Trees as living legacies

One of the things that fascinates us the most about trees is their incredible potential for longevity. While there are a few short-lived trees, many of your “normal,” run-of-the-mill trees outlive the average person by fifty to a hundred years. And this doesn’t even consider the extraordinary, ancient trees that live a thousand years or more—in fact, some of the oldest living organisms on earth are trees.

mighty-oakKnowing this, it makes sense that people throughout history have been drawn to the planting of trees to mark significant occasions in our lives, or to honor, celebrate, or remember a loved one. Some people choose to plant a tree for each of their children— a great excuse to collect a few photographic memories of each child next to his or her tree, comparing their changing heights through the years. Some plant a tree in honor of building or moving into a new home. Another wonderful idea that’s gained popularity recently is a wedding unity tree ceremony, whereby the bride and groom combine the soil from each of their homes into the pot of a single tree, a noble Douglasfir, perhaps, then plant it in their new home in honor of their marriage. What a great symbol for a couple’s growing love. Still others find trees they plant to be the perfect lasting, living memorial to someone they have lost. In honor of a parent who has passed away, one might plant an oak tree where, when it becomes older, they might visit to sit peacefully in its shade and feel connected to their loved one. After losing a pet that was part of the family for many years, a dogwood could be a beautiful reminder of the beloved playmate and companion every time one sees its flowers.

Beautiful Flowerind TreeMany of our members and those who have bought trees from our nursery have shared such stories with us, and it inspires us to see how meaningful a tree can be to someone in celebrating life. Below we’ve included a few that tugged on our heartstrings.

“The look on my little great-nephew’s face when we planted, and watched grow, my first free 10 trees one spring, was priceless. Happy to say, just as you promised, that all 10 trees are growing, strong and healthy. My nephew told me that after my passing, he will come back and sit under these trees and reflect on our relationship as friends, and fellow lovers of nature. My dad did this for me also–he received these trees from Arbor Day and planted a spruce for me. To this day, so many years later, I feed the wild birds with a half dozen feeders hanging from this tree’s limbs. As I watch the birds and look at the now big spruce, I think of my Dad and our times in nature, through this spruce we are always together. ” –Member Kevin Warriner

“When my first daughter was born…we really wanted to plant a tree in celebration of our daughter’s birth. We ordered a Weeping Willow. The young tree grew vigorously and very soon was taller than Sara and not long thereafter, taller than us. Our extended family would come for visits and comment on how quickly Sara’s tree was growing. We too have been truly impressed with its development. We recently celebrated Sara’s sixth birthday. It was a warm September day, particularly in the sun. We quickly decided (having originally placed our picnic table in the middle of the yard) to move it under Sara’s tree, retreating from the hot sun. We all expressed our amazement that we were all able to celebrate Sara’s birthday under a tree that was planted as a whip the same year she was born!” – Member Scott Davis

“…My father and mother, when she was living, used to love to watch the squirrels climb their Baldcypress tree…. I decided that I would like to plant one of my Baldcypress trees on the grounds near where she is buried. It is nearly seven feet tall now. My father has visited me a few times in the past few years and was surprised and very happy to see that I had planted the bald cypress near their final resting place.” – Member William R. Thorne

“When my husband and I thawed the top layer of our wedding cake for our first anniversary, we were disappointed that it was inedible. Not wanting to just throw it away, we decided to bury it with much ceremony, in our back yard beneath our cherry tree. Now each year I SWEAR the white blooms smell like cherry…and vanilla! Eleven years and counting!” –Facebook fan Mary Croslin Wright

We understand, however, that sometimes planting a tree where you live isn’t always possible. Luckily, an alternative exists to plant trees in a forest in need. With our Trees in Memory, Trees in Celebration and Trees for Pets programs, our members are planting trees in honor of people and animals they love.

Have you ever planted a tree in memory or celebration of a loved one or to commemorate a special time in your life? We would love you to share your story in the comments.

Urban Forestry Plan is Key to Weathering the Storm

Let’s face it: no one likes to think about natural disasters, with their potential for devastation of our homes, neighborhoods, communities, and livelihoods. We’ve shared on this blog before about some of the communities hit hardest in recent years by natural disasters, and told the inspiring stories of citizens returning hope and healing to the places they call home.

Even still, there’s simply no way around it. Natural disasters are a fact of life.

When a natural disaster strikes a community, trees are invariably involved and many

Photo credit: Urban Forest Strike Team.

Photo credit: Urban Forest Strike Team.

times on the losing end of the event. Using the framework of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program, sound urban forestry management has proven essential to loss prevention and recovery of our treasured trees.

The scientific consensus is that climate change is occurring and that, in many cases, it is making natural disasters worse. Any planning to mitigate disasters should also include planning to reduce human-caused acceleration or magnification of climate change.

According to a survey by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nearly three-quarters of U.S. cities are now seeing environmental shifts that can be linked to climate change. More than 1,000 city leaders have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to strive to meet or exceed Kyoto Protocol targets in their communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A healthy canopy of trees plays an important role in this effort. Trees need to be considered a vital part of every city’s infrastructure – right alongside the bridges, roads, sewers, electrical, and telecommunication grids – and appreciated for the natural workhorses that they are. For proof, one need not look further than the great role trees play in taming stormwater runoff during and immediately following natural disasters.

Sound urban forestry management through the framework of the Tree City USA program has been proven to be essential time and again. In fact, green infrastructure is the only part of a city’s infrastructure that actually increases in value and service over time.

Whether for preventative measures or recovery efforts, here are four key ideas your community needs for the best possible outcomes:

  • Communities with an established budget for tree care are in a better position than those that must compete for grants or appropriations. If your community is a recognized TreeCity USA, your community allocates the standard minimum of $2 per capita in a community forestry program.
  • Be prepared with an emergency management plan – and even better if it specifically includes a storm contingency plan. Unfortunately, it’s likely not a matter of IF you’ll need it, but rather WHEN you will.
  • Take time to “get it right” after a disaster. As in most things, it’s far better to move slowly with deliberate, well thought-out decisions and wise judgment than to rush into hasty action. This is particularly important when considering where reconstruction efforts will take place across a community and where trees should be replaced.
  • Lean on the expertise of your local tree board and their extensive list of contacts. These people will be an invaluable resource when it comes time to actually do the work of replanting trees.

For more information on best practices and ways your community can recover from natural disasters, see Tree City USA Bulletin #68.

Donate Now: Plant trees where they’re needed most.

 

Treating Trees: Good Advice from a Girl Scout

Here at the Arbor Day Foundation, we have members, advocates, and supporters from all walks of life, representing all corners of the globe, and encompassing all ages.

In part, that’s because the good work of planting and caring for trees spans all boundaries – physical, geographical, socio-economic, and many others.

And we love hearing from these advocates. They’re caring, passionate people who lead interesting lives and who have wonderful stories to tell.

This week, our Member Services team received an email from a young lady in Newark, New Jersey, named Victoria Ribeiro.

Girl ScoutsVictoria is a high school-aged girl scout who is working on earning a Gold Award, the highest award given by the Girl Scouts of America. All Gold Award projects must begin with identifying an issue about which the scout is passionate and end with educating and inspiring others on the topic.

Clearly, Victoria is passionate about trees, and we can honestly say we were inspired by her work. Her Gold Award project, an educational PowerPoint presentation entitled Treating Trees, “…seeks to educate the residents of the city of Newark so that they will be able to identify hazardous trees.”

A scene from a Newark, New Jersey, neighborhood following Hurricane Sandy. Ribeiro's presentation seeks to inform people of what to do with hazardous trees in their neighborhoods.

A scene from a Newark, New Jersey, neighborhood following Hurricane Sandy. Ribeiro’s presentation seeks to inform people of what to do with hazardous trees in their neighborhoods.

Victoria’s email continued: “I must make my project have a global/national impact. I looked at your website and saw that [the Arbor Day Foundation] didn’t really have any program that the residents of a city could help identify trees and make his/her community a better place to live. I am emailing you in the hopes that you may possibly create a program similar to mine to make other neighborhoods a safer and better place to live.”

Victoria, we commend you on your excellent presentation and how you’re helping to educate your fellow citizens on trees and tree care. We’re proud to share your work with others who can learn from it for greener, healthier neighborhoods — in Newark and beyond.

Thank you for sharing your passion for trees, and we wish you much succes on your way to earning the Gold Award.

Download your own copy of Victoria’s Treating Trees presentation.

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What to do about Wildfires: Prevention vs. Combat

As the 2013 fire season continues, the costs of fighting wildfires have continued to increase. In 2012, fires consumed 40 percent of the Forest Service’s annual budget, compared to only 13 percent in 1991. Many factors have created these rising costs through the years, including worsened drought conditions, continued climate change, and an increased number of homes built near forested areas. These escalating expenses are proving to be so costly, that they are leaving less money for wildfire prevention.

 

Forest Fires

Drought conditions, climate change, and homes in traditionally forested areas have all contributed to the rising costs of fighting wildfires.

Due to these heightened factors, for fiscal 2014, the federal administration has proposed drastic spending cuts to hazardous fuels reduction, or clearing smaller trees and underbrush through controlled cutting and burns. The idea behind hazardous fuels reduction is that by removing this underbrush, fires will have less fuel to spread rapidly and can then be controlled faster. Donald Smurthwaite, spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center states, “In a recent study by the Bureau of Land Management, when wildfires burned into fuels treatment areas, they were slowed or stopped about 90 percent of the time. With the decline in fuels funding, we’re worried that saving money today will mean larger and more destructive fires tomorrow.” Limited funding has decreased fire prevention for several years. In 2009, 4.5 million acres were treated to prevent wildfires, and under the proposed budgetary cuts, fewer than 2 million acres would be treated in 2014.While the proposed budget for fiscal 2014 would increase overall funding for wildfires, it would largely cut the hazardous fuels budgets for several agencies. In all, 41 percent of these budgets would fall, reducing the current funds of $502 million to $297 million.  This will be the third consecutive year the administration’s proposed budget includes spending cuts to forest treatment to prevent wildfires. Many of these cuts will greatly affect our tree partners — the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.

As an organization of people that cares deeply about our nation’s forests and trees, the Arbor Day Foundation continues to challenge ourselves to better understand how to collaborate with our partners on the ground as they overcome these budgetary hurdles.  There simply isn’t funding available as there has been in decades past, and that is where our valued members, supporters, corporate donors and partners can help us to heighten our efforts to do more with less. They can help us to see new ways to partner with these groups, to create even more relevant programs, and to provide trees to those areas most in need. As we address each new challenge, we search for ways to better engage our loyal members and tree advocates to keep them involved in the good work our partners accomplish each year with our support.

With the help and generosity of our vast network of tree advocates, we will continue to foster our enduring 25-year partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. With their help, the Arbor Day Foundation will continue to bring new ideas surrounding education, conservation, and tree planting in wildfire-stricken areas.

Two ways you can take action now:
The Backyard Woods Program: Managing Forests Can Save Forests
Donate now to replant trees where they’re needed most

Data cited in this post sourced from NBC News.
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Abbie Eisenhart is a Community Tree Recovery Manager for the Arbor Day Foundation.