Morgan Garner's Posts (28)

Safe Camping Tips

1. Only camp in designated campgrounds.
2. Create a fire ring for your campfire and never leave it unattended.
3. Only burn wood in your campfire. Burning paper or cardboard creates ash that can be redistributed by wind.
4. Always divide your camping wastes into recyclable and not recyclable trash to take it to your nearest recycling station.
Comment additional camping tips below!
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Woodpeckers Hungry for EAB

Citizen scientist in Detroit, Mi have contributed expansive data to help tackle ecological problems. Volunteers of the local organization ‘FeederWatch’ have collected more than 4.2 million hours worth of data since 1987. Their recent research focuses on analyzing the impact of Emerald Ash Borer. Since the discovery of these invasive pests, in 2002, they have been devastating ash trees throughout the US. However, there are four populations who have begun adapting to this pest’s presence.

Although North American ash trees have no defense against these invasive pests, forest residents have stepped up to the plate. According to data provided by Feederwatchers in conjunction with the USFS, there has been a change in the distribution and abundance of local bird populations. Three species of woodpeckers have developed a taste for EAB. It appears that this pest is edible for these flying forest dwellers.

Increased populations (from 2002 to 2011) of the Downy, Hairy and Red-Bellied woodpeckers have begun fighting this biological invasion directly at the source. We applaud the appetite of these birds and hope the wrath of invasive pests can be mitigated.

We look forward to seeing the strides of local and federal organizations as they continue research to improve preparedness, recovery, and research on insect resistant forests.  



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Trees in Cemeteries

We all know that a healthy urban tree canopy is critical to the health of our communities. Starting in August of 2018 I had the opportunity to see firsthand just how important this is when I began a project with historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia raising money to preserve and protect their tree canopy. 

Oakland cemetery includes over 1600 trees and hundreds of species.  Some are saplings while others are close to 200 years old. With over 5.6 million people living in metropolitan Atlanta, having a healthy tree canopy is critical to our health. Science shows that one large tree can supply enough oxygen for four people.

And while a cemetery may not be the first place you think of when it comes to the urban forest, in fact cemeteries pre-date public parks and like Oakland, their trees provide the foundation for the natural beauty and tranquility that make these urban green spaces so inviting. Even more important, they offer countless benefits that extend, in Oakland’s case, beyond their walls to the surrounding community and neighborhoods. These include shade, cooler temperatures, clean air and habitat for wildlife and pollinators. From majestic oaks to magnificent magnolias they all play an important role.

Founded in 1850 as a rural cemetery, today Oakland is a 48-acre oasis of history, sculpture, gardens and wildlife and one of the largest public parks in the city. It is open free-of-charge to the public 364 days per year and has an annual visitation of 55,000 people. Depending on the day there are dog walkers, families visiting gravesites, friends enjoying a picnic and garden clubs taking a tour of the magnificent trees. 

Since 1982, Oakland has experienced a 50 percent reduction in its tree canopy due to drought, environmental stresses, natural disasters and old age. Fortunately a Tree Care Action Plan was created in 2012 by Spence Rosenfeld. (1952-2018), CEO and president of Arborguard Tree Specialists, as well as a former Oakland board member.  To continue to implement this plan, funds are needed.

It has been an education process to teach people that the trees in the urban forest cannot thrive unless they receive ongoing yearly care including pruning, fertilization, cabling and soil treatments. At Oakland the estimated cost for this is $40,000 per year.

We have had success and the community has responded with support for the tree canopy. To-date we have raised over $160,000 for the care and maintenance of the trees at Oakland.The message here is that when the trees thrive our communities thrive!

Erica Goldstein is a horticulturist and Coordinator for the Piedmont Park Conservancy.

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The US Endowment is dedicated to preserving natural forests and improving the everyday lives and health of forest-rich rural communities. "Our goal is to make future development more sustainable" proclaims Carlton Owen, the CEO and President of US Endowment for Forestry and Communities. A giant step to create sustainable development is to utilize sustainable building material. Researchers from around the world have begun experimenting with environmentally friendly building material. The most recent laboratory breakthrough is the implementation of cellulosic nanomaterials (CN). This material is made from reducing wood to its thinnest and strongest component. Scientists at the US Forest Service Forest Products lab claim that this new material is just as strong as steel and 1/5 the weight. This material shows promise in applications such as computer technology, aircraft maintenance and building materials. This organization aims to improve concrete by adding CN to the matrix. The manufacturing of concrete is a labor-intensive process that creates an enormous amount of greenhouse gases. The addition of CN will decrease the amount of energy needed to create concrete, reducing emissions, while even improving the strength of the original material. The US Endowment has organized three field applications to test the durability and strength of this material. This material has been implemented in two small study sites in Madison Wi and northern California. The biggest test of this material is the rebuilding of a 100 x 40 ft parking lot in Greenville, South Carolina. In these three areas, the integrity of CN infused concrete will be tested. 

Read the full press release on this innovation material here.

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Virginia's Big Tree Program

November's guest blogger is Eric Wiseman, associate professor of urban forestry and arboriculture and a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. Additionally he is coordinator of the Virginia’s Big Tree Program. The roots of this program can be traced back to1970. Today this program is run by the Department of Forest Resources and environmental conservationist throughout the state of Virginia. The mission of Virginia's Big Tree Program is to increase appreciate and care for trees of all sizes (not just big trees like the name suggests). Additionally the team aims to educate about the value of trees and forests. Over 300 different tree species can be found on the Virginia Big Tree register.  Accompanying each tree is information about its size, location and unique characteristics. Virginia is consistently ranked among the top 5 states for national champion trees, and there’s no surprise why! Visit the website here to search, browse, measure, or submit a tree. After scrolling through this register I'm itching for a trip to Virginia!

Which tree is your favorite? Have you seen any of these trees in person?

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Nascar Green Race Campaign

Each weekend between February and November, racecars speed around the track towards the green flag. With the create of Nascar green Raced Campaign, this organization has also demonstrated its drive to environmental sustainability. Since 2008 Nascar has partnered with over 15 stakeholders (the largest being The Arbor Day Foundation) who prioritize sustainability above all. The goal of this campaign is to reduce and offset environmental impacts that can not be avoided. A few examples of these strides include the use of blended biofuel, in-venue recycling efforts, solar-powered light fixtures etc. Since the creation of this program over 400,000 trees have been planted across the country. A major focus on areas affected by natural disasters.
On November 3rd, this campaign distributed 500 new trees to homeowners in Houston who were affected by Hurrican Harvey. Hurricane Harvey was a category 4 storm that hit the coast of Texas 3 times. When this storm was at its peak, 1/3 of Houston was completely underwater. “The people of Texas have suffered great personal and physical loss,” said Dan Lambe, Arbor Day Foundation President. “By replanting, we strive to bring healing and hope to the people and the communities in which they live as well as help return the beauty and the value trees bring back to their properties.”

Learn more about the amazing accomplishments of the campaign here.

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By Annie Hermansen-Báez, US Forest Service 

Think back to your fondest memories of childhood. What comes to mind? I would bet that most of you would talk about that time you made a tree house with your dad, or long summer days playing in the woods, climbing trees, and running through the nearby creek unsupervised for hours on end.

Many children today, however, do not have these experiences. Children today play outside less often and for briefer periods. We are just starting to understand the many effects of this change on our youth’s wellbeing. Playtime, especially unstructured, imaginative, exploratory play, is increasingly recognized as an essential component of wholesome child development. It is also recognized that children are also more physically active when they are outside.

Additionally, research has confirmed the restorative effects of even limited contact with nature for both children and adults in attention restoration and managing symptoms of attention deficit disorders (Berman and others 2008). Research is also demonstrating the multiple benefits of exposure to nature in a school environment, such as increased student achievement, motivation, behavior, and understanding of concepts taught.

Some of the key benefits of nature exposure include:

Healthier kids. Outdoor activity can improve children’s health by helping to prevent and treat obesity and associated health problems, as well as mental health issues. One study at the University of Washington of almost 4,000 children found that children living in greener areas have a lower body mass index and gained weight more slowly over the study period than children with less access to green space.

Additionally, Cornell University environmental psychologists found that a view of nature can help protect children against stress and that nature in or around the home appears to be a significant factor aiding the psychological well-being of children. And a study in Illinois of 400 children diagnosed with ADHD found a link between the children’s routine play settings and the severity of their symptoms. Those that play in outdoor settings with lots of green have milder ADHD symptoms than those who play indoors or in built outdoor environments.

Natural settings can also play a significant role in helping traumatized children. Nature can provide a place for children to clear their minds and reflect in solitude after going through an upsetting time in their life.

Increased social interaction. One reason for the emotional benefits of nature may be that green space promotes social interaction and thereby fosters social support. Studies are finding that outdoor kids are better able to relate to other children and adults and have more realistic life expectations. A Swedish study found that children and parents who live in places that allow for outdoor access have twice as many friends as those who have restricted outdoor access due to traffic concerns.

Enhanced creativity. Nature can enhance creativity, problem solving, self-esteem, and self-control. Studies in the U.S., Sweden, Australia, and Canada of children in schoolyards with both green areas and manufactured play areas found that children engaged in more creative forms of play in green areas, such as more fantasy and make-believe play. They are more likely to create their own games in play environments dominated by natural areas rather than solely playground structures.

Parent-child engagement. Nature also provides increased opportunities for parents to fully engage with their children – be it playing together at the beach, walking in the woods, or fishing together. This engagement provides a range of benefits for the wellbeing of children.

Improved school performance. Research has shown that outdoor learning is associated with gains in learning. A landmark study by Lieberman and Hoody (1998) found that outdoor education resulted in better standardized test performance, increased engagement, and reduced classroom management problems. Similarly, we are finding significant gains in middle school students’ knowledge of the scientific process through participation in our outdoor science learning program called Kids in the Woods at Westwood Middle School in Gainesville, FL.  Through this program all sixth grade students (approximately 350 to 400 students per year) at Westwood participate in outdoor studies on the school campus and in a nearby urban nature park throughout the school year.

Get Involved

Pediatricians and other public health officials, parents, schools, natural resource agencies, and many others can play an important part in encouraging kids to get outdoors. Pediatricians can consider “prescribing” outdoor play for physical and mental health benefits. Particular emphasis should be on unstructured, exploratory play. Parents (and other extended family members) can have a tremendous effect by making sure that kids get outdoor play time every day. One simple way that schools can have a considerable effect is just by making sure kids get enough recess time. They can also encourage outdoor learning opportunities and green the schools- studies have shown the soothing effects of greenery on children in a learning environment - and include the study of local flora and fauna in lessons. Natural resource agencies are also promoting more outdoor time for kids through programs such as the US Forest Service’s Kids in the Woods program (, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s School Backyard program (

For more information contact Annie Hermansen-Baez, US Forest Service – Southern Research Station, 352-376-3271,

Annie Hermansen-Báez is the Science Delivery/Kids in the Woods Coordinator for the USDA Forest Service’s Urban Forestry South (Southern Research Station and Region 8 Partnership) located in Gainesville, FL. Her work focuses on directing a regionwide science delivery program that develops and delivers information to increase our understanding of the interactions between natural and human systems in urban and urbanizing landscapes, covering topics such as children and nature, human health and nature connection, outdoor learning, wildland-urban interface, and more. She also leads Kids in the Woods and green schools programs at local middle and elementary schools.



Berman, Marc; Jonides, John; Kaplan, S. 2009. The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature. Psychological Science 19(12): 1207-12.

Lieberman, Gerald; Hoody, Linda. 1998. Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning.

Taylor, Andrea; Kuo, Frances. 2011. Could Exposure to Everyday Green Spaces Help Treat ADHD? Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being

Wells, Nancy; Evans, Gary. 2003. Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress Among Rural Children. Environment and Behavior Vol 35:3

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Preparing Your Urban Forest For Storms

Written by:Josh Behounek  

Storm preparation is a huge concern amongst all citizens and departments within a community, urban forestry is no different. When a storm event occurs trees and other woody debris are oftentimes one of the 1st things a community must deal with. Trees will fail and impact roadways, utility lines, street lights, intersections, homes, and people. Figure 1 indicates that trees will fail during storms. Being prepared will minimize negative impacts. 

Before power can be restored and primary responders can do their jobs, trees will need to be pruned, removed and cleaned up. While it is impossible to be completely “prepared” for a storm incident it is possible to be ready to react and minimize negative impacts from your trees.

Your urban forest is made up of both public and private trees and this resource is an important part of the community’s infrastructure.  Urban forests provide a host of environmental functions/services from avoiding stormwater runoff, reducing energy consumption, increasing property values, absorbing CO2, and improving the quality of life in a community. Unlike other components of a community’s infrastructure, trees and urban forests continue to appreciate in value as they age and get larger therefore increasing environmental functions/services.

Within a community, there are two types of trees - Assets and Liabilities. Trees that are assets are the right tree planted in the right place for the right reason and do not pose an unacceptable level of risk to the community. Trees that are liabilities do pose an unacceptable level of risk to the community and do not provide environmental function. Like any other piece of community infrastructure, trees need maintenance and upkeep. Part of that maintenance plan should be storm preparation.

When dealing with a storm there are three distinct phases. The initial phase is all about preparation before the storm event. The second phase is what you are doing during the actual storm, and the third phase is following the storm event. For the purposes of this article we will focus the bulk of the discussion around storm preparedness.

Storm Preparation - The Calm Before The Storm

Storms are going to happen and being prepared is a good idea. But what does it mean to prepare your urban forest? At the most basic level an urban forest that is prepared for a storm event will be more resilient. This will save you time and money as well as provide a higher level of service to your residents.

Tree Risk Assessments

We can not make our trees 100% safe all of the time but we can make them safer more of the time by conducting Tree Risk Assessments. Tree risk assessments should be a component of every community’s Urban Forest Management Plan and should be performed by qualified personnel. There are three levels of tree risk assessment that can and should be performed throughout a community. Level 1 inspection is a simple drive-by or walk-by “windshield” survey done annually. Level 2 is a 360° inspection taken from the ground level without the use of specialized equipment. Level 3 inspection is also 360° but involves specialized equipment like an aerial lift, drone, Resistograph, etc 

There are many types of tree risk assessment protocols out there but the most common one is the newest Best Management Practice (BMP) developed by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). This methodology evaluates the “condition of concern” of a whole tree, branch, or trunk. This ISA BMP methodology evaluates:

  • Likelihood of Failure
  • Likelihood of Impacting a Target
  • Consequences of the Failure

By conducting a regularly scheduled tree risk assessment of your urban forest you can prioritize work that has been identified as posing the most risk. Trees that have the highest risk should be prioritized for needed maintenance such as removal, pruning or cabling/bracing. Another possible option is to move the target like a picnic table, parked car, etc. See the Elgin Case Study Example for how proactive risk mitigation can save you time and money. 

Urban Forestry Storm Response and Recovery Plans

Including trees within a community’s storm and/or emergency response plans is highly recommended. As stated earlier, one of the 1st issues that needs to be addressed when responding to a storm is clearing the streets and power lines from downed trees. Communication is key to ensuring that priority services are restored as soon as possible following a storm event. Most communities probably have some sort of emergency response plan or system in place but not a lot incorporate an urban forest specific response plan.

The primary challenge from an urban forestry perspective with these types of plans is that once the initial clean up is completed there is still usually a large amount of debris and work that needs to be dealt with. Immediately following a storm event, the roads and power lines are cleared but homeowners and the community still need to clean up all the other debris. A good Urban Forest Storm Response and Recovery Plan incorporates priority streets to open and remaining debris to manage. This oftentimes includes the use of temporary “marshalling yards”, renting of specialized equipment like tub grinders, and bringing in contractors or using staff from other departments to help.


A tool that can be useful for predicting how much debris a storm may produce is i-Tree Storm. This is a free software created by the USDA Forest Service and can be found at i-Tree Storm uses 2% random street segments to inventory trees > 6” diameter within 50 feet of either side of the right-of-way. By using i-Tree Storm a community can better predict how much debris that will need to be cleaned up following a storm event. This software can also be used immediately following a storm to measure how much debris needs to be cleaned up.

Storm Response and Clean Up

The clean up after a storm event can take anywhere from a couple of days to weeks and months depending on the severity of the storm and the condition of the urban forest. One of the 1st steps that a community should take once a storm has passed is to conduct a Level 1 Rapid Assessment. This windshield “inventory” should be done by a qualified arborist that can properly identify immediate high risk trees. This assessment should be done on all public streets and properties that were affected by the storm. The Texas Forest Service has developed a free Level 1 Tree Risk Assessment mobile app that can be found in the App Store and Google Play.

If the storm is too large for your community to adequately respond there is a high likelihood that FEMA will be deployed.  The US Forest Service in partnership with several state agencies has also developed the Urban Forest Strike Team (UFST). UFST crews can be deployed immediately following a storm to assist communities in need that don’t have staff with urban forest management expertise to reduce unnecessary loss of urban tree canopy. The UFST was created because oftentimes trees are removed that could have recovered and hazardous trees that should have been removed were retained. The UFST can help avoid these types of mistakes.

Storms have the power to cause local and widespread devastation that will affect your urban tree canopy. Being prepared for a storm by implementing proactive management strategies based off of a current tree inventory will help to minimize damage and save your community time and money. By incorporating trees into an Emergency Response Plan or creating an Urban Forest Storm Preparedness Plan you will help your community respond to a storm event efficiently and effectively. Once a storm event has happened it is critical that a Level 1 Tree Assessment be conducted to find high-risk trees. If the event is large enough and outside assistance is warranted then the Urban Forest Strike Team can be brought in to make decisions on what trees should be removed and which should be retained.

Josh Behounek is an ISA Certified Arborist and a member of the Southern Illinois University Agricultural Leadership Board. He is a coordinator of urban forestry services with Davey Resource Group based in central Missouri. 

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Sticking it to the Paper Industry

It’s easy to take for granted the value of self-adhesive products. I can guarantee my productivity would be nonexistent if it weren’t for the simple salvation of portable post-it notes. The little reminders are constantly being moved from paper to paper, desk to door, reminding me of the things I’ve forgotten (and sometimes purposefully neglect). I’d be curious to know how many birthday presents were wrapped by sentimental scientist before the realization that there is an opportunity for innovation in the realm of adhesives.

An ambitious group of engineers from the University of Delaware (UD) has been studying ways to remove waste outputs from the paper industry. Following the intensive process of converting entire trees into paper and paper products, leftover materials are discarded to landfills. It was discovered that the paper industry has so much excess biomass that delivering any product to science for upcycling is cheaper than alternative landfill costs. Therefore UD has been receiving leftover materials by the truckload, totally free as if this industry is begging to be rid of it. One such material which is important to the UD engineers is lignin.

Lignin, a tightly bonded polymer in vascular plants, is produced within cell wall of woody plants. This naturally created compound has a comparable structural integrity to manmade petroleum-based polymers. Lignin is one of the toughest photosynthetic molecules to manipulate- a testament to the ambition of these brave chemical engineers. Scientists have tested various processes to efficiently break down these compounds for further human manipulation. The most successful efforts have been led by Dr.Thomas H. Epps. Dr.Epps suggests, “lignin could be used to make adhesives with similar strength, toughness, and scratch resistance to the petroleum-based versions."

Currently, researchers at UD have been working with lignin from poplar trees. However, the science suggests that other species will yield varying results. Swapping the source of lignin may alter the strength and longevity of the adhesive. This claim hints at the future of upcycled adhesives from duct to electrical tape. Will we see a rejuvenate line of adhesive materials in stores soon?

Watch out Scotch tape, a new material may be sticking to the shelves!

Read more here.

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Teach your Children (with apologies to Crosby, Stills and Nash)

Recently, my dear 84-year-old mother sent me a birthday card with her usual signature, “M.E.”  It’s a curious thing, since her real initials are B.C. She has been signing her notes, cards and letters to her children (and now grandchildren) that way since the 70’s.  I remember explaining this oddity to my husband, and later my daughters. We grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a progressive region of California then and now. In 1968, my mother decided that we would recycle, stop using printed paper towels, and we would do our part to “Save the Earth.” We embraced the “Ecology Now” movement at our home. From that, my sister and I began to call our Mom, “Mother Earth." She embraced it, and still does today, hence the initials.

For my siblings and me, our own “Mother Earth” was our nature enthusiast. She let me bring snakes into the garage, allowed me the opportunity to raise tadpoles from the creek in a salad bowl on the kitchen counter, and taught me how to capture ladybugs and keep them in jars. As a family, we camped among the redwoods of Northern California, along rivers and creeks with the Sycamores and Oaks, and at the beach with the windblown Monterey pines. In our garden orchards, we grew peaches, pears, nectarines and plums, all in the name of clean living and no pesticides. It is no wonder that my siblings and I enjoy nature the way we do as adults.

Later, when I became a mom, I knew that I wanted to be like my own mother and impart the wisdom of the earth to my children. And for my two daughters, they had no choice. It was all about trees. They hiked the Sierras and the Rockies learning about what grows at different elevations. They spent Saturday mornings pulling shovels out of my truck, helping me get ready for community tree events. On the carpools home from school, they enthusiastically pointed out the bad pruning work along our route. My now-grown children can plant a tree correctly and teach others to do the same. They can go to a nursery and pick out the right tree, for the right place, to plant at the right time. They understand the consequences of topping and poor tree care. They get the value of trees to communities because they have heard about it relentlessly. (I am not sorry, Katy and Mary!) I am honored by their love of all things bark, wood, and leaves.

But here is the truth; it doesn’t matter if you are celebrating Mother’s Day on May 13 or not. As people who love trees and understand their value to communities, it is our obligation to pass on our knowledge not only to our children, (if we indeed are parents), but also to those that don’t know of the importance of trees to our future. We are the teachers of nature at this time. My teacher happened to be my mother. Yours may have been someone else significant in your life. Take the time to honor them, and impart the importance of nature, and especially trees, to others. Happy Mother’s Day!

Dana Karcher is an ISA Certified Arborist, community volunteer, and all-around nature enthusiast. She lives in Nebraska, where she manages the Alliance for Community Trees program at the Arbor Day Foundation. Most importantly, she is the mother of two tree lovers.


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How Much is Your Tree Worth?

Trees act as the lungs of the Earth. These photosynthetic organisms are a sink for CO2, storing this toxic compound permanently in their leaves. Trees also remove ozone and other particulate matter which can be detrimental to our atmosphere. Shade trees provide hot summer relief and habitats for wildlife all while helping fuel the hydraulic cycle. There is a satisfactory feeling about witnessing the first bloom of a newly planted sapling. After investing time and money on maintenance do you ever wonder how much your tree is worth? It's estimated that trees contribute billions of dollars worth of services annually. In effort to quantify carbon sequestration, increase in property values, and other ecological benefits  we consult an online resource: I-Tree. I-Tree is an intuitive tool that uses science to acknowledge the present and future monetary value of services provided by our local canopy. This resource can aid in urban policy and management practices. Visit I-Tree to learn which species of our leafy companions have the greatest environmental and economic impact. 
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Green Infrastructure

With the resurgence of green in spring, we are reminded of the benefits that trees and greenspace bring our communities.  Green Infrastructure contributes to healthy, thriving cities, but do you know exactly what the term means?  We turn to Karen Firehock, Executive Director of the Green Infrastructure Center in Charlottesville, Virginia for a clear explanation:

What is Green Infrastructure?

Green infrastructure is made up of the interconnected network of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, and other natural areas; greenways, parks, and other conservation lands; working farms, ranches and forests; and wilderness and other open spaces that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, sustain air and water resources and contribute to health and quality of life (McDonald, Benedict, and O’Conner, 2005). Green infrastructure assets contribute to health and quality of life, such as forests that clean the air and filter and absorb stormwater. Just as we plan for "grey infrastructure" we also need to plan for and conserve our green infrastructure. 

What is Green Infrastructure Planning?

We call our natural resources “green infrastructure” because they provide vital community functions. Green infrastructure (GI) includes our forests, agricultural soils, parks and open spaces, rivers, wetlands and bays, and other habitats. It provides clean water, food, air quality, wildlife habitat and recreation. It also supports cultural resources by providing scenic views and settings that enhance our enjoyment of the landscape. But we need to know where it is and how to conserve or restore it!

In short, green infrastructure planning entails:

  • Inventorying green assets and connections,
  • Identifying opportunities for their protection and/or restoration, and
  • Developing a coordinated strategy to channel development and re-development to the most appropriate locations.

Visit Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) to learn more!

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Please enjoy this expertly crafted article by Matt Lee from Kebony.

"Wood has long been the traditional building material used in construction, remaining prevalent in both commercial and residential designs today. The typical home may be structurally made of wood, clad in wood siding, feature wood decks, and perhaps even incorporate interior wood walls. Wood is not only sought after for its warm appearance, but also for its ease of use and availability.

There is argument over whether wood is a responsible option when designing with sustainability in mind. The negativity surrounding the use of wood mainly stems from the damage to the environment during the harvesting process, which brings into question whether this is a sustainable material. The reality is the irresponsible harvesting of wood is not sustainable and will lead to damage that is not easily reversible. However, the wood itself is sustainable in the sense that trees may be replanted.

There are four factors to consider when it comes to the responsibility of using wood in modern construction.

FSC-Certified Wood Materials



When purchasing lumber is it vital to only purchase FSC-certified wood. Some lumber companies only sell FSC-certified wood products while others may only have specifically labeled certified product lines. It is important to select certified wood material whenever possible.

When a wood product is FSC-certified is means the Forest Stewardship Council has found the product to be harvested from a responsibly managed forest that provides benefit to the environment (as well as the social and economic advantage). Nearly all forms of lumber or wood used in a building can be found certified, from hardwood plywood to wood shingle siding. The majority of companies will proudly label their wood as certified if they are, but if you are unsure it is best to directly contact the company.

Sustainable, Advanced Wood Materials

Another very interesting advancement in the world of wood is the process of wood modification. While still a true wood product, modified wood is denser, more durable, and in many ways more attractive due to its smooth appearance. The demand of modified wood is growing, especially as the shift towards sustainable building design has become more popular. Modified wood essentially has all the advantages of wood with very few of its weakness.

Modified wood is often made of FSC-certified wood, adding more to the responsibility of this product option. In terms of care as a siding or decking material, modified wood requires no sealing, painting, or any other use of surface treatment products. This reduces the potential of off-gassing VOCs and makes this product non-toxic to humans, animals, and the environment. When used structurally there is also no concern over chemicals leaching into the soil.

Manufacturing Process of Wood Products



In addition to purchasing safe wood products, it's worth it to look into how finished wood products have been made. The manufacturing process of mass-produced furniture, for example, uses an incredible amount of energy and may release a substantial amount of air pollution. This furniture so commonly available also tends to rely on poor quality wood or particle board, which means it will end up as waste in a landfill quicker than quality furniture. There is also some difficulty in determining whether the wood was responsibly harvested as well.

With these concerns in mind, it makes sense to support small-scale furniture manufacturers or those that design real wood furniture from certified wood lumber. Purchasing from local woodworkers also eliminates emissions associated with shipping furniture. Crafted real wood furniture is also very long lasting with proper care, making it an excellent investment. A perfect example of this is Amish furniture. An Amish living room furniture set will have been made from responsibly harvested, local wood and constructed in a manner that uses less energy.

Wood Alternatives

Last but not least, sometimes wood alternatives are a great product to use in place of wood or in addition to wood. A common organic alternative to classic wood is bamboo panels. Bamboo has a very wood-like, warm appearance, often with a more clean, sleek look to it. Bamboo is naturally more moisture-resistant than wood, making it a great choice for interior design in kitchens and bathrooms. Bamboo is also a faster-growing building material, considered far more sustainable than wood for this reason.

Despite some misconceptions about the responsibility of using wood, this material will likely continue to be widely used in building design. Thankfully many companies strive to produce lumber that is responsibly harvested and free of potentially dangerous chemicals, which all helps to create more safe green buildings."

Thanks for the article Matt! If you have an article you would like to share with tree enthusiasts, comment below!

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Goats for the Greater Good

Are you fighting an uphill battle with invasive species? I have spent countless afternoons volunteering to remove invasive species that seem to start growing the second I turn my back. Are my efforts futile? Please share some of your best practices for removing invasive species in the comments below.

I recently learned a new technique from a local Atlanta organization. The event was titled "Greet the Goats", but was quickly dubbed Bleat and Greet. The day was spent with first-hand observing how farm animals can help tackle invasive species. These animals are nature's green garbage disposals, eating anything with leaves! There are very few plants that will upset the stomach of these hollow-horned mammals. Goats can eat up to 10 pounds of leaf litter a day. I watch incredulously as goats demolished poison ivy, English ivy, and Chinese privet. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the greatness of goats. Vegetation taller than breast height may be out of reach for these little animals. However, I witnessed goats applying their weight to tall shrubs to bend/knock them down to access taller greens.(Seen in picture 1)This method requires no fossil fuels (besides goat transportation) and provides a free natural fertilizing service. Many of the herd members are saved from goat dairy farms. 

However, it is risky to employ these nondiscriminatory eaters once spring blooms are present. We recommend this as a summer technique. Please enjoy the pictures of these goofy hard workers!

For more information regarding the benefits of goats view the Eco-goats website!


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International Day of Forests 2018 Photo Contest

A new contest to remind us how important trees are! From stormwater mitigation to carbon sequestration the benefits of urban forests are plentiful! To celebrate International Day of Forests, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) is hosting a photo contest to find forests in sustainable cities! Submit a photo and explain why forests are important to your city for a chance to win a trip to Rome!

Deadline for entry is March 9th!

Find more details here!

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Urban Forest Adventures

Have you ever had a seemingly average day in the park turn into a spontaneous adventure? Use this forum to share journies and expeditions through an urban forest! We will begin this feed with a recent experience from Tulsa Ok.

In November, the American Grove team went to the Partners in Community Forestry conference and had an absolute blast. There is one particular instance during the bus tour that I will remember forever.

The last stop on our route was Turkey Mountain where we had an hour and a half to explore this urban wilderness area. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a very loud guest. It was impossible to ignore the wild barks coming from within the forest. The dog was mangy, underfed, and obviously scared out of his/her mind. The dog's coat blended into the leaves of the forest floor and would have been camouflaged if not for the cries for help. While others began their tour around this beautiful geologic feature our group was determined to help this dog.
First attempt unsuccessful: The dog shied away from any human contact, too frightened to come to close to us. I thought to give up. Mary Lynne, an AmericanGrove team member and an avid dog lover, was not easily convinced. It quickly became our mission to check for a collar or name tag.
Second attempt: luring with food, also unsuccessful. A valiant effort. Mary Lynne tried donating snacks from her purse. After throwing Pringles, cookies, and even dog treats we could still not get the dog to come close to us. (Side Note: the dog treats were supplied by a local dog owner, they did not come from Mary Lynne's purse.)
Luckily we met concerned locals who joined in the efforts. They contacted a nearby humane society and soon a volunteer was on their way. A majority of our allotted field trip was spent trying to console this dog. Reluctantly, our trip had come to an end and had to head back to the bus. We sat in our seats, concerned, staring out the window longingly at the mangey ball of fur. Abiding by the conference schedule, it was time to head back to our hotel. Before we left Mary Lynne was sure to give the local her business card so that we could receive updates regarding the status of the dog. It is safe to say, that if concerned locals were not actively trying to help this dog, Mary Lynne would have missed the bus to stay and wait for the arrival of a humane society volunteer.

The AmericanGrove team distracted by the dog, allowed me the time to take some beautiful photos of this park:

UPDATE: the dog has been cared for and has accepted love from a foster family.

The AmericanGrove is not just tree lovers, we are passionate about even the smallest members of our urban communities!! Thank you, Mary Lynne, for being such a compassionate and dedicated earthling. The world needs more people like you! We are glad that being outdoors brought us the opportunity to help this poor dog! A successful day in the park!

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Tree City, USA

Tree City USA is a national recognition program that began in 1976 when the Arbor Day Foundation partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters to quantify and recognize the immense benefits of trees! Planting and maintaining a local forest has been proven to: build stronger ties to your neighborhood and community, creating meaningful connections to neighbors, cut energy consumption, and even increasing property values.

Committing to the standards of becoming a Tree City encourages the education of the public health and financial benefits of trees!

To become a tree city, your community must fit the 4 core standards:

1. Department or Tree Board

There must be a committee of dedicated citizens willing to assume responsibility for the upkeep of the urban forest. Someone must be legally responsible for the care of all trees on city- or town-owned property. By delegating tree care decisions to a professional forester, arborist, city department, citizen-led tree board or some combination, city leaders determine who will perform necessary tree work.

2. Tree Care Ordinance

A tree board or forestry department—or both— should assign the task of crafting and implementing a plan of work or for documenting annual tree care activities.Ideally, the ordinance will also provide clear guidance for planting, maintaining and removing trees from streets, parks and other public spaces as well as activities that are required or prohibited. 

3. A Community Forestry Program With an Annual Budget of at Least $2 Per Capita

As mentioned before, trees are valuable public assets and therefore require an investment to remain healthy and sustainable. By providing support at or above the $2 per capita minimum, a community demonstrates its commitment to maintaining a long-term urban forest.  Budgets and expenditures require planning and accountability, which are fundamental to the long-term health of the tree canopy.

4. An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation

Citizens join together to celebrate the benefits of community trees and the work accomplished to plant and maintain them. By passing and reciting an official Arbor Day proclamation, public officials demonstrate their support for the community tree program and complete the requirements for becoming a Tree City USA!

Do you live in an official Tree City?

Click here to see all of our nation's cities who have made commitments to their urban forests.

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Fighting Fire with Fire

If you have ever visited a national park, you have benefitted from the important work of the United States Forest Service. This vital agency has been protecting and preserving our nations beloved landscapes for over 100 years. Forest fragmentation, anthropogenic disturbances, and industrialization have altered US’s forests and rangelands, although it may seem like the area of land they protect has begun to dwindle- that has not made the job any easier. Over the past decade the USFS, like our changing landscapes, has adapted strategies for maintaining the fires that are necessary to a healthy ecosystem. These brave men and women are equipped with advanced manpower and technology possible to protect the forests with increased vulnerability. The evolution of fires has called for an increase in man (or woman) power in this agency. That is where the USFS steps in to do the job the landscape desperately needs. In 1995 wildfire cost consumed 16% of USFS budget, while today this budget has risen to 67% of USFS total funding. However, recent behavior an increase in the duration of fire season, fire size, fire behavior demands the USFS be at the top of their game. Fires do not adhere to state lines or jurisdictions so this agency invites local and federal partners to help protect threatened landscapes.

These forces of nature are as mighty as the men and women that fight them. USFS tells us “wildfires can be friend or foe”. This chaotic behavior may seem angrier than your mom after coming home to a sink full of dirty dishes you were supposed to clean. We know of several benefits of these natural occurrences such as clearing brush and pests to provide new healthy environments full of nutrients and space to grow.

Enjoy 3 minutes of this heart wrenching film, accurately titled Fighting Fire with Fire,  that provides a small glimpse into the vital and dangerous roles taken on by the USFS.



In addition to this video there are a multitude of other resources offered by the department of USFS such as interactive Esri mapping, and even beta apps that will notify you when there is a fire nearby visit their website to see all their resources here

This video was created by Filson to honor the noble fire fighters on screen and behind the scenes who fight every day to preserve out national landscapes.

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Check this Off


As a busy student and web administrator, I find the easiest way to keep track of all my important tasks is to continuously make an updated to-do list, finding absolute pleasuring knowing I can check off completed items. Sometimes I feel like my most productive days are mirrored in nature. Under the impression, I had near overdosed on to-do lists, I began noticing trees that resembled check marks. 

After reading An Animated Guide to Nature’s Best Wayfinding Secrets by Sommer Mathis I had a little more confidence in my sanity. Finding a tree that has an uneven growth pattern can be explained by phototropism. The idea of phototropism was observed by Charles Darwin in 1880 through experiments that demonstrated the shoots (or branches/leaves) grew towards the strongest direction of sunlight. This process allows the leaves, undergoing photosynthesis, to optimize the daily amount of food (aka sunlight) received. These chlorophylls filled organisms were sometimes noticed growing more abundantly in a nonlinear pattern. Branches of trees grow directly towards the sun when the beams are the strongest and branches not in a direct line of sunlight will tend to curve to receive ample nutrients. Tristan Gooley, a nature expert, points our attention to the stronger direction of canopy growth.

"On the south side, they can take a fairly direct route. So, they curve toward the sun, which creates a slightly more horizontal branch. On the north side, they’re still trying to grow toward the light, but they can’t take a direct route because the trunk and the rest of the tree are in the way. So, they end up growing towards the sky." Tristan Gooley contributes the “check effect” present in all green organism but more noticeable in trees. 

Interestingly enough, (negative) phototropism can also describe the growth pattern of roots in which this system will burrow deepest in the direction opposite of sunlight. In honor of the upcoming eclipse please share any photos of tree growth influenced by our favorite star!

Enjoy Sommer Mathis entire article (here) on Tristan Gooley's top 5 prudent tips on navigating nature accompanying by 4 more breathtaking animations from the super talented Chelsea Beck.


Animation by: Chelsea Beck


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Stressed with Shrubs

This morning I was lucky enough to be able to join my grandfather, a healthy and energetic 84, on his morning routine. He walks approx, 2 miles around his neighborhood to breathe fresh air and admire another beautiful day on this earth. During our stroll, he told me stories of his younger days, learning he had spent a few years employed by the lumber industry. Intrigued by the history of one of my role models, I am always engrossed by the stories of his early adulthood. I find it funny to picture my grandfather at my age, a full head of hair with all his original teeth. We laughed together as we tried to name all the different types of maples when we came to the end of the cul-de-sac. As we began our U-turn I stopped at an unusual tree. Pictured below.



Describing the photo above, a thin young maple with a collection of branches at the top. However, these branches were completely bare, an odd growth pattern for mid-August. Only a small cluster at the base of the trunk had leaves. I had seen this shrub like presence in trees before but never as distinct as this instance. It appeared that the bottom clump of leaves had stolen from the rest of the tree, impeding the ‘blood flow’ of nutrients throughout this cypress. With the combined tree knowledge between my grandfather and me, neither could identify the circumstance. With the help of Heather Rhoades from Gardening Know How we learned that these low shrub limbs have been dubbed ‘suckers’ for their vampire like tendencies. 

Suckers can be common in trees that have undergone a stressful planting, transplant, or an inadequate environment. However, a low-stress environment, perfect water portions, and maintenance can prevent this in your community forest.

Although if a tree has already begun to grow suckers it is best to remove them as soon as possible. Heather Rhoades notes “Tree sucker removal is easy to do. Tree sucker removal is done in the same way pruning is performed. Using a sharp, clean pair of pruning shears, cleanly cut the plant sucker as close to the tree as possible, but leave the collar (where the tree sucker meets the tree) to help speed the wound recovery."

Whenever I saw a tree sucker I had thought it was an innocent commencalism relationship between tree and shrub. Now with new knowledge gained from Gardening Know How I now view these trees as a little more human knowing these giants get acne too. 

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