Soil Strength and Erosion
After I learned that all trees in the right-of-way were going to be removed, I urged the road superintendent and his associate in an in-person visit to consider possible consequences.
For instance, the lower half of Sperry Road has experienced erosion issues and has a gabion retaining wall in place to shore it up. Because tree roots provide up to 80 percent of soil shear strength under saturated conditions, they can substantially increase the stability of slopes.
In addition, trees and shrubs bind soil and absorb water and therefore slow erosion.
I also pointed out that heavy truck traffic is one of the biggest contributors to a road's deterioration, and limiting the allowable weight among other things would do more in the long run to stop deterioration than cutting trees.
In response, officials advised that cutting the trees wouldn’t affect the roots for a couple of years - meaning, I guess, they were willing to trade any long-term consequence for short-term gain.
When the road department associate told me he had been "waiting to cut these trees for 30 years," I got the sense that nothing I said would change a thing.
Subsequent to about half of the trees being removed, officials did reach out to the county engineer's office about the retaining wall, according to an mail I received. The consensus was that the trees should be cut.