Wyoming’s Silent Spring

If you consider yourself an environmentalist and have not read Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, published in 1962, shame on you. Ms. Carson wrote about the detrimental effects man made pesticides had on the environment, particularly birds. It awoke our country, causing fierce debate regarding the use of pesticides. An environmental movement like no other ensued. Silent Spring was the impetus for national pesticide policy changes and the beginning of the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency.

But this article is not about the debate of pesticides and just so you know I do sell them at my garden center. Today, my view regarding pesticides is akin to using tools to accomplish a job, like a carpenter using his saw. If used appropriately, the job gets done, mission accomplished.

This article is about the death we view every day in our trees and shrubs this spring. I’ve written numerous times over the past six months about last November’s ‘Big Chill’, six weeks before the official start of winter.

Essentially Wyoming had a spectacular Indian summer through all of October and the first two days of November, then the bottom fell out, temperatures approaching 70 degrees fell to -20 or more in just three days.

Many trees had not developed their antifreeze for the onslaught of winter. In effect the water within the cells of the tree froze, expanded and burst the cell’s wall. The vascular system of the tree was destroyed.

This spring I have had so many gardeners come to my shop seeking advice for their beloved trees, their pain and sorrow palpable. Sure I could have sold them fertilizer and other elixirs, but why? No amount of fertilizer would revive their trees. The damage is just too extensive.

Each day driving to work, I am stunned by Wyoming’s Silent Spring. One of the hardest hit specie of tree is the Siberian Elm; most folks call them Chinese elm. Many of these trees are huge and they are dead. Sure you might see a few leaves emerging here and there, but not enough to sustain life.

Our urban forest has been decimated. The cost of removing these trees will be astronomical for both home and business owners and for the City government. For whatever it cost to handle October 2013’s debilitating snowstorm tree breakage, I’m guessing this will be quadruple that expense.

With predictability, we will have property damage as these trees get looked over. Dead trees eventually fall and their weight is measured in tons. I worry about loss of human life the most.

It’s not my place as a garden center proprietor to declare a natural disaster; but it’s time for public officials to marshal their resources and develop a plan to deal with this death loss for the safety of the public.

Never in modern times have we seen this type of temperature drop causing this much damage.

Originally published in the Casper Star-Tribune, June 14, 2015