Community Maintenance Pruning
What does this mean?
- Community maintenance pruning applies pruning to a community
forest on a rational basis. It relies on a rotation program built on
management units and pruning cycles.
- Maintenance pruning implies ongoing and routine pruning to
clean, thin, raise, restore, or reduce tree crowns, as well as remove or
- Management units are discrete sections of the community that
contain a certain number and type of trees.
- Pruning cycles are the number of years between sytematic
prunings of a management unit.
- Rotational maintenance pruning is
- safer, because sporadically maintained trees are more damaged
by storms and tend to fail unexpectedly more often
- easier and less costly, because crews are concentrated in
one area at one time, and make scheduled visits during regular hours
- more legally defensible, because of the "prudent responsibility"
shown by such a method.
How do you set up management units?
- Many communities carry out annual pruning by relying on some combination
of request pruning (from concerned citizens) and crisis pruning
(from immediate needs).
- But, request pruning is highly unreliable and usually insufficient
(since citizens do not always look, and are not professionals).
- And crisis pruning is the least efficient method, because
much of crew time is spent in travel and set up.
- First, look at the geography of your community. Natural units
are often suggested by rivers, roads, etc.
- Sometimes, management units have already been established in the
community for trash pickup, leaf or snow removal, road repair, etc.
- Then, calculate
- how many trees are in each of those units (use inventory or windshield
- how many trees you can prune in a given cycle.
How long should you make the pruning cycles?
- If necessary, break up the logical units into smaller units to equalize
the load on work and budget.
- Number the units (and subunits, if they exist). This determines
the order of units to be pruned.
- Choose one management unit as the place to begin. Your choice
may be due to tree condition, unit location or importance, etc.
- Get some help from an arborist or forester experienced in municipal
What else is needed to set up maintenance pruning?
- Pruning cycles vary with average tree age, species, condition,
as well as local climate.
- In the northeast US, a 5-year cycle for most trees has been shown
to be a reasonable goal.
- For young trees, and any others (like crabapples or declining trees)
that need more frequent attention, a 3-year cycle often works best.
Where can I get more information?
- Politics: The shift to maintenance pruning may demand some
serious politics, since initial pruning costs often go up. In the long
run, you can expect savings of 50% or more on annual pruning budgets.
- Specifications: Put good pruning specifications in place,
starting with the ANSI A300 standards. And set up an inspection system,
getting training if you need it in recognizing poor work.
- Contracts: Decide whether you will be contracting out all
or part of the pruning, and begin to sollicit bids for the work.
- Communication: Make sure you publicize and explain your changes
in pruning policy, both to local officials and the entire community.
Miller, Robert. 1997. Urban Forestry. Planning and
Managing Urban Greenspaces. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle
River NJ: Prentice Hall. For other information, advice and help on this
topic, call offices of your State Urban Forestry Coordinator or University
Extension service, or visit urban forestry web sites.