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.

Celebrating Global Tiger Day: July 29

Today – July 29 - is Global Tiger Day, a day for appreciating and celebrating all species of tigers worldwide. Unfortunately, this also means realizing their great decline in numbers due to poaching, habitat loss, and conflicts.

Tigers recline in their natural habitat. Image via National Geographic; photo credit: Steve Winter.

Tigers recline in their natural habitat. Image via National Geographic; photo credit: Steve Winter.

Did you know…trees and tigers go hand-in-hand. A majority of tigers’ natural habitats are made up of forests. Tropical, evergreen, temperate and snow-covered hardwood forests, along with mangrove swamps, are all home to various species of tiger.

Celebrate these beautiful creatures on Global Tiger Day — and every day — by raising awareness and supporting the preservation of their habitats.

Five facts about tigers from our friends at the World Wildlife Fund:

Tiger Ranges

This map shows the shrinking global range of tigers. Map copyright World Wildlife Fund.

1. In the last century alone, tigers have lost 93% of their historic range.

2. Continued large-scale habitat destruction and decimation of prey populations are the major long-term threats to the continued existence of tigers in the wild.3. Tiger habitat decreased by 45% in the last 10 years.

4. All tigers need dense vegetation, the presence of large ungulate prey, and access to water to be able to survive.

5. Tigers are found in a wide range of habitats in Asia and the Russian Far East, in increasingly fragmented and isolated populations.

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Coe Roberts is an Electronic Communication Specialist at the Arbor Day Foundation.

Project Blue River Rescue: Improving Kansas City’s Waterways

Every year for the past 20 years, hundreds of volunteers and city workers in metropolitan Kansas City come together in an effort known as Project Blue River Rescue. Their goal: to clean up piles of trash and illegal dumping out of the Blue River which flows through their city.

Blue River Rescue 2013

Kansas City-area boy scouts take to the Blue River to haul out debris as part of the Project Blue River Rescue 2013. Photo: PBRR Facebook.

Partnering with the Kansas City Public Works, the Missouri Department of Conservation and several local businesses and organizations, Project Blue River Rescue has grown to be Missouri’s largest, one-day conservation cleanup.

“Each year, volunteers have cleaned up thousands of pounds of trash, tires, appliances and even cars,” says Wendy Sangster, Urban Forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Blue River Rescue 2013

Volunteers remove several bags of trash and nuisance honeysuckle from the banks of the Blue River in metro Kansas City, as part of the Project Blue River Rescue 2013. Photo: PBRR Facebook.

More recently, Project Blue River Rescue has also focused on habitat restoration along the river. In April 2013, a group of 20 volunteers organized by the Heartland Tree Alliance, a branch of Bridging the Gap, planted 500 tree seedlings along the Blue River near a baseball complex in southern Kansas City. The seedlings included native species — burr oak, sycamore, pecan and shellbark hickory — all which would have normally grown along the Blue River. Volunteers also worked to remove invasive honeysuckle plants along the waterway to ensure the growth of these new seedlings.

Sangster firmly believes in the longevity of this project and the positive impact it has on the local community. By getting community members involved in the planting, she feels it instills a connection to nature and provides a foundation for advancing environmental stewardship in the greater Kansas City area.

“If a volunteer can do the physical, hard work of planting a tree,” Sangster says, “they are more likely to become ambassadors and tree stewards in their own communities.”
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Mary Sweeney is a program manager at 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 

Next stage of green roof sprouts over downtown Lincoln

Green Roof Project - Lincoln, NELast week, Arbor Day Foundation employees took to their office rooftop with plants and vines in hand, ready to bring the next stage of their green roof project to fruition.

The first installment of the green roof took shape nearly three years ago at 12th and P Streets in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, when workers installed 7,369 square feet of green roof and planted it in sedum and native grasses. Read more…

Summer storms keep disaster recovery top of mind

Strong storms, tornadoes, and wildfires have rocked communities all across the U.S. this spring and summer, leaving paths of destruction in their wake.

In the past few weeks alone, thousands of acres have burned in Southern California and New Mexico. Oklahoma and Texas each have seen rampant devastation by multiple tornadoes – some bringing the strongest winds ever recorded. And with the 2013 tropical storm season now officially underway, climatologists are predicting more and stronger storms for the coasts this summer. Read more…

2013 Arbor Day Award videos posted, and other updates

Arbor Day Foundation members and supporters interested in learning more about this year’s award winners are invited to view the short video segments we put together for the 14 individual, organizations and companies recognized in Nebraska City on April 26.

Kemba Skakur, executive director the Oakland, California, based non-profit Urban ReLeaf, received the highest honor among this highly-accomplished group of tree planters and conservationists. Shakur and her staff wrote this blog post upon returning home to California. Her one complaint, which she noted at the time, was that the video segment covered much of the ground she had planned to address in her remarks. But she inspired the audience just the same.

sterling

Accepting the Promise to the Earth award on behalf of UPS, Jerald Barnes said he and his colleagues have been dubbed “the tree guys” at the office as a result of their relationship with the Foundation and our staff. The video notes UPS’ partnerships with some the largest environmental groups in the world, including the company’s recent donation to the Flight 93 Memorial Project, a twenty-two hundred acre national park in Pennsylvania commemorating those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Each winner offers inspiration of its own kind – Dr. Burney Fischer for his leadership and vision in developing urban forestry programs in Indiana, Donna Love for working with the Department of Defense to support sixty Nature Explore classrooms on military bases throughout the country and the non-profit Plant With Purpose’s  pioneering work to bring clean stoves — designed to conserve energy and wood, while reducing harmful fumes —to some of the poorest regions in the world.

You can learn more about all of our winners here.

If you have a chance, you might also visit our revamped programs page. Some found the previous version a little overwhelming, so we hope this iteration provides a bit more clarity and direction. We only have award winners in April, but the work with do with our partners and sponsors through these programs has an impact throughout the year.

That, in the end, is what the Foundation is about – bringing the tree-planting spirit of Arbor Day to every other day of the year. And we couldn’t do it without the work the daily efforts of this year’s winners and countless others.

Morton winner Kemba Shakur plants trees, improves lives

Urban ReLeaf executive director Kemba Shakur was in Nebraska City this past weekend to accept the Foundation’s J. Sterling Morton Award for her lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation.

Shakur was one of 14 individuals, organizations and companies honored during the 41st annual Arbor Day Awards.

While much of Shakur’s impact is felt locally in Oakland, California, and surrounding communities, her influence on urban forestry has reached a national audience.

She started planting trees because her West Oakland neighborhood hardly had any — and she saw an immediate connection between the absence of greenery and the area’s struggles with crime, unemployment and pollution. Her experience working as a prison guard showed her what can happen to young people who don’t have enough positive influences and activities in their neighborhoods.

Shakur kept planting, in her front yard, on her block, in her neighborhood and eventually throughout the City of Oakland – block by block, turning “concrete jungle into a green oasis.” In the process, she created jobs and volunteer opportunities for young people, giving them the tools to give back to their own communities.

During Saturday’s awards ceremony, Shakur stressed that planting trees in cities is shovel ready, low-budget and able to make a real difference in people’s lives.

“Now is our time,” she said, of the urban forestry movement. She also shared a brief poem connecting young trees with the triumph of the human spirit:

There’s a tree that grows in Oakland.
It’s not just any trees, it’s a poor man’s tree.
It’s a tree that grows out of cracks in the sidewalk,
and out of abandoned lots, or discarded tires,
and if you cut off its trunk, it’ll just come back.
To behold such a tree is a magnificent sight,
trees that survive no matter what.

Shakur’s work caught the attention of NBC Bay Area, which profiled her in advance of receiving this year’s award. You can view the segment below.