Arborist donates resources to prune, stabilize historic tree in Buckland

  • Silbert “Woody” Lanoue of Lanoue Tree and Landscaping of Colrain donates his company’s time for a day of service on Arbor Day by pruning a sugar maple at the Wilder Homestead in Buckland that is documented as being roughly 160 years old. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Jeremy Lanoue of Lanoue Tree and Landscaping of Colrain uses a pole saw to prune an ancient sugar maple at the Wilder Homestead in Buckland that is reported to have been planted by a Civil War soldier. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/30/2021 4:49:50 PM

BUCKLAND — For the 40 years he’s been in business, one local arborist has donated his time and resources each Arbor Day — celebrated annually on the last Friday of April — to the preservation of local trees and landscapes.

This year, Silbert “Woody” Lanoue of Lanoue Tree and Landscaping donated half the cost of work for the pruning and stabilization of the roughly 160-year-old sugar maple outside the Wilder Homestead on Ashfield Road.

“I was very interested in preserving the tree because of its history in this area” he said. “It definitely was an interesting project to get involved in.”

As a certified arborist in Massachusetts, Lanoue performs at least one act of community service each year, he said. In the past, he’s donated his service to projects in Ashfield and Colrain, as well as at the Green River Cemetery in Greenfield.

On Friday, Lanoue Tree and Landscaping was at the homestead, pruning the tree and cabling it for stabilization.

“If you can keep up with that, it has a better chance of survival,” said Stacy Kontrabecki, a Buckland Historical Society trustee and director of the Hilltown Legacy Tree Project, a program of the Historical Society.

Kontrabecki also applied the tree for legacy recognition in the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Legacy Tree Program, which formally recognizes the largest and most interesting known tree of each species, trees of historical origins, and other trees of unique and significant importance growing within the state of Massachusetts, according to the state website. Based on the tree’s historic status, Kontrabecki was told it automatically qualified for recognition and would be added to the department’s database.

Watching as the contractor pruned the sugar maple on Friday, Kontrabecki, who is also a licensed forester, said the tree itself “doesn’t seem to be in decline.”

“It looks pretty healthy, especially for the age of it,” agreed Woody Lanoue’s nephew, Jeremy Lanoue, who used a pole saw to remove the dead wood from the top with a bucket truck.

Kontrabecki noted that with the exception of a light trimming in 2015, the tree really hadn’t been formally maintained, likely since it was planted. So in an effort to get ahead of the “dieback” — the progressive death of twigs, shoots and branches — and prevent the overall decline of the tree, she applied for a matching grant from DCR.

“I knew that most of the trustees … wanted this tree to be recognized because of its history, because of how gorgeous it is, and how important it is to the museum property,” she said.

As part of the grant application, Kontrabecki shared the long history of the tree, dating back to when it was reportedly planted by a Civil War soldier.

She referenced a letter, written by a soldier in Alabama named Lorenzo Colburn Wilder, who was born in Buckland in 1838. In that letter to his parents in Buckland, which was given to the Historical Society by Wilder descendants, Lorenzo Colburn Wilder asked about the trees that had been planted at the homestead.

“Are those maple trees that Joseph and I planted still alive?” he wrote. “I hope they are.”

DCR ultimately awarded a $1,900 matching grant to the Historical Society for the tree’s preservation. That was when Kontrabecki connected with Woody Lanoue of Colrain, who told her he does a volunteer project each year on Arbor Day and could contribute the $1,900 match for the grant.

“I just think that’s fabulous,” Kontrabecki said. “I think it’s great that arborists like him do those projects. It’s an important day for their industry.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429.


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