with it, leaving a shiny
basketball-sized exposed area. You slowly remove your Tread Lightly!
cap from your head.
has happened to almost everyone sometime on a ride, unintentional
damage, and you know that when you drive away you have just done
what all the people who oppose off-road vehicles in the woods
oppose it for. While we all strive for the best technique to avoid
these situations, and hope that trees would never be damaged,
sometimes they are. On a recent ride, despite all attempts to
avoid the tree, this happened to us.
what do you do next? We asked around, and got varying information
and opinions. Some felt that nothing needed to be done, stating
that if the same damage had been done by a storm, the tree would
be left as is and nature would take it's course. While that is
true, we felt it might be better to see if there was something
more we could do, since the damage did not occur naturally, and
the tree was a very tall and stately hardwood, we think a maple
of some sort.
led us to Dr Michael Hardig, Professor of Biology at the University
of Montevallo, who advised us that action was needed to save
the tree. He suggested a pruning spray be used on the damaged
area that would create a protective layer, replacing as best we
could the bark layer we removed. This would prevent the tree from
being invaded by parasites and other pathogens, and increase it's
chance to repair itself and survive our intrusion.
to Dr. Hardig, "bark
provides protection to trees from a host of insect pathogens.
When a tree's bark layer has been damaged to the point where the
underlying tissue is exposed, it greatly increases the tree's
susceptibility to infection and can result in premature death.
However, the threat is not just the loss of a single tree. A single
infected tree, in an otherwise healthy grove, can serve as a vector
for future adventitious infections amongst the other trees that
may become weakened as a result of recurring environmental stresses,
like drought. Sealing a fresh wound only takes minutes, and could
save an entire forest."
Dr. Hardig also reminded us of the reason we use tree straps when
we use trees for winching up a hill . Without a strap, the winch
cable would wrap around the tree without protection, causing a
cut in the bark. "If the damage
entirely encircles the bole [trunk] of the tree (this is called
"girdling") the tree is doomed, irrespective of any efforts to
seal the wound. A tree that has been girdled can no longer replenish
its root cells with sugars produced in the leaves. The roots starve
to death, and the tree will quickly succumb."
also contacted Tread
Lightly! to find out if they had any recommendations for us.
While they obviously would prefer that our driving techniques
prevented any damage, they had this to say, "Although
Tread Lightly! does not have a specific standard regarding the
reparation of damaged flora, we applaud Rockcrawler for their
efforts in researching and determining a biologically supported
method to alleviate any further impacts."
Jill Scott, Assistant Director, Tread Lightly!
We decided we wanted to try the spray. So, we headed down to our
local feed and seed, and sure enough, small cans pf pruning spray
were available at a very reasonable cost of around $4.00 a can.
A small price to pay to save a hardwood and promote the good name
of off-roading everywhere.
purchased the spray and proceeded to return to the trail. Applying
the spray was fast and easy, exactly like spray painting, and
in fact, looks exactly like black spray paint when applied. This
we actually weren't that happy with, and had concerns that it
might appear we had done just that, used paint to cover our damage.
(The application of paint would do nothing good for damaged trees
at all, and we do not suggest using this as a replacement). However,
we felt good about what we were doing and plan to keep a can with
us on all future trail runs.
closings are happening everywhere. Anything we can do to promote
our sport, to demonstrate that the off-roading community is willing
and ready to take care of the woods as we ride in them, will benefit
everyone. So grab a can of pruning spray next time you're at Home
Depot and throw it in with your cooler and trail stuff. Hopefully
you won't need it, but will be ready if you or someone in your
group does. See you on the trails