Casey P. Roland – Tree Care Exclusive Interview

Meet Casey P. Roland, Ashland’s most infamous and renowned tree aficionado. With over 43 years of experience, he has dedicated himself to caring for trees, consistently lacing up the same boots day in and day out to climb and conquer any challenges that come his way. Casey, having recently been banned from the Ashland Tree Commission, is not just a tree expert; he’s a force.

His passion for trees eclipses his regard for people, and if you dare to inquire about saving the planet, be prepared for a response from a man whose love for trees is unparalleled. Despite enduring weather, heights, and winds that would make most quiver, Casey remains unyielding, laughing in the face of adversity. According to him, he still works with tools that are older than your grandmother, a testament to the wealth of knowledge he brings to his craft.

Speaking to Casey, perched in some remote corner of Ashland, he dismisses the notion that working with trees is merely a job; for him, it’s a privilege. In a world where some may complain about the elements, Casey P. Roland thrives, declaring that if you can’t handle nature’s challenges, you don’t deserve to be scaling the heights of these majestic giants.

Casey, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today.

Thank you Shields, your publication has really helped put me on the map! It has been fun trying to come up with a monthly article and within reason you print (almost) everything I send you! I hope to keep this up for a while…

Ya know… I´m not sure if LocalsGuide would still be in business if it were not for your monthly column. You’re kind of a big deal.

Ha! You’re too kind! You would not believe the number of people that tell me they look forward to the LocalsGuide for my article. And to think I figured most people just used it to line their parrot cages with my article!

I can’t really imagine how I could do this kind of thing without your venue, it has kept me in business, so I owe you big time, even if you did jack up my monthly rates (just teasing)….

So… you´re tough as nails, lacing up your boots now and climbing trees for over 43 years. How are the youngins doing?

I trained a young kid a couple of years ago and he picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone by starting up his own outfit. It just works out that way, and I am proud of the fact that I could do for a new arborist what all the guys I worked for in my younger years did for me. Is that competition, you might ask? Not really, more like camaraderie, as all arborists are brothers and sisters in a way. Besides, I didn’t show him ALL my secrets so I still have the ace up my sleeve, so to speak.

I am in the process of training another young lad (his name is actually Ladd) and he is coming along nicely, it will be fun…

“Thou Shalt Not Top Thy Tree” has to be one of the all-time classic articles you have written and credos that you live by.

Best article ever! I have to emphasize the importance of not allowing ANYONE to EVER bastardize your tree by blowing the top out of it! Unless you top it about one inch above ground level, you are ruining it. Except for a very few instances, fruit trees for example, or the necessary evil of overhead power line conductor clearances, it has got to be about the worst thing you can do to any tree. My article explains this in detail, and SHOULD be the last word on the subject, but alas, it still happens often enough to really tick me off!

You really gain nothing in the long run and besides giving me a pain in the ass restructure job down the road, you just halved the typical lifespan of your beloved tree. All pruning injuries are courts for infection. Trees are a sealed system and topping just begs for damage from sun damage and decay.

Casey… so how did you get kicked off the Ashland Tree Commission? What the heck was that all about?

Short of committing politcal suicide here, in a nutshell, a business owner wanted me to top a couple of trees to the bottom of the upstairs windows so his patrons could have an unobstructed view of the Plaza. When I told him that while I empathize with his desire to restore the view, I was not willing to top (ruin) his trees to the desired height, which just happened to be the bottom sill of the upstairs windows. “I don’t want to top them,” he tells me, “I just want to give them a good haircut.” Whatever the hell that means.

ANYHOO, this went round and round and when it turned out that while the City would not let him “top” his trees, they issued a permit to “prune” them to facilitate maintenance of the structure. With permit in hand, he tried to get me to “give them a good haircut” (top them to the bottom of the upstairs windowsill).

When I told him to get bent, he yanked the permit out of my hand and stomped off. The next Monday I get a call about the trees that got mysteriously “haircutted” over the weekend. This was when my water started boiling, and fast forward some time later he showed up to a tree commission meeting about some other planning action. With the chip on my shoulder from the last dog and pony show with this guy, I let my ego and a beer or two get the better of me. I had more than a few choice words for him, I blew my stack. It was egregious and disrespectful to everyone present, and I don’t regret it one damn bit. When I violate my own personal standards faster than I can lower them, I am out of business. I do apologize for being an ass about the whole thing, but, If I didn’t stick to my guns, the magnificent Clay St. Cottonwood would have been turned into a pile of chips and firewood years ago.

In the end, the mayor at the time called me on Sunday morning after the tree commission meeting and gave me the ax. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it…

Ya think they will ever take you back?

Oh hell no…

Have you thought about running for mayor… I mean I could help you with running a campaign.

I’m not political material. But you know, neither are a lot of people who hold or have held political office, so you might be onto something there. I would be a terrible mayor, unless you really want to see the town completely filled with spectacular specimen trees… Hmmm, a platform maybe?

And is it true you are really scared of heights?

Yep, born that way. It has lessened a very tiny bit over time but yes, I have been scared to death of heights all my life and will be for the rest of my career. I just like expensive toys, so I have to buck up and trudge along.

Casey. when it comes to trees… would it be fair that oftentimes you are finding that you like them more than people?

I wouldn’t say oftentimes, but there are many trees that I enjoy speaking to more than certain people I have run into…

What´s your view on the state of our planet right now and the treemagedon that is happening here in Southern Oregon and beyond?

We, as a species, had better start paying attention to the forest around us. You don’t get a do-over when the environment goes to hell in a handbasket. The conifer (pine, cedar, true and Douglas fir) and hardwood (oak and ash) decimation that has been ramping up will prove to be a very rough start to the effects that are down the road for our wild, as well as urban, forests. Can we offset this? Time will tell, but the proliferance of new and more aggressive pathogens affecting our native forests is alarming.

Trees are croaking faster than we can cut them down, so best learn how to keep your trees as stress-/strain-free as possible, just Google it!

When in doubt, plant high and often…

Be good to trees.

Trees have dignity! Show them the respect they deserve, they have earned it in more ways than you can imagine…

Casey, how did this all begin for you and where does it end?

It started for me when I was 15 and will end when I get to the point of not being able to climb or can’t start a saw…

What’s your favorite book about trees?

Anything that is written about trees I enjoy, and especially the authors who look VERY closely at whole tree/forest systems, soil biology, and the importance of the presence of beneficial fungi/root relationships. We are learning new things every day, stay tuned…

Best movie with trees?

Sometimes A Great Notion, and the Youtube video “Hobbs Vs. Volvo.”

Best song about trees?

Funny, I can’t think of one…

First thought you have in the morning?

Making it to the end of the day without anyone getting hurt or killed first, not munching anything second, and making money on a job third. So far it has worked more often than not…

Tree removal is complex and can cost anywhere from $0 to $14,000. Please explain this to us.

It really depends on the consequence of what will happen if I miss by an inch or two! Put a 5000 lb. chunk of oak through the roof of a McMansion and your profit margin begins to fade. It really is a game of risk and simple things like a snip or two almost never get billed. Sweet little old ladies with the hump between their shoulders and coke bottle glasses absolutely never get a bill…

Call me when it’s done… goodbye.

Most of my clients don’t ask for a number (price) as they trust me not to fleece them. I am the same way with my mechanic, I hand him my keys and tell him to call me when he’s done…

Most ridiculous request you have ever had when working with a client?

I actually had a client tell me she “wanted as much sun as she could get, but didn’t want to lose any of her shade.”

I knew exactly what she meant, she meant she was crazier than an outhouse rat…

Fastest job you ever quit and why?

Probably the aforementioned outhouse rat lady. Besides owning my own business, I’ve quit every job I ever had, but on the other hand, I’ve never been fired. Well, except for that Tree Commission thingy…

Best way to keep the ones who have loved you for over 43 years?

Call often and early! I am a one and a half man band, I will eventually get to you, but I must consider the priority of the job. Remember, we are castrated for chainsaw use for one-third of the year due to ridiculous fire restrictions, neutered during winter due to rain and wind, and then there’s hunting/fishing season.

Thank you all for being so patient, if only there were more like 8 or 9 days a week, I’d a had it done by now…

Casey, thanks so much and congrats on your hard work. Any last thoughts or comments?

Thank you again for the soapbox Shields! Looking forward to more parrot cage liners…

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