How to Cut Down a Tree in Nicaragua

First, please note that federal Nicaraguan law requires you to obtain a permit before removing a living tree within urban limits, even if it is on your private property and is at death´s door. The permit is issued by your Alcaldia (the municipal government). These permits cost very little money and obtaining one of them is straight-forward and simple.

All you really need to do to get a permit is to show that the tree endangers a structure in some way, or impedes a public passageway, or represents a threat to public safety (such as falling limbs). Usually all you will need to do to get the permit is to produce a couple of cell-phone fotos of the tree which demonstrate the risk, a verbal explanation, and maybe 300 cordobas ($12) to pay for the license.

In Nicaragua, if you are a foreigner, it is always a good idea to do something the legal way, rather than try to cut corners, especially if to do so does not involve much bother or money. So the place to start is to get the permit.

After obtaining the permit, you will not have much trouble finding a contractor with the expertise and equipment to remove any tree and destroy its root system, no matter how large. Just spend a little time asking around and getting references. I am sure it won´t take you much work to find several to choose from. In fact, the people in the Alcaldia who grant you the permit might be the best people to ask for a reference, since they will personally know everyone in the business.Otherwise, it pays to shop around and negotiate.

For example, if you have obtained a permit to cut down a tree on your property, the cut lumber then becomes your property as well. Lumber fetches a favourable price in Nicaragua, even if it is only good for firewood. A large tree stump produces a lot of firewood. As a case in point, two months ago I had to remove a large linden tree whose roots were destroying the septic tank of a house which I own in Jinotepe. The tree removal contractor agreed to do the work for free in return for the right to remove the lumber and sell it.

When a tree has been removed, in order to destroy the root system, have the contractor drill into the trunk several times and fill the holes with common salt, or a quite mild household bleach solution, or nitrogen. Industrial organoclorines such as commercial herbicides are not needed and would be no more effective. This approach is very sustainable since these materials pose no great mischief on a long-term basis to the ecosystems at the base of the roots.

After the tree stump and root system are deader than Jimmy Hoffa, the stump can be chopped out easily by a couple of guys with machetes in about an hour and a half. At the end of the process, it would be a nice touch for you to go to a vivero and spend very few cordobas to buy a few mango or avocado or almond saplings and a couple of sacks of worm compost fertilizer, and give them as gifts to a small farmer you might know.

As soon as these saplings grow into big strong trees, their foliage will absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than is being removed by the dying tree which you are trying to eradicate, thus achieving a carbon-neutral result which will help to reverse the build-up of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere and global climate change.