Trees, Water and Sustainability

loch katrine trossachs national park

Loch Katrine— nestled on The Trossachs National Park in Scotland— depends on surrounding trees for Glasgow’s clean water supply.

When we think of forests, we think of trees, the wonders of nature, of sheer beauty, and clean, fresh air. We often don’t think about the water we drink.

We should.

More than 180 million Americans, 56 percent of the U.S. population, have abundant, healthy drinking water thanks to forests.

Forests help snow melt and rain water soak into the soil to replenish rivers and streams during dry times. Trees stop silt from eroding into our waterways. They serve as natural filters to clean sparkling mountain streams, healthy lakes and reservoirs, and our nation’s vast web of rivers.

Why is that important to us? As U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “While most Americans live in urban areas, most of us depend on rural lands, particularly forest lands, for clean water and a healthy climate.”

One example is New York City. In the late 1990s, city leaders balked at a $6 billion water treatment system and instead opted for natural forest management to clean the water it receives from the Catskill/Delaware watershed in upstate New York. The focus is on creating conservation easements along streams and reservoirs, and protecting forest lands to keep sediment and runoff from entering the water supply. The watershed provides New Yorkers with more than 1 billion gallons each day of some of the cleanest, healthiest drinking water in the world.

Millions of Californians rely on crystal-clear water flowing from the San Bernardino National Forest and other California forests to quench their thirst.

In Colorado, the South Platte watershed, which rises high in the Pike National Forest, supplies Denver with drinking water.

In Scotland, trees in The Trossachs National Park protect nearby Loch Katrine, which provides Glasgow its water supply. These are just a few examples of how our dependence on clean water also depends on healthy forests.

One way of keeping our forests healthy is to plant trees.

Klamath National Forest-California – After a fire, tree-planting crews are often in a race against time to plant new native trees.

The need to replant our forests is vitally important because of damage from insects, disease and unprecedented wildfires. Every year, new areas in critical need of replanting are identified – places where fires burn so hot that the seeds of future forests are destroyed.While we don’t know where the critical needs will be 10 years from now, or 40 years from now, we do know that our forests will continue to need our help, and that trees will be planted wherever they will best serve people, our environment, and water resources for generations to come.

There is no substitute for clean water. Water is a vital resource that we rely on every day. We can’t create something else to take its place.

But we can plant trees.

The next time you turn on the tap, remember the role trees play in keeping our drinking water clean and safe. And when we next think of forests, we’ll think of majestic beauty, clean air, habitat for wildlife…and healthy, abundant water for this and future generations.

 

Trees Tame Stormwater

Rain refreshes the land and nourishes the green landscape, and all things that grow suffer when we lack rainfall, as areas that are currently experiencing or have just recently experienced drought can attest. But when that long-awaited rain does pour down, particularly when it’s not a gentle sprinkle, but a torrent of water, the benefits may not always be as great.

runoff_diagram[1]Wait–rain is rain, right? Shouldn’t it help equally wherever it falls?

Well, in areas where houses, stores, schools, roads and parking lots spread, the natural tree cover is lost, and so too is the absorbing effect of vegetation and soil. Without the benefit of trees and vegetated infrastructure, welcome rain becomes costly stormwater runoff—rushing through gutters and pipes following a storm, as oils, heavy metal particles and other harmful substances are washed into rivers and lakes. Fish and wildlife suffer, drinking water becomes expensive or impossible to reclaim, property values are reduced, and our living environment is degraded.

Luckily, something can be done to make the most of the precious rainfall, helping to maximize its benefits to all: planting trees and preserving existing trees.

Leaves and bark of a tree retain a huge amount of water, allowing some of it to evaporate and some to more slowly reach the ground. How exactly do they do it? Several ways:stormwater-runoff_fazio[1]

-Intercept falling rain and hold a portion of it on the leaves and bark. Part of this intercepted water will evaporate and part will be gradually released into the soil below.

-At the surface of the soil, fallen leaves help form a spongy layer that moderates soil temperature, helps retain moisture, and harbors organisms that break down organic matter and recycle elements for use in plant growth. This important layer also allows rain water to percolate into the soil rather than rushing off carrying with it oil, metal particles and other pollutants.

-Below ground, roots hold the soil in place and absorb water that will eventually be released into the atmosphere by transpiration.

-Through the collective action of leaves and the anchoring and absorbing effects of roots, trees also contribute to soil stabilization, cleaner water and the recharge of groundwater that serves as the drinking supply for more than half the nation’s population.

few treesDepending on size and species, a single tree may store 100 gallons of water or more, at least until it reaches saturation after about one to two inches of rainfall. When multiplied by the number of trees in a community, this interception and redistribution can be significant. It is estimated that the urban forest can reduce annual runoff by 2-7%. This reduction can be converted into dollar savings due to the use of smaller drainage and artificial retention systems. When trees are combined with other natural landscaping, studies have shown that storm runoff can be reduced as much as 65 percent in residential areas. In fact, sometimes even 100 percent of rainfall can be retained on site.

abundant treesCheck out the interactive graphic on arborday.org that shows the effects of few trees, then abundant trees on city stormwater and runoff:

The role of trees in stormwater retention and its resulting benefits to public health and municipal budgets deserves greater appreciation. It is one reason of many why the planting and care of trees in our communities is of critical importance.

Trees are useful and valuable components of city stormwater infrastructure and provide measurable reductions in runoff volume and pollutant loads. Municipalities should explore opportunities to expand tree planting programs and incorporate trees into engineered stormwater systems. Trees are not just landscaping placed on top of city infrastructure, they are city infrastructure. –Shirley Trier, Davey Resource Group

Adapted from Tree City Bulletin #55: How Trees Can Retain Stormwater Runoff by Dr. James R. Fazio

References:

Tree City Bulletin #55: How Trees Can Retain Stormwater Runoff

Arbor Day Foundation: How Trees Tame Stormwater

Top 10 Ways to Celebrate Arbor Day

The simple act of planting a tree will have a positive impact for generations to come. In the words of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day, “Other holidays repose upon the past, Arbor Day proposes for the future.” Here are 10 ideas of how you can celebrate Arbor Day:

17_Fruit_saplings[1]Have a game night with tree trivia, winner gets a tree seedling

Hold a picnic in a park, or take a nature hike

Learn your state tree

Invite friends over for a movie nightIMG_4700[1] and watch a film that features trees with pumpkin spice cupcakes (or some spice derived from trees)

Send an Arbor Day e-card to friends & family

Bake an Arbor Day inspired dish (or whole meal) using spices and other ingredients produced entirely by trees

9512239-large[1]Sign up to a neighborhood recycling program or find a recycling center and pledge to recycle paper and cardboard

Upcycle your tree clippings, there are other ways to use them in addition to your garden

Collect leaves, put tempera paint on DSC_7859[1]them and make leaf prints

Buy a What Tree Is That pocket field guide and see how many trees you can identify in your neighborhood

California Celebrates Arbor Week in March

arbor-logo-lg[1]While the National Arbor Day observance is celebrated on the last Friday in April, many states have implemented state-recognized Arbor Days that reflect the best time for planting in their region.

California doesn’t only celebrate Arbor Day; the state has a whole week dedicated to educating Californians on the value trees provide to healthy cities. In 2011 the California State Assembly and Senate approved Resolution ACR 10, a measure that recognized how vital trees are to the state, and declaring the establishment of Arbor Week. Arbor Week—celebrated March 7 to March 14—encourages residents to observe the week with tree planting activities and programs.

One of the various benefits of the state celebrating Arbor Week is that it allows like-minded organizations the opportunity to work together and organize events on a larger scale.  California is home to 143 certified Tree City USA communities, 10 Tree Line USA Utilities, and four Tree Campus USA’s. We wish we could recognize each celebration. Below are highlights of a few of the Arbor Day events that took place last year.kids

Sacramento, designated a Tree City USA for 37 years and Growth Award recipient 10 years, was listed as one of the 10 Best Cities for Urban Forests.  The city launched a 30K Tree campaign in 2012—an effort to plant 30,000 trees in one year throughout the Sacramento region. During a 20-year period, 30,000 trees could collect 8.5 million tons of carbon, capture 11 million gallons of storm water, and remove 110,000 pounds of pollutants from the air.

To kick off Arbor Week and celebrate the completion of the 30K campaign, the Sacramento Tree Foundation and Joint Venture joined the mayor in a ceremonial tree planting at Pacific Elementary School. Later in the week locals were invited to McKinley Park for a community picnic. The celebration included tree tours, a chance to make ‘I Love Trees’ buttons, bead bracelet making, and music.

Ssan jose cali releafan Jose—a Tree City USA for 31 years—worked with local non-profit California ReLeaf to plant trees in schools and neighborhoods across the city. Additionally, seniors and disabled residents were given trees to plant in their yards and park strips and had help planting them from Our City Forest—a local non-profit involved in engaging the community in the maintenance of the urban ecosystem.

Cupertino held a combined Earth Day/Arbor Day festival that included 100 partners comprised of nonprofit organizations and businesses. Booths offered tips, demonstrations, and activities centered on creating a sustainable lifestyle. It was estimated that 5,000 to 7,500 community members attended the event.

Can you imagine your city without trees? Neither can we! How are you involved in maintaining your community’s tree canopy?

The Academy Awards—Trees in Film Part II

This weekend Hollywood will honor the achievements of actors, directors, and many others involved in creating motion pictures. Last week we posted The Academy Awards—Trees in Film and asked what other movies you could think of with memorable trees. We have our follow-up list inspired from your comments just in time for the awards.

To Kill a Mockingbird

mockThe emotional drama won three Oscars out of its eight nominations. Based on the 1961 novel by Harper Lee, the film tells the story of a lawyer living in an Alabama town in the 1930s who agrees to defend a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Depicted in the film is an Oak tree that two of the story’s characters, Jem and Scout, continually visit to find hidden treasures.

It’s a Wonderful Life

115862545.jpgNominated for six Oscars, this 1946 comedy-drama invites viewers on a journey with George Bailey, a distraught man on the verge of suicide who’s dedicated his whole life to Bedford Falls, his home.  Just as he’s ready to take his life an angel appears, ready to help George through his trialing time. A key scene in the movie shows George crashing his car into a tree during a snow storm.

Forest Gump

b5cc94eef5585b072cf53469[1]Having taken home six Oscars, Forrest Gump tells the story of a mentally challenged man’s journey through life. As fate would have it, Forrest is a part of important historical events and meets public figures, however that doesn’t faze Forrest because the only thing on his mind is his childhood sweetheart, Jenny Curran. Viewers grow up with Forrest as the film progresses, but one thing that stays constant in his life is the tree to which Forrest and Jenny continually return. The Southern Oak tree in the film is located in South Carolina and has served as a tourist attraction for fans.

 

 

New Mexico Celebrates Arbor Day in March

ArborWhile the National Arbor Day observance is celebrated on the last Friday in April, many states have implemented state-recognized Arbor Days that reflect the best time for planting in their region.

New Mexico celebrates Arbor Day the second Friday of March. Home to 12 certified Tree City USA communities, we take a look back at how a few of those cities observed the tradition.

Albuquerque—a Tree City USA community for 15 years—celebrated Arbor Day with a traditional tree planting. The city of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation partnered up with Albuquerque Public Schools, New Mexico State Urban Forestry, Kellyphoto3[1]and New Mexico Think Trees to plant trees at two local parks near schools. Students experienced hands-on participation in the tree plantings.

In addition to the city’s celebration, Tree New Mexico held a presentation at a Bernalillo County Open Space lead by certified arborists who talked about best practices in caring for trees. A local forester discussed the condition of New Mexico’s forests in light of changing climate and drought conditions. Participants received a New Mexico Olive Tree at the conclusion of the presentation.

The City of Santa Fe and Railyard Stewards—a local conservation organization that helps the city maintain its largest park—held a tree planting ceremony following the ribbon cutting and community picnic for the opening of the Los Pinos Bridge/Ashbaugh Park. Santa Fe has been designated a Tree City USA community for five years, and Growth Award recipient for two years.

In addition to the tree planting, the city gave away tree saplings and held family-friendly activities consisting of live music from a marimba band, ice cream, and pastries. The Santa Fe Disc Golf group held demonstrations and offered free classes to attendees.

c2bf20bcc12e505eb082fbf0fc83b62c[1]Roswell celebrated Arbor Day at the Spring River Park & Zoo with a tree planting and tree giveaway. A tree was planted in honor of PGA professional Saul Sanchez who was shot and killed after interrupting a burglary.

Following the tree planting city park staff gave demonstrations on proper tree pruning and climbing. Those who attended the Arbor Day celebration not only got to select two trees to take home with them but also had the opportunity to pose for pictures with Smokey Bear. Roswell, the state’s longest recognized Tree City USA has received the designation for 24 years and the Growth Award for 11.

Your questions about fall planting answered!

 Is it better to plant in spring or fall?

Both seasons can be effective times to plant your trees and shrubs. A great benefit of planting treeplanting in the fall is that tree roots remain active throughout the winter, taking advantage of moisture from rain or snow. Trees planted during this season get a nice head start on establishing themselves in the spring through vigorous root elongation and a flush of twig growth. Keep in mind that some plants, such as blueberries, blackberries and grapes, have the best chance of growing up strong and healthy when planted in the spring.

What are some tips for planting in the fall?  

  • If you cannot plant immediately due to adverse weather conditions, you may store your trees for up to 5 days. If storing your trees for longer than 5 days please follow the instructions for Heeling in Your Trees.
  • Avoid planting your trees in pots, if possible.
  • When you plant in the fall, be sure to mulch with wood chips, straw or other material to reduce alternate freezing and thawing that can result in “frost heaving.”
  • Avoid using fertilizer, potting soil or root starter, as they may be detrimental to the health of your new trees.

I’m ordering natural root trees…are they watering image croppedok to plant this late in the season?

Planting trees in late fall is well worth some cold hands! To be sure that your trees arrive in a strong and healthy condition, nurseries will usually ship “natural root” or “bare root” stock only when it is dormant in the fall season. Trees will only go dormant after a few hard frosts, so it’s necessary to wait until then to be able to ship them safely.

But it’s cold! Are the trees able to survive the weather?

As long as a spade can be inserted into the ground, it is okay to plant the trees. In other words, you may plant your trees until the ground is completely frozen solid—so until you can safely ice skate or ice fish on your local lakes or ponds, planting your dormant trees is just fine.

What can I do to prepare for my trees’ arrival?

  • Pre-dig your holes now, so when your trees do arrive you are prepared to immediately get them in the ground.
  • Store the dirt you removed from the hole in a garage or tool shed where it will not get as cold. Left outside, it may harden and prove more difficult to work with once the time comes to plant.
  • mulchPre-purchase mulch, as some stores may not have as large of a mulch supply in their inventories as the season progresses—you want to make sure you’ve got plenty of mulch on hand for your newly planted trees once they arrive!

Happy planting!

(Note: If you live in Hardiness Zone 6, you may still order trees from the Arbor Day Tree Nursery until November 19. If you live in Zone 7, 8, or 9 you may order until November 26 and still receive your order this shipping season. Hardiness Zones 0-5 are currently being shipped.)

 

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.

 

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.

Forest Stewardship: A Tribute to our Fallen Heroes

At the Arbor Day Foundation, our hearts and prayers are with the families of the Arizona Wildland Firefighters.

Our forests belong to all of us, and we share an indebtedness to the courageous men and women who fight fires in our forests, including the 19 members of the elite Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Arizona HotshotsTheir passing is an all-too-poignant reminder that wildland firefighters’ public service includes putting their lives on the line to protect America’s natural resources.

We thank them for their selfless service and honor their memory.

We need our forests to be healthy — not only to provide clean air and water and wildlife habitat, but also to be resilient to the damage that wildland fires cause. With higher temperatures, drought, forest disease and pests, and severe weather events, we won’t be able to prevent the increasing threat of fire.

Yet, we can plant trees to bring forests back to health. Forest stewardship is one way we can pay tribute to our fallen heroes.

> Plant Trees in Memory of a loved one