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“Wait, you do WHAT?!”


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By: Angela Mohar

Over the past two months I’ve gotten a real kick out of seeing friends and family’s reactions to what I’ve been doing lately. In general they either say “I can’t really see you wielding a chainsaw” or “tree killer!” Up until two months ago, I would have to agree with them on the first reaction. Me? Cut down a tree? No way! As for the second reaction, I would have to disagree.

While trees and shrubs end up being victims to my chainsaw, I cut them down in the name of conservation and restoration. One of the long-term goals of the Three Rivers Park District is to restore their forested areas to the mix of pre-settlement species. For the first few weeks after various trainings and orientations, the Three Rivers crews spent time at a newly-acquired part of the Lake Rebecca Park Reserve removing invasive species including buckthorn, honeysuckle, and Siberian elm.


Photo credit: Peter Hanson

Photo credit: Peter Hanson


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From this first large project, I’ve learned a few important things:

1. My tree identification skills need work.

Being able to tell the difference between species of trees and shrubs without their foliage is quite challenging, and even with their foliage it can still be difficult. Many of the trees that we’ve come across have lookalikes such as different species of elm (in this case American and Siberian varieties, and even hybrids of the two), or three completely different shrubs and trees that can start off looking quite similar to one another like buckthorn, black cherry, and plum. Remembering which of these has alternate or opposite branching, their bud appearance and their location has proven to be a big challenge for me. You can tell, however, if you have cut buckthorn by the color on the inside. If it’s orange, you’ve chosen and identified it wisely.

2. Work efficiently yet observantly to try and foresee a potential saw-pinching situation.

We’ve all misjudged a limb or the trunk and have gotten our chainsaw stuck. I, for one, have managed to get myself in such a situation more than once where another saw was needed to free mine. Other times just lifting the limb with the help of another has sufficed, but all the same, I’ve learned from most of my mistakes but don’t doubt they won’t ever happen again.

3. Have some confidence in yourself.

Prior to my experiences thus far, I never saw myself as being capable of using a chainsaw. In fact, to say that I didn’t have any fear whatsoever of using a chainsaw before this would be a complete lie. When I had the chance to finally try it, I discovered that it’s a) not so bad, and b) I am ultimately in control of what happens and having confidence makes all the difference. This may sound slightly cliché, but confidence can truly allow you to do anything that you set your mind to. Without it, you’re just holding yourself back from your full potential.