Assess the damage
Damage to a windbreak or shelterbelt may range from slight to complete devastation. While the damage may seem unbelievable, and the windbreak unsavable, there may be portions or individual trees that may be saved. Before deciding to remove the entire planting look for what may be saved. Even a damaged windbreak will continue to provide some protection.
When evaluating a damaged windbreak look at the trees individually, the damage to each tree may be different. Although a tree may have suffered severe damage to one or several of the branches, the tree may be able to recover. If the damage is restricted to less than one third of the crown there is a good chance that it will recover. Trees with damage greater than one third generally will not function for a long time, but may be worth saving until new trees are established. In addition to looking for damage to the crown, look around the tree for evidence of failure or damage to the tree's root system. Are there raised mounds of sod or slits in the soil? These are signs of potential serious damage to the tree's root system.
Cleaning and clearing
Remove the downed material first. By removing this debris, the windbreak will not only look better, it will help you evaluate the trees that remain. After the downed material is out of the way, you can then evaluate the trees as discussed above. If you determine that one or more trees are damaged beyond saving, remove them only if you feel you can do so safely. Remember, it is usually best to cut trees at the stump and pull them out of the windbreak with a tractor and cable. You should also beware of cutting trees that have other trees hanging or pushing on them, as the weight can cause such trees so snap unpredictably. When selecting which trees should be removed, err on the side of leaving trees, as stated above, even damaged trees provide some protection. Look for those trees that may be hazardous first, trees close to buildings, machinery, or livestock may warrant closer inspection to avoid future damage.
Replanting or restoring
Before planting seedlings to replace those destroyed, make certain the renovation or replanting will meet your needs. Consider snow patterns, wind direction and species available. This may be the time to change the species composition or location of the windbreak, a professional resource manager can help you determine the best course of action.
The restoration of a windbreak is an important conservation measure, and as such, there may be assistance available for restoration or renovation. Most programs, however, only cover costs incurred after the request for assistance. Activities undertaken before you apply may be at your own expense.
For more information and assistance contact:
City Forester or City Clerk
DNR Area Forester
Soil and Water Conservation District
Natural Resource Conservation Service
Minnesota Extension Service