I found this old article online today. One reason I like it is that it dates to April, 1989 - almost the exact time that I first learned about tree tubes and realized their potential for re-establishing high value hardwoods in the face of increased deer pressure.
The article is a classic - a classic display of short-sighted stupidity that is. The author complains about all of the plastic treeshelters he was beginning to see when strolling the English countryside.
He did have one valid point: In those early days tree tube makers were overly optimistic in telling customers that the tubes would photodegrade into an inert powder within a certain number of years. We now know this to be untrue. Well-made tree tubes like the Tubex CombiTube Treeshelters we carry here at Wilson Forestry Supply, have a perforation line running the length of the tubes so that the tube will open up and expand as the tree growth.
And responsible manufacturers like Tubex make sure all customers know that the preferable practice is to remove the tree tubes when the trees reach approximately 3 inches in diameter, and dispose of them properly.
As for Malcolm Smith's other complaints about wanting to see the woods like more "natural," well...
Is it "natural" to have a white-tailed deer population that is many, many multiples of what it was 100 years ago?
Is it "natural" for high value hardwoods to compete with dozens of exotic and invasive weed species?
Is it "natural" to suppress the fires that gave oaks and other trees a competitive edge over the surrounding prairie grasses?
We are planting trees into a very "unnatural" world, and as such it makes sense that we must turn to "unnatural" methods, such as plastic tree tubes. After all, there's a reason foresters invented tree tubes in the first place: What they were doing before no longer worked!
So Mr. Smith had a choice: Put up with a few years of looking at plastic tree tubes (perhaps 5 years out of an 80 or 100 year rotation), or be forced to watch year after year after year of failed plantings.
It would be interesting to know, 21 years later, what Mr. Smith thinks of tree tubes now!