tree service in Lake Orion, MI

Clearing Things Up

Trends in land clearing and ROW work
By Patrick White

Land clearing, tree removal
Owen Tree Service handles smaller land clearing jobs. "We're more effective on smaller, more challenging jobs on difficult sites," says owner Randy Owen. The company uses smaller tracked machinery to minimize ground disturbance.
In many cases, land clearing and right-of-way (ROW) work is done by companies that specialize in these niche areas. However, there are many general tree care companies that also handle these jobs, along with providing services to residential and other commercial customers. We talked to a few such tree care professionals to find out what trends and developments they're seeing in the land clearing and ROW segments of the industry.
Randy Owen, owner of Owen Tree Service in Michigan ( says the economic downturn had a huge impact on companies that specialized only in land clearing. "There was zero activity around here. It forced some companies, some very good companies, out of business," he says. "They weren't diversified enough to do other types of work, and they had to compete with competitors who were just trying to keep their guys working."
The obvious result was lower prices for everyone working in land clearing and ROW work. "The downturn made everyone aware that they really had to sharpen their pencils," states Owen. However, customers who selected bids based only on the bottom line price were often disappointed. "They got a lot of poor service and poor performance, because the good companies couldn't lower their prices that much," he adds.
Fortunately, Owen says he now sees the trend going in the other direction. "We're starting to see more work coming back, and we're seeing customers who had to deal with lower quality work now be more aware and quite a bit more selective in who they hire," he explains. "We've won a lot more jobs this year, and I'm not sure why. But I think it might be because we're doing a little bit better job."
Land clearing is viewed by some as work that doesn't require the skill or precision of, say, a climber pruning a prized tree in a residential yard. However, Owen says that developers' experiences with poor-performing companies has shown them that it does take skill and the right approach to handle land clearing jobs effectively. "There's a big difference in the equipment people use and the quality of the final product," he explains. "Typically, the land clearing is a minor part of a big commercial development job, and all of the other stuff is much more expensive. But if the clearing and tree cutting is delayed and causes problems for the project, all of a sudden the cost becomes much higher."
Owen Tree Service handles only smaller land clearing jobs. "We would not be effective on real large projects," notes Owen. "The bigger the land clearing, the more mechanical it becomes - fewer men but more [and] bigger equipment. We're more effective on smaller, more challenging jobs on difficult sites."
Accordingly, the company uses slightly smaller machinery that's suited for the size of the jobs it takes on. For example, they use tracked Mustang (Takeuchi) skid steers. "They're expensive, but very heavy duty," notes Owen. "We're putting a little bit lighter footprint on the ground, which helps prevent ground degradation and compaction." He notes that this is especially important on some ROW clearing jobs. "We've always used them, but I'm seeing more and more companies using similar equipment now - that's definitely a trend. There's less ground impact than when you use big wheeled machines."
Owen says that his company's ROW clearing work has been more consistent, even during the slow economy. He notes that the power grid is a critical component of Homeland Security, and regulations designed to prevent a power grid failure might be compelling some utility companies to do more ROW work. "I think there may be a little bit more accountability required," says Owen. He feels that might be driving more early management of right-of-ways. "But, generally, the companies we work for are pretty consistent in their management plans," Owen adds.
This article is an excerpt from the May 2013 issue of Tree Services Magazine
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Owen Tree Service provides tree, lawn, and landscape services to the following cities and towns:
Genesee County, Michigan:
● Burton
● Davison
● Flushing
● Goodrich
● Linden
● Otisville
● Clio
● Fenton
● Gaines
● Grand Blanc
● Montrose
● Otter Lake
● Flint
● Genesee
● Lennon
● Mt Morris
● Swartz Creek
Lapeer County, Michigan:
● Almont
● Brown City
● Columbiaville
● Imlay City
● Metamora
● Peck
● Attica
● Clifford
● Dryden
● Lapeer
● North Branch
● Sandusky
● Hadley
● Mayville
● Otter Lake
● Silverwood
Macomb County, Michigan:
● Armada
● Clinton Twp
● Grosse Pointe
● Macomb
● New Haven
● St Clair Shores
● Centerline
● Detroit
● Grosse Pointe Farms
● Ray
● Sterling Heights
● Chesterfield
● Eastpointe
● Grosse Pointe Shores
● Memphis
● Romeo
● Utica
● Clinton
● Fraser
● Grosse Pointe Woods
● Mt Clemens
● Roseville
● Warren
● Harrison Twp
● New Baltimore
● Shelby Twp
● Washington
Oakland County, Michigan:
● Auburn Hills
● Bloomfield Village
● Ferndale
● Leonard
● Orion
● South Lyon
● Berkley
● Clarkston
● Franklin
● Madison Heights
● Ortonville
● Southfield
● Beverly Hills
● Clawson
● Hazel Park
● Milford
● Oxford
● Troy
● Bingham Farms
● Commerce Twp
● Highland
● Novi
● Pleasant Ridge
● Walled Lake
● Birmingham
● Davisburg
● Holly
● Oak Park
● Pontiac
● Waterford
● Bloomfield
● Detroit
● Huntington Woods
● Oakland
● Rochester
● West Bloomfield
● Bloomfield Hills
● Farmington
● Lake Orion
● Oakland Twp
● Rochester Hills
● White Lake
● Farmington Hills
● Lathrup Village
● Orchard Lake
● Royal Oak
● Wixom
St. Clair County, Michigan:
● Algonac
● Casco
● East China
● Harbor Beach
● Lexington
● Peck
● Allenton
● Clay
● Emmett
● Harsens Island
● Marine City
● Port Huron
● Berlin
● Clyde
● Fair Haven
● Jeddo
● Marysville
● Richmond
● Brockway
● Columbus
● Fort Gratiot
● Kimball
● Memphis
● Sandusky
● Capac
● Cottrellville
● Goodells
● Lakeport
● North Street
● St Clair
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