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About The Dalles chronicle. (The Dalles, OR) 1998-2020 | View Entire Issue (March 21, 2020)
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
Hood River News / The Dalles Chronicle
Chris Baker, owner of
Northwest Tree and Trail,
on a recent tree pruning
building diversity focus of Gorge arborist
job in Hood River.
Jim Drake photo
Sustainable practices help urban and rural trees
The Dalles Chronicle
Tree specialist Chris Baker likes to hang out. Even in
the middle of winter, high in a leafless tree, you have
to concentrate to spot him, camouflaged in a mass of
disorganized branches and limbs. His specialty harness
system allows quick movement in the tree’s canopy.
You may catch a glimpse as he swings from branch to
“I’ve always been a rock climber and I’m comfortable
with heights,” Baker said. “I’ve learned my tree climbing
and rigging skills from many different arborists, but
mainly I had to learn on my own.”
Baker is the owner of Northwest Tree and Trail, a Hood
River tree service that has been serving the Gorge for nearly
four years. A transplant from the east coast, Baker became
interested in all things trees while volunteering for the Student
Conservation Association in New Hampshire, an organization
that focused on land stewardship.
Today, he works with local conservation groups like the Mt.
Adams Resource Stewards, and the Underwood Conservation
District, which support local landowners and promote good
forestry conservation practices.
“I’ve been at this for over 10 years, and I knew that’s what I
really wanted to do,” Baker said.
Even though Baker specializes in residential tree work,
he can help customers with larger pieces of property that are
forested. The work can range from fuels reduction to conser-
vation issues, native species assessment, erosion control and
“A lot of people in the area have bought property that were
at one point logging operations, and now it’s 10 years later, and
they don’t have the farming or forestry background for proper
tree management. Now they’ve got this property that they can’t
even bushwack through, and there’s a fire risk as well,” Baker
That’s where Baker’s background and apprenticeship in
sustainable pruning and thinning, site preparation work, and
trail work comes in handy.
“I worked for a Forest Service contractor and I’ve been a
caretaker for several properties. Volunteering on the boards for
conservation groups has given me a great insight to how all of
this works,” Baker said.
Baker said that a common job he encounters is pruning and
thinning. In the urban areas especially, trees near power lines
and houses, many times due to poor planning, are in need of
“In the Gorge it’s a little different because there is rural
property mixed in with urban property. In a week I could easily
have something on an orchard, or in town, or in a forested
rural situation. People typically need help with their trees that
are near something they consider sensitive or at risk, most
commonly the tree is growing too much over the house, or it
hasn’t been pruned in five years or ten years, and it needs to be
pruned back for health reasons,” Baker said.
And knowing how and when to prune each species of tree is
the key to providing for an optimal tree lifespan.
“You can encourage or discourage growth by choosing the
season in which you prune a tree,” Baker said. “If you over-
prune, you can actually end up getting a lot of extra growth
next year—so it really depends on your goals for that tree and
what’s appropriate for the specific species.”
Things can get even more complicated when he is analyzing
all the limbs and branches.
“If there’s a lot on the interior of the canopy, branches end
up crossing over each other, and then rubbing. That can be a
way for certain pathogens or insects to get into the bark of the
tree, because now it’s rubbed away its skin or protective shell,
and it can cause more damage in the future, making limbs
weaker,” Baker said.
A tree’s canopy may need to be thinned out in order to let
more light in for the interior leaves, Baker explained.
“If the tree is not getting very much light on the interior, it
gets shaded out by itself. The tree is putting energy into grow-
ing all this foliage and flowers, but there’s not a lot of return on
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