Foundation and Texas partners launch campaign to restore Lost Pines Forest destroyed in Bastrop fire

Earlier this morning, we joined key Texas partners in launching the Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign, a multi-year public-private partnership to raise money to plant more than 4 million trees on public and private land.

Dan Lambe, the Foundation’s vice president of programs, attended and spoke at today’s event in Bastrop State Park, the nucleus of the September 2011 fire that destroyed more homes than any other in state history and raged through 95 percent of the park’s 6,600 acres.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M Forest Service are serving as on-the-ground partners in the five-year replanting effort. Both were crucial to making today’s launch happen.

The Lost Pines ecosystem includes more than 75,000 acres of loblolly pines scattered across sections of five Texas counties. It is a precious natural resource for Texans and the state’s visitors, and we’re honored to be a part of restoring it.

The Foundation is taking the lead on fundraising for what is expected to be a $4 million effort. So far, we have secured commitments from Mary Kay, Inc., FedEx, Chili’s Grill and Bar, Nokia and Apache Corporation, and we’re looking forward to adding even more corporate sponsors to the list.

We still need you help to restore the Lost Pines forest to pre-disaster condition. You can donate today at arborday.org/texas.

Carter Smith,Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director, summed up the need well when he said “no one entity has the resources to do it all alone, but we’re fortunate that people care deeply about natural treasures like the Lost Pines and Bastrop State Park.”

He added: “Bringing back the trees is an essential step to restore the region’s ecological lifeblood. If we each donate a little, together we can do a great deal.”

Learn more about the Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign and make a donation today.

UPDATE: Here is the Foundation’s Dan Lambe (far right) watering longleaf loblolly seedling with other speakers, dignitaries and corporate sponsors in Bastrop State Park this morning. Additional photos are available from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Left to right: Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp, Texas State Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, Carter Smith (Texas Parks and Wildlife), Dan Lambe

Better care can help urban trees survive drought, Texas report says

Earlier this year, a report from the Texas Forest Service found that 5.6 million urban trees in the state had been lost as a result of drought. A new companion report from the state’s AgriLife Extension presents a more complicated picture, arguing that many of the dead trees suffered from pre-existing stress.

On the surface, the new report would seem to be discouraging. Drought is, after all, an easy culprit. But in explaining the other factors that led to massive tree loss, the report also provides a guidepost for what to do differently next time.

Both the AgriLife Extension and Forest Service are part of the Texas A&M University system.

According to the report by Dr. Eric Taylor, a forestry specialist, most of the trees that died were already strained due to factors like overcrowding, growing on the wrong side, age, problems with the soil or use of inappropriate herbicides.

That means that a more proactive approach to tending urban trees during the year can help them weather and often survive the drought.

As Taylor put it: “Our best defense against drought is to promote a tree’s health and vigor through proper care and management.”

Taylor is no way discounts the importance of water to tree’s life and health – but he does want people know that trees can be better prepared for times when water is scarce.

In addition to proper pruning and maintenance of existing trees, many communities are also making sure to diversify the species they plant. Introducing new species has been critical in the fight against the emerald ash borer and other pests that can devastate urban forests.

Read more about the report here.

Western states sport forests in vast mountain ranges and dense urban centers

(Ed. Note: 24 states celebrate Arbor Day on the last Friday in April, the same date as National Arbor Day, which this year falls on the 27th. This week, we’ll be highlighting what a variety of regions are doing to prepare for the tree-planting holiday. Today, we will feature Western states; Monday was New England; yesterday was the Mid-Atlantic; Thursday the Midwest; and Friday the Great Plains.)

Four Western States – Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Utah – and one Southwestern State – Texas – are among the two dozen whose state Arbor Day celebration coincides with the national holiday this Friday. Tree-lined Boise, the capital of Idaho, is pictured above.

While information on Arbor Day activities from state officials is limited, residents are encouraged to take advantage of the arbordaynow.org Volunteer Center.

Idaho

The Montana, Wyoming and Idaho-based Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Committee is one of 16 individuals and organizations being recognized by the Foundation at the annual Arbor Day Awards.

Whitebark pine trees are critical to the ecosystem of the Greater Yellowstone Area, but the species faces several threats, including white pine blister rust, increasing mountain pine beetle outbreaks and competition from other forest species. The Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Committee has been effective at beginning to address those threats.

The State of Idaho is currently home to 71 Tree City USA communities, accounting for nearly one million people. The largest Tree City USA in Idaho is Boise, population 205,314; the smallest is Menan, population 102.

Montana

Montana, a name derived from the Spanish word for mountains, is about one-third mountain ranges. It is one of the least populous states in the country, sending only one representative to the U.S. House, despite covering 150,000 square miles.

Gallatin National Forest covers more than two million acres in south central Montana. The forest has been the focus of replanting efforts led by the Foundation and Enterprise. Bitteroot National Forest has also been targeted for replanting.

The State of Montana is currently home to 42 Tree City USA communities, accounting for nearly half a million people. The largest Tree City USA in Montana is Billings, population 105,845; the smallest is Drummond, population 325.

Nevada

The Silver State is vast and mountainous, with the bulk of its people condensed into large metropolitan areas like Las Vegas and Reno. Nevada also sports some of the hottest and driest temperatures in the country. The shading effect of a well-placed tree is invaluable.

The State of Nevada is currently home to 12 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 1.3 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Nevada is Las Vegas, population 606,846; the smallest is Nas Fallon, population 3,000.

Utah

The Beehive State has large patches of uninhabited land, much of which is owned by the Federal Government. While dispersed on the whole, Utah is in fact one of the more urbanized states in the country. It is also among the fastest-growing.

Utah joins a number of states in offering an Arbor Day poster contest for children.

The State of Utah is currently home to 77 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 1.8 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Utah is Salt Lake City, population 174,000; the smallest is New Harmony, population 209.

Texas

In February, we wrote about the Lone Star State’s loss of 5.6 million urban trees this year due to drought. Fortunately, many of the largest cities in Texas are making a concerted effort to plant and nurture their trees.

The Committed to Community Growth Program, a project of Irving-based TXU Energy, is also receiving an Arbor Day Award this weekend in recognition of its effective partnership to improve the tree canopy in population-rich North Texas.

The State of Texas is currently home to 72 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 10 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Texas is Houston, population 2.3 million; the smallest is Buffalo Gap, population 463.

 

Summer drought costs Texas 5.6 million urban trees

A new report from the Texas Forest Service found that cities in the Lone Star State lost 5.6 million trees due to drought last year. The trees, comprising 10 percent of Texas’ urban forest, had become “too thirsty to live,” as the Austin American-Statesman put it.

The drought’s impact on trees has put Texas officials in a tough spot. The same report detailing the lost trees also pointed to $280 million in annual environmental and economic benefit from trees, and that’s in addition to the qualitative benefits. It’s hard to put a numeric value on the thousands of missing pine trees from Houston Memorial Park, for instance, but their loss is undoubtedly felt.

In urban areas especially, trees play a critical role in shading buildings and streets, reducing the risk of flooding and keeping pollution down.

Removing trees is expensive, though well worth the cost to avoid risking a fall on a car, a power line or a home. Getting rid of dead or dying trees will cost the state of Texas $560 million dollars, the report says.

Texas’ large metropolitan areas, such as Houston, Dallas and Austin (above), currently have a total of 60 million trees.

Last summer is on record as one of the longest and driest in Texas history, and the trend looks likely to continue. Broader changes in climate cannot be solved at the local level alone, but there is a lot that cities can do to mitigate the damage.

In Austin, for instance, the Texas live oak has been more drought-resistant because its natural reserves are a good fit for the area. City Arborist Michael Embesi told the American-Statesman that Austin had already shifted to planting less water-dependent trees in preparation for last summer. Planting the right species at the right time definitely helps.

Cities are strapped for resources, making watering trees a challenge, but the right infrastructure could tap dirty water – from car washes, local reservoirs or excess rain that would otherwise end up down the storm drain – during the summer. Additional watering will assist trees on the margins of survival in making it through the dry season.

It’s also beneficial to plan for replacing older trees.

Solutions like these emerge from a sustained commitment to managing urban trees. Texas already has 72 Tree City USAs, including most of its largest cities, so it is clear that both motivation and resources exist to respond to these challenges, along with the passion of concerned professionals and the communities they serve.

You can find out more about the Texas Forest Service’s study here.

Photo courtesy of Fine Austin Living.