When the chain saw's insistent roar abruptly stops, the crown of a beleaguered black locust tree pivots, then plunges earthward, its green leaves whispering a final, frenetic whoosh. As it hits ground, the branches let loose a cacophony of cracks, snaps, and pops. All that remains of the 70-foot tree in front of a Somers, New York, home is its 45-foot trunk, leaning like the Tower of Pisa down the steep hill and toward the driveway.

In the momentary silence, Dan Swim, an arborist for SavATree, explains the tree's awkward tilt: The shade of a nearby oak had forced it to reach for light in the opposite direction. This, in combination with several unusually dry years followed by a couple of very wet ones, had caused the roots to gradually lift out of the soil; the next big storm could have splayed it across the driveway (or the road below). "There's no question that this tree - dying and on an incline - had to be felled," says Swim.

The chain saw roars back to life, silencing conversation, and Swim's men quickly carve the tree into manageable chunks. After feeding its smaller branches through a chipper and setting aside the 18-inch-diameter logs for milling, they exchange chain saws for leaf blowers and clean the chipper remnants from the driveway. In less time than it would have taken to rake its leaves on an autumn afternoon, the locust is reduced to a wide, harmless stump. "We always try to work with and preserve nature," says Swim. "But in the end, human safety takes precedence."
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    Tools List

    • chain saw
      Chain saw
    • Wood chipper
    • stump grinder
      Stump grinder
    • table saw
      Band saw