Volunteers Begin Tagging Dead & Dangerous Trees In Hancock County

The job of clearing the massive number of dead trees left standing by Katrina has yet to begin. But, volunteer foresters and arborists are making and recording the location of the trees, so eventually they can be taken down before they fall down on their own.

"Less than 10 feet from the edge of the public road, it's definitely a hazard and a high risk," project coordinator Joe Pettigrew said.

An orange mark put on the tree means it could pose a danger to homes and passing cars in the near future.

"Also, these trees could cause bodily injury to people walking around them while trying to clean up. They could just snap in a high wind and come tumbling down on them," Wes Jones said.

Jones is one of ten volunteer foresters walking the neighborhoods of Hancock County searching for dead or dying trees. They're using GPS technology to map and catalog every lifeless tree.

"A lot of these trees that remained green after Katrina were weaken by the salt water intrusion into their root system. This intrusion thus made the tree susceptible to the pine bark beetle," Jones said.

Dead trees that could end up in the waterways will also be tagged.

"If a tree falls in a waterway it could not only fall in an untimely fashion and hit someone in a boat fishing, but it could also clog the waterways," Pettigrew said.

FEMA's guidelines don't allow debris crews to take down the dead trees. The data being compiled by these volunteers will be used to get federal funding to address the problem.

"The problem is so massive. It's going to take a lot of money to fix this problem."

Once volunteers are finished identifying all of the problem trees, it will take about two months to compile the data. Then Hancock County Supervisors will have to start searching for funding to pay for the tree removal.

by Al Showers