JACKSON – Personnel from the Kentucky Department of Highways District 10 have noticed an increasing number of elm trees along state right of way that have had the bark stripped from them.
In addition to being an illegal act of trespassing, vandalism and theft of state property, this action will result in the trees dying, requiring state forces to cut them before they become a safety hazard.
“When all the bark is removed from a tree’s trunk, it will kill the tree,” said Dustin Gumm, agronomist for District 10. “When these trees die, they are susceptible to falling into the roadway, causing problems for drivers. Our personnel will have to cut these trees, which results in unnecessary costs to the taxpayers. Since these trees are on state right of way, they are the property of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the stripping of their bark is considered vandalism and theft.”
Gumm urges motorists who see individuals stripping bark from elm trees along state highways to contact law enforcement officials with a description of the individuals and the vehicle they are using.
Stripping of elm tree bark became a problem last year in Knott County in neighboring District 12, where Transportation Cabinet personnel discovered a number of trees that had been stripped of their bark along a stretch of KY 550 east of Hindman. Personnel there estimated it would cost around $5,000 to remove the dead trees that resulted from the bark stripping. A number of instances of bark stripping on private property in the District 10 area have also been reported this year, as well as occurrences in the Daniel Boone National Forest in previous years.
Elm bark has a number of herbal medicine uses, including as a remedy for diarrhea and as a diuretic. The bark can also be used as an astringent to be applied to wounds. Strippers sell the bark to commercial buyers of plants and roots, such as those who purchase ginseng.