Arborist gives urban trees a trim
Christopher Little makes his living climbing trees. Kids might dream of growing up and having a job that includes tree climbing, but Little made it a reality.
Little is an arborist.
“An arborist is someone who works with trees in an urban setting. As opposed to a forester, an arborist works on trees at homes and properties removing disease, diagnosing health problems, removing dead branches, pruning, and maintaining trees. It is different from landscaping in that I work from start to finish with trees, maintaining their health and beauty from planting to the end of life,” Little says.
Little recalls childhood memories of his uncle who worked for Davey Trees and later for Salt Lake City as an arborist. He thought it was a “cool, rugged kind of job” and different from his father’s job as a businessman.
As he got older, his uncle started to show him the basic knots used to ascend trees safely. He also saw his uncle make a living as the sole breadwinner for his family.
“He was never out of work because trees go down in storms.” His decision was made.
His uncle pointed him to a company where he started his training. They thought he was a “natural” since he understood ropes from his climbing background. He also enrolled at Utah Valley Community College (UVCC) in a two-year arborist apprentice program.
It taught him how to work around power lines, how to ascend trees, how to keep his co-workers safe, tree biology, tree climbing, and rope rigging. All of his studies prepared him to earn a certificate with the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).
After a couple of years in Oregon dealing with 200-foot oaks and pines, he came back to Utah to start a business. “When I got back the trees seemed much smaller,” he recalls.
Little’s business, which he started in 2005, Arbortec Tree Preservation, LLC has a healthy client list. “I want to make trees healthy and happy. Companies bigger than mine don’t have time for fine detail and I think the trees suffer because of that. Trees are living things, much like a pet, and I take more care with them.”
Besides maintaining established trees, Little will consult with businesses and homeowners to select the perfect tree for a site. What a client has planned might not be the best option for the chosen spot.
It can be hard when a beloved tree reaches the end of its life. People are reluctant to cut them down, and it can get expensive. But dead branches become a dangerous hazard.
“Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and bring it down.”
Oftentimes a crane or bucket truck is necessary along with creatively rigged ropes.
Siberian elms help keep him in business. “If ever there was an evolutionary masterful tree—this is it,” Little says.
The elms will grow in any soil, find water in any situation, and can grow 60 to 75 feet in four years. He finds it quite “impressive” dealing with the elms. They can lose big branches in a storm and produce a flurry of white seeds that a breeze will blow to new sites.
Little likes to take the time to deal with various situations, be it cleaning up after storms, helping clients pick trees, diagnosing diseases, or assessing light and water tolerances. Why does he do it?
“It’s simple,” he says. “I love to work with trees.”
Salt Lake City, UT 84107
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