About Sean Barry

Sean Barry is the director of media relations for the Arbor Day Foundation, based in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Op-ed pages sound the alarm on proposals to downplay tree care professionals

Facing tight budgets and reduced staff, a number of cities around the country have either floated or are already moving forward with troubling proposals to shift the responsibility for tree care from professionals to homeowners.

By downplaying the numerous benefits of urban trees and putting their care in uncertain hands, these ideas are the textbook definition of penny-wise and pound-foolish. Even responsible homeowners willing and able to do the right thing lack the bargaining power and strategic decision-making ability that is only possible through a comprehensive, citywide approach.

The Foundation’s home here in Lincoln is one community where this is being considered, prompting founder and chief executive John Rosenow to submit this op-ed to the Lincoln Journal Star.

Confronting similar challenges, the San Francisco Chronicle weighed in with a Saturday editorial imploring city leaders to find the money to take care of street trees and criticizing the decision to shift responsibility for 1,200 trees to homeowners:

This policy requires homeowners to maintain trees they didn’t plant, might not even want, possibly can’t afford and probably don’t know how to care for.

The result could spell disaster for the city’s forest. Already, around 4 percent of our trees die every year because of age or lack of proper attention. The city employs only six arborists, down from 19 four years ago. That’s fewer than one trained worker for every 17,000 trees.

The Chronicle also surveyed several ideas for new revenue.

In Sunday’s Journal Star, Rosenow pointed to the Foundation’s experience growing the Tree City USA program into more than 3,400 communities over 36 years. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. He also noted that Lincoln’s experience serves as direct evidence of the need for a professional approach:

A well-staffed professional forestry team was crucial to protecting tree canopy and minimizing property damage during Lincoln’s early-fall snow storm in 1997. Other cities sustained much greater damage by banking on a penny-wise and pound-foolish approach that downplayed the importance of professionals — and the damage remains visible today.

Civic and business leaders in Lincoln have recently stepped up marketing toward young professionals and employers. Rosenow concluded:

Increasingly, jobs and the companies and professionals who create jobs are highly mobile. The successful cities of the future will be those who recruit and retain the best jobs by creating an outstanding quality of life for its citizens — including a well-managed urban forest. We would hope that Lincoln will be such a city.

We’re pleased to see the issue of tree care – often lost in budget discussions, as San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener and others have pointed out – begin to receive the attention it deserves. We look forward to being part of the continued discussion, both here at home and throughout the country.

Time Magazine surveys tree care, Foundation’s Storm Recovery Kit offers post-Sandy guidance

Last week, Dominique Browning penned “When Trees Become Lethal” for Time Magazine’s Ideas blog.

But the title only tells half the story. 

We know that severe storms like Hurricane Sandy take a toll on community trees, putting our safety and property at risk. As Browning points out, though, it is important that the discussion about urban forestry not end there.

Rather, she asks what we can do to take better care of our trees, both to minimize risk and fully enjoy their enormous benefits. It’s a question of healtcare for trees and planting viability, she says.

On tree health, she cites regular pruning and maintenance, as well as hiring professionals when help is needed. Hiring cheap assistance from people without the proper credentials is a mistake. On viability, it’s all about planting the right tree in the right place. Roots need the space to grow, and trees that tower over homes and utility lines put power and property at risk during disasters.

She concludes with this:

We need to learn how to better live with our trees and move away from our simplistic understanding of them. Yes, trees are pretty and useful but they’re also a responsibility that too often people shirk. We’re well aware that cars can be dangerous and take safety precautions not to drive recklessly or in risky conditions. We have to show similar respect to these giant, powerful beings around us. They do so much for us. Let’s do more for them.

It’s a sentiment the Foundation fully shares. Many communities affected by Hurricane Sandy are still dealing with the basics – restoring power, dealing with property damage and looking after personal health and safety. But we know that as the transition to long-term recover continues, many questions remain about how to handle damaged or broken trees. If you’re seeking resources, check out our Storm Recovery Kit, which includes both written materials and videos.

We can take care of our urban forest – and effectively recover from this tragedy, while better preparing for the next one.

Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service.

It’s Arbor Day in Hawaii

Today is Arbor Day in Hawaii. The Aloha State celebrates the tree-planting holiday later than all other states, with the exception of South Carolina.

According to Arbor Day Hawaii, the celebration first arrived in the then-territory of Hawaii in 1905, with the governor recommending that all public schools devote part of the school day to planting trees and scrubs.

The website is a terrific resource, with information on planting the right tree in the right place, caring for existing trees and recipes using locally grown fruits and nuts.

There is also a section for locating Arbor Day events through Hawaii.

The state tree for Hawaii is the Candlenut, or Kikui, pictured at right.

The State of Hawaii is currently home to four Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Hawaii is Honolulu, population 905,000; the smallest is Schofield Barracks, population 14,428.

East Coast members and readers: Stay safe

As we write from Lincoln this morning, Hurricane Sandy is already producing sustained winds at 90 miles-per-hour and has made its way toward the New Jersey Coast. The Federal Government in Washington, DC, has closed, and New York City public transportation systems are being halted.

The National Weather Service is a good resource for up-to-date information.

A handful of Foundation programs and events have been affected. In consultation with university officials, we chose to cancel a Tree Campus USA planting ceremony scheduled for tomorrow morning at Delaware State University. We have also postponed our Wednesday tree planting event at LaSalle University in Philadelphia. Customers of Pepco, Delmarva Power and Atlantic City Electric hoping to participate in the Energy-Saving Trees program will likely encounter delays as utilities direct their focus toward limiting outages.

Our biggest concern is for the safety and well-being of our members and readers.

As we pointed out in the aftermath of heavy storms in June, aging and poorly-maintained trees can quickly become a threat to safety and property. We strongly encourage residents in the eye of the storm to stay alert for updates from local officials and utilities about all hazards.

Our focus at the Foundation continues to be making sure municipalities, utility providers and residents have the resources and plans in place to effectively manage and care for urban trees, in order to be as prepared as possible for future disasters. Routine pruning can and does prevent damage during disasters, while preserving the enormous benefits of street trees that would be lost if they were removed altogether.

In the meantime, we’re keeping our friends on the East Coast in our thoughts.

Two fall Tree Campus USA events down, three left to go

Earlier this month, the Foundation was in Boulder, where students and staff at the University of Colorado experienced the challenges and opportunities of urban forestry first-hand, planting 40 laurel oaks along the interface between the campus and a major city thoroughfare.

On Monday, we were in the Valley Glen neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley to plant trees at Los Angeles Valley College, the first community college and first Southern California institution to participate in the Tree Campus USA program.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, or AASHE, helped with the event, which resulted in 30 new trees on the north mall of the urban campus.

The Foundation will be in Dover, Delaware, for a tree planting at Delaware State University on Tuesday, October 30. LaSalle University in Philadelphia will plant trees on November 1, and Georgia State University in Atlanta will hold their event November 10.

These events are terrific way for current or future Tree Campus USA participants to step up their commitment to conservation and give service-minded students a chance to roll up their sleeves and do something positive for the campus community. We appreciate having Toyota as a continued partner in our effort to grow the next generation of environmental stewards.

We hope, too, that these events will inspire even more colleges and universities to take the steps needed to qualify for Tree Campus USA as we begin accepting applications for 2012.

Information on First-year applications and recertifications is available here.

We put this video about the University of Pennsylvania together after an event there in 2010.

Leading urban design expert says tree canopy “makes all the difference” for fighting climate change

America’s cities have many tools for combating climate change and reducing the heat island effect – but leading urban designer and author Peter Calthorpe told the PBS NewsHour that nothing comes close to cooling effect of well-maintained street trees.

“You can do white roofs and green roofs, but believe me, it’s that street canopy that makes all the difference,” Calthorpe (right) said, in a wide-ranging interview on cities, conducted during the Aspen Environment Forum.

Speaking more broadly about trends in urban design, Calthorpe said that we are “returning to some timeless qualities,” with demographic and cultural shifts causing Americans to take another look at more urban lifestyle.

Policies over the last several decades helped build the middle class, but also fueled dependence on the automobile and increased suburban sprawl, Calthorpe says, and some of those trends have begun to reverse as a result of the housing bubble bursting.

“It’s not that everybody is going to move back to the city. That’s a little bit of a misnomer that people get very excited about,” he said, adding: “We need to rethink how we build our cities, so it can’t be this ‘one-size-fits-all’ paradigm that we’ve had for so long.”

Calthorpe cites Sacramento as a city that is moving in the right direction, pointing in part to a tree canopy that reduces temperature in forested areas by as much as 10 degrees, a point few who have spent time in Sacramento would dispute.

Regardless of the local context, citizens and policymakers trying to bring people back into cities are encouraged to make urban forestry central to their cause.

“You can’t have a great street without street trees,” Calthorpe concluded.

Lied Lodge & Conference Center selected as readers’ favorite by Meetings Focus MidAmerica

Last month, we were delighted to learn that Lied Lodge & Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm was selected as a “Best of MidAmerica’ meeting venue by Meetings Focus readers for the fourth year in a row.

In addition to receiving the same honor in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Lied Lodge has also won the Enviro-Management Award from the American Hotel and Motel Association.

Lied Lodge is a growing destination for conservation-minded groups looking for an ideal, nature-filled setting to regroup, recharge and plan for the future. The U.S. Forest Service, the Society of Municipal Arborists and the Nature Conservancy, all long-time Foundation partners with a rich legacy of stewardship, have chosen Lied Lodge for gatherings.

The goal is for guests to leave seeking to make a difference, taking their conservation advocacy to new levels in support of sustainable forestry, clean air and water and community improvement.

Readers of Meetings Focus MidAmerica were tasked with choosing their favorite properties with consideration toward quality of meeting space, guest rooms, staff, service, food and beverage, amenities, activities and overall value.

Recognition like this – as well as from the inclusion of Arbor Day Farm in promotions like Passport Nebraska – have helped put Lied Lodge on the map, and we’re already seeing a difference. The number of visitors staying for conservation-related gatherings doubled in the past year.

We appreciate the recognition – and look forward to welcoming even more visitors in the years ahead. (Below is a short video we put together last year about meeting at Lied Lodge).


 

At the University of Colorado, students experience the challenges and opportunities of urban forestry up-close

I just returned from our first Tree Campus USA event this fall at the University of Colorado Boulder.

This was my second time attending a tree planting event on behalf of the Foundation – the first was at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers this past January.

It’s exciting to see how colleges and universities across the country are growing their community forests – and finding creative ways to improve the campus quality-of-life and student experience through tree planting and care.

At Florida Gulf Coast University, the 40 laurel oak trees were planted by students near the center of campus, adding much needed shade for students who break a sweat just getting to class in the humid air.

In Boulder, however, the planting we did was at the interface between the campus and the city, alongside a new bike path and a major highway just east of the Coors Event Center.

As senior grounds specialist Alan Nelson told us, the 35 gambel oak trees will do a lot for the edge of campus, creating a more inviting barrier. Planting in a confined space, on an incline, with speeding traffic on one side and chain-link fence separating us from construction on the other, this project was a terrific example of the realities of urban forestry.

Joining the participating students were a number of campus staff, as well as employees with the City of Boulder’s forestry and parks and recreation divisions, including City Forester Kathleen Alexander. Keith Wood, Community Forester with the Colorado Division of Forestry, also participated and made brief remarks.

We’re looking forward to the rest of our fall 2012 tree planting events – Los Angeles Valley College in Valley Glen, CA; Delaware State University in Dover, DE; LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA; and Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA.

Speakers (left to right): Keith Wood, Colorado Division of Forestry; Sean Barry, Arbor Day Foundation; Dave Newport, Director, Environmental Center; Alan Nelson, Senior Grounds Specialist; (Not Pictured: Steve Thweatt, Executive Director, Facilities Management)

Expert on livable cities tells St. Louis trees should top the list

An international expert on livable cities told a St. Louis audience that more trees should top the list of ways to make the city even more vibrant and enjoyable to reside, visit and do business.

Opportunities for walking and biking, ample parks and community gathering spaces like coffee shops were other elements highlighted by Guillermo Penalosa, executive director of the nonprofit 8-80 Cities and a former parks and recreation commissioner for Bogota, Colombia.

According to David Hunn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Penasola stressed that focusing on these elements rather than per-capita income will help cities thrive. When a city has the amenities people want, the economic piece fall into place.

“We live in an ever more globalized world,” Penalosa said. “Quality of life is the most important tool of economic development.”

If St. Louis wants to retain its best-and-brightest, he said, it has to focus on quality of life.

The role of urban forests in increasing quality of life is well appreciated by the more than 3,400 Tree City USA communities and the people who call them home. When we think of our favorite shopping districts or residential blocks, they are often the places full of healthy, well-maintained trees – even if we don’t realize it at first.

Penasola is right. If we want strong economies in our cities, we need to make them more livable and inviting. And if we want boost livability, it starts with trees.

The photo above, courtesy of Washington Magazine, shows the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, a two-year Tree Campus USA.

Ohio’s College of Wooster “sets itself apart” through Tree Campus USA participation

Applications for 2012 Tree Campus USA designation will not be due for another few months, but some campuses are continuing to tout their participation as a mark of commitment to stewardship and service throughout the year.

The College of Wooster, a private liberal arts college located in Wayne County, Ohio, is one institution that marshaled time and resources into making an already beautiful urban forest into something even greater. The campus will celebrate its Tree Campus USA status as part of Homecoming Weekend starting tomorrow.

Director of Grounds Beau Mastrine has contributed greatly to improving the campus forest through “unique vision” and a hard-working staff, according to the Akron Beacon Journal:

“It’s another way that the College has set itself apart,” said Mastrine. “There are currently just eight schools in Ohio who have earned this designation. It is something that all of us can be proud of.”

We look forward to the continued participation of enthusiastic campuses like the College of Wooster – and welcoming new colleges and universities – as we continue to grow the program during this and future years.