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Tree Recompense & Developing Differently

Recompense in most tree ordinances are gravely understated. The recompense for the removal of five trees on a recently permitted one acre construction site was $5000. The five trees happened to be healthy white oaks, one with a diameter of 59 inches, with potential life spans of hundreds of more years.  The ecosystem benefits (green house gas mitigation, air quality improvements, and storm water interception) using i-tree averages more than $1500 per tree annually. That would be $7.5K annually in perpetuity for the life of the trees. Moreover, using the Guide for Plant Appraisal-9th Edition and applying the trunk formula method, commonly used to appraise the monetary value of trees considered too large to be replaced with nursery or field grown stock, the 59 inch white oak alone would be valued at $70,977.00. My point being that a $5000 recompense is ridiculous. I equate it to going to your bank and depositing $1000 and then the next day asking for $70,000 saying you are entitled to the 125 years of compound interest in one day.

The point of recompense for me, is to encourage alternative designs that work around trees. Some municipalities have adopted conservation overlay districts allowing more flexibility on setbacks and building height allowing more open space in exchanged for denser development. I have also witnessed these districts misapplied. Ultimately, to build with trees we need to develop differently. Banks want to finance the same cookie cutter approach but often that approach comes at the expense of the land and trees. I believe demand is out there for designs that work with nature and not against it. To do this, we need a recompense that reflects more the cost of the loss than is currently being applied. By readjusting recompense to reflect the true cost of trees we better balance the need to live with nature in urban areas with the need to build new homes. 

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The Jewish New Year of the Trees is celebrated on February 4th.

This Jewish Arbor Day falls in the middle of the Jewish month of Shvat, the 15th day of the month. Today, this holiday is often celebrated by planting saplings and also by participating in a seder-meal in which the produce of trees, including fruits and nuts, are eaten.

The “My Jewish Learning” website provides this information: “Planting a tree–a concrete, practical act–has represented hope since ancient times. On Tu Bishvat in Palestine, trees were planted for children born during the previous year: for a boy, a cedar, with the wish that the child would grow to be tall and upright, for a girl, a cypress, which was graceful and fragrant. Later, branches from the cypress and cedar of a bride and groom were used to make the huppah (canopy) for their wedding ceremony. The planting was associated with two of the most important times in an individual’s life, birth and marriage, two occasions when we concentrate on the possibilities for the future.”

Here’s a link to another article about the holiday.
By Susan Larson, Gwinnett Daily Post: Putting down roots for a green history month.

To plant a tree in Israel, go to the Jewish National Fund at jnf.org.

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Trees Win


Last week the trees won for the first time in my 16 years advocating for them. A small but focused group has been working to protect healthy existing significant trees in new developments. As the economy has picked up more and more large healthy trees are being destroyed as single lots are subdivided into many lots or an old home is demoed to build a bigger home on a smaller lot. Typically, little consideration has been given to healthy significant trees as they require extra consideration when building around them. They also interfere with changing the grade on the site. They ironically interfere with storm water detention ponds. I say ironically because, as we know trees intercept and transpire water, and they are being replaced by the antiquated and expensive detention strategy. Most tree ordinances allow their removal in exchange for replants that could take 100s of years to come close to the benefits of the trees removed.

However, for the first time to my recollection, a development was temporarily stopped in its tracks for 7 large white oaks on 1 acre. The local tree commission voted that the project be deferred for 120 days for time to consult with the legal department and/or submission of a more environmentally sensitive design. While only a temporary victory, the small group hopes to pursue alternatives that will accommodate the trees and a portion of the development. The developer was not happy, and is appealing the decision. The small group will also pursue that.

The trees were originally in the backyard of a single family home. It was later purchased by investors and subdivided into 11 lots by building a street with a col de sac  down the middle of the property. A detention pond was built in the back which from a land use perspective is like two more houses being built. In the plan presented, all but two of the trees were slated for removal including a champion tree 59 inch white oak. The fee for removal of the five trees was $5000.00 which could be fulfilled by planting trees back on the property equal to that amount.

What made the difference in this case? First, the trees had representation from an attorney. Typically the trees cannot afford an attorney as their public benefit is spread over many people, and those interests are not usually coordinated. Developers almost always have an attorney. Second, the trees had a good argument. In this case, while the developer met the detail of the ordinance (paid $5000), they did not meet the intent, which is stated under the purpose of this ordinance as: "To protect environmentally sensitive areas." An arborist was hired to present the benefits of the these particular trees and uniqueness as a sensitive environmental area concluding: "This stand of white oaks is both unique and healthy in its current state. Its most important tree, the 59-inch champion, has a potential life span of 100’s of years if left undisturbed. The other, younger white oaks are all in excellent condition and in the prime of their lives."

Much of the urban forest has been destroyed in similar boom economies, but as we recognize the important benefits of larger trees and the near impossibility to replace them at a time when they are most needed, this case might be a sign of the times. A time where development works with large existing healthy trees balancing the needs of development with the benefits of sensitive and irreplaceable natural resources.

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Press Release Contact: Michelle Sutton, City Trees Editor: citytreeseditor@gmail.com

The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA), comprised of urban forestry professionals worldwide, has chosen yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) as its 2015 Urban Tree of the Year.

The yearly selection must be adaptable to some harsh growing conditions and have strong ornamental traits. It is often a species or cultivar considered underutilized by urban foresters. The Tree of the Year program has been running for 19 years, and recent honorees include ‘Vanessa’ parrotia (2014), live oak (2013), Accolade elm (2012), and goldenraintree (2011).

Columbia, Missouri Natural Resources Supervisor Brett O’Brien says, “Remarkably adaptable to our state’s weather and site conditions, yellowwood is a tree which is not particularly rare but in my opinion is certainly not planted in our area nearly enough. It could be that it is not popularized because in un-irrigated turf areas it’s apt to be a little slow; in my experience I have found that in landscape beds or irrigated areas it grows fairly quickly.”

Indeed, the consensus is that yellowwood does well in a variety of urban conditions so long as it gets adequate water. It’s best used in parks, wide tree lawns, or, with pruning, in narrow tree lawns. Yellowwood is hardy in Zones 4a to 8b and is native to East North America. It is a medium-maturing tree in the legume family that matures at 30-50 feet tall and 40 to 55 feet wide. It can handle high soil pH (up to 8.2) and is considered relatively pest free. Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute says yellowwood is easy to transplant B&B or under 2-inch caliper bare root.

This tree has elegant year-round beauty. O’Brien admires the “pendulous fragrant white flowers, reminiscent of wisteria” and “the smooth, elephant-grey to light brown bark of the tree’s trunk as well as the lustrous reddish-brown stems.” He says that a favorite yellowwood of his is located in downtown Columbia on the west side of a red brick building, in an unforgiving site where the tree spends the early morning in deep shade and late afternoon in blazing sunlight. Nevertheless, the yellowwood has thrived. 

O’Brien says, “Yellowwood trees admittedly have a maddening branching habit, generally doing fine until the tree is about chest height, when multiple leaders and included bark become quite common. Judicious and timely pruning can help, though at a certain point, it is probably reasonable to just accept that good branching structure is not this tree’s strong suit. Yellowwood’s other positive attributes clearly outweigh this one idiosyncrasy and I would suggest that the value and benefit this beautiful tree provides makes consideration for planting worthwhile in many urban areas.” 

A pink-flowering cultivar ‘Perkins Pink’ is available but may be challenging to find.

The SMA recognizes the underutilized and strongly ornamental yellowwood for its service to urban forests and encourages its use when matched appropriately to site and as part of a diverse urban tree inventory.

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Urban Nature as a Health Resource

Yale is conducting a conference in New Haven on the impact of our disconnection with nature.  I love how the abstract starts with 100K Years ago.

ABSTRACT
Over the past 100,000 years we have connected with the natural environment to ensure that we not only survive as a species but that we thrive and dominate. However despite our undoubted success and with rising life expectancy we have “created” a new sickness that is killing people in greater numbers than at any time in history. Non Communicable diseases have the common risk factor of chronic inflammation which is strongly associated with chronic stress. There is good empirical evidence that when we become isolated or disconnected from a supportive natural environment we become stressed. In this talk I will argue that it is our disconnection from nature that is driving this epidemic of Type II diabetes, obesity, depression etc. Our healthcare systems are not fit for purpose in tackling these diseases. Therefore to consign these diseases to history requires a revolution of new thinking, with nature at the very centre of urban design, healthcare, technology and education.

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Trees not only inhabit the soil, they have a symbiotic relationship with the microbes and fungi that live in the soil.  They also serve as anchors to the soil around us, especially in the urban environment. Well it turns out the trees are onto something.  Scientists are going where no human has gone before, into the microbes of soil. It turns out that 99% microbes can not be duplicated under usual laboratory conditions, but only in native conditions. However, one scientist has figured a way to alter the laboratory conditions to replicate the soils native environment and study some of the microbial species. One result has been the discovery of bacteria resistant antibiotics.  Below is the New York Times article discussing it.

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Ice Storm Preparation- Part Two

Time to get started with your ice storm preparation. There’s lots to do, so let’s take it in steps. There are four prime essentials for ice storm preparation.

  • Light
  • Heat
  • Electricity
  • Food

 In Part 2 we will look at the first two main categories for ice storm preparation.

 The prime essentials for ice storm preparation

Light
You don’t want to be stumbling around in the dark. Not being able to see adds to the chaos. You can break things. You can hurt yourself. And you can get overwhelmed with the sudden lifestyle change. Here’s a list of light sources you can use.

  • Candles. This is very basic. Get large candles. They last longer. Table candles work but don’t last long. However, you might have a few for candlelight dinners. Romantic touches could add a delightful ambience when everything else is stressful.
  • Lanterns. Kerosene lanterns will give you light but they are sometimes stinky. They are dangerous if tipped over. Get florescent or LED types. They come in different sizes. Get a big one for the community room. Get smaller ones for individual rooms. These lanterns last for many days. Get a spare battery for each lantern.
  • Flashlights. Everyone needs their own flashlight. If you already have flashlights, test them. How many times have you picked up a flashlight only to find it is dead? Get the flashlights corralled and test all of them. Get spare batteries for each flashlight. Buy a few extra bulbs. Maybe have a smaller flashlight in each room. How about a headlamp? These are handy because they are hands free.
  • Gas powered generators. This is the heavy-duty cure to light. We’ll talk about generators later.

Heat

It’s going to get cold. It doesn’t matter how heavily insulated you home might be, if you don’t maintain a certain level of heat it will get cold. Here’s some things you can do to prepare.

Furnace

Furnaces make heat. Most are powered by gas, some are powered by wood. One thing all furnaces have in common: fan motors. It takes a fan to move the heated air through the heating ducts to your living space. Fans are powered by electricity. If you don’t have the fans working, you don’t have an operational furnace.

 Here’s what I did. I got an electrician in and installed a receptacle box on the line that feeds the fan motor. Then the wire going to the fan motor got a plug. If the power goes out, I can unplug the fan motor line out of the receptacle and plug it into an extension cord that goes to the gas generator. My heating system is now operational again. Fan motors are small. They don’t draw lots of power. But little fans do big jobs, like keeping living spaces warm.

 Fireplaces: wood and gas

  •  Gas. You are in luck. Your gas line will not be affected by ice storms. Gas is odorless and has all the romance of logs if you have a good looking fake log arrangement.
  •  Wood. They take more work. Great if you are a woodsman at heart. Fires take a lot of tending. You have to keep an eye on them as well. Logs can roll out onto the floor. They create ash that gets on everything.

 These are great.

Wood Stoves

  • Make sure the stove pipes are clean of creosote. You don’t want a stove pipe fire. Clean once a year if you use the stove often.

 Wood

  •  Have a stack of split wood near the house. A long walk over icy surfaces with an armload of wood can lead to falls. How about a wheelbarrow? Have it turned upside down before the ice storm.
  • Have at least a half cord of split wood. A cord if you live in the North Country.
  • Use the uniform split pieces during the day. Separate a pile of “night wood” pieces. Those are those large pieces of crotch wood that don’t split well. They burn slowly. Fill the stove up with them when you retire and you’ll have a big bed of red hot coals next morning.

 Clothing

  •  Look at your cold weather clothing. Go shopping if you don’t think you have enough. Down vests are great around the house.
  • Know where your blankets are. Down blankets are the warmest. Wool blankets are also good.

 Have I missed anything? Tell us here. 

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Ice Storm Preparation- Part One

Do you live in an ice storm area? If you don’t know, do your research. Ask an old time resident if you are new to the area. “Have you ever seen an ice storm here? How often do they occur? How bad are they? When was the last bad one?” Go online and Google ice storm and add your location. Look at the history.

Start preparing for ice storms now. I’m not talking about building up a garrison or fortress. Let’s be practical. Let’s just do some common sence things that will pay off big if your lights go out. But first, let’s take a look at what you loose if a major ice storm hits your vicinity.

What You Loose

  • You loose electricity. The lines will go down. If it is a single dwelling house line, you will have to wait days. The main lines that feed the community must be repaired first.  
  • You loose transportation. This will depend on how quick the streets thaw out or serviced by county crews. If you live in the south, it could be days. Remember last year when Atlanta made national news? Got a 4-wheel drive? Forget it. You will slide off the road on the first downhill section. Got tire chains? We don’t know what they are in the south.
  • You loose the furnace pump. This is the small fan that pushes the heat through the heating ducts. You’ll still have gas, it doesn’t freeze. But it won’t do you any good without a fan to push it into the rooms. It’s like heating your house with the stovetop.
  • You’ll loose perishable food if the roads don’t clear up in a couple of days and the stores aren’t restocked from panic rush buying. Frozen food will go next a few days later.
  • You loose light.
  • You’ll loose computer use. No recharging, no desktop computer.

The Approaching Storm

First, all the news and weather stations will be shouting out the warnings. You will be lucky if you get an accurate 2-day time warning.

You won’t need a college degree to figure out bad things are about to happen. Your trees will start with a fine coating of ice. It’s really very pretty. The trees look like they are wearing a coat of shimmering crystal. The wind will blow and you’ll hear an unusual crinkling noise. How interesting. Then you’ll hear rifle shots! These are the branches starting to break. Pine branches go first, because of the larger leaf surfaces for ice to collect. The little branches sound like crackling rifle fire. Then it gets louder. The bigger branches start breaking and trunks start exploding. They sound like cannons going off.  

The light show fires into action. If it is dark, you’ll have as ringside seat to the excitement with all kinds of colorful displays. There will be bursts of purple, red, yellow, and green. A strange deep-throated boom will punctuate each display. They get louder as they get closer. These are the electrical transformers exploding. Suddenly a loud low-pitched explosion sounds nearby. You jump! Your lights flicker. Darkness.

The Lights Go Out

Everything is pitch black in the house. You fumble around looking for flashlights. If you are prepared, you grab the flashlight next to the bed. If you are unprepared, you try to remember where the flashlight is. You pray the batteries are fresh. Things are not so bad if it is daylight.

Time for a house meeting. Everyone is brought together. How many flashlights are there? Do we have enough food? Don’t open the refrigerator unless you have to! Where is the warmest room? Are your cell phones charged up? How about the laptop computer? You did charge up your tablet, yes?

In a matter of moments your usual life has changed. Life is not always predictable. Fresh food will only last a few days, if you don’t open the refrigerator door too often. Grab the frozen food quickly and shut the door! You have 5 days of food there if you are careful.

All of your communication devices die in a couple of days, if you are a frugal user. Electronic entertainment will suddenly disappear. No soothing music. Your gaming world is gone.

It’s a new world. You are now moving way from modern times. Hello primitive.   You are now in a time warp.

Has anyone been caught unprepared? Tell us about it. 

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My Sadness Condemning Trees

I am a consulting arborist. I inspect trees for health and try to look into the crystal ball to judge if a tree is safe to live under. Bad things happen when trees fall over here in Atlanta. 

Trees grow really fast here. They are huge!  Most of these big trees grow very close to homes and streets. Atlanta is the place to be if you are a tree lover. It’s the most heavily forested city in America.

There was one tree in particular I loved looking at. I would see it a couple of times each day as I drove home. I would slow down and admire it. Sometimes I would pull over. It was a giant southern red oak growing between two houses. It had a perfectly rounded crown with a spread over 80 feet across. The trunk was five feet across which would put it at about 100 years old.

My wife would slow to look at this tree as well. She is my business partner as well as a tree admirer. One day she stopped and decided to take a walk up to have a look at the base of the tree. She knocked on the door to get permission.  A mom and three little girls answered the door.

What my wife saw was a mushroom growing on one of the big root flares. She knew this particular mushroom was a bad sign. It indicated root rot. Oak trees fall over when the decay caused by this fungus attacks the anchoring roots. The mom gave my wife the phone number of the owner. A day later I went out to make the tree inspection.

I dreaded the thought at looking at this tree. This was a tree I admired. Part of me didn’t want to know the truth. The other part of me knew the tree would destroy two homes and probably kill people.

There is a scientific method to testing trees. You work off a data sheet that has you look at all of the parts of a tree. You also look at the targets, what a tree could hit if it fell. If you wanted to look inside the tree, you could drill it with a tiny drill bit that records the resistance of the wood against drill bit. The readout is on a strip of paper, much like an EKG.

I drilled four times. I was praying for the recording needle to register high on the strip of paper. I always talk to the tree when I drill. “Come on, you can make it! All right, all right! Looking good!” My spectators that day were three kids, a mom, my wife, three of my tree climbing students, and the owner of the property. They watched as I drilled different sides of the trunk. Two drillings showed signs of decay, two showed healthy wood.

“What do you think, what do you think?” Everyone wants a quick answer. Do we take it down or leave it. I was clearly in the judge’s chair. I was screwed if I made the wrong decision and left it standing. Yet it was one of the most majestic trees in Atlanta. I decided not to make a quick judgment.

I came back the next day with a fellow collogue and we drilled 5 more times. This time I drilled more times downward below the soil surface. This is where the decay lives. It’s called white rot. It turns hardwood into soft white spongy wood. These are the big anchoring roots that hold a tree up. I looked above me as I drilled. The tree was easily 50 tons in weight. The results were not good.

I had a numbing feeling of compassion as I looked at the tree one last time. I know trees aren’t supposed to have feelings. But I’ve heard them wailing for their lives when the big winds come through. I’ve seen them bow down and creak with the heavy weight of ice. Then there’s the aching moan when a two-trunk tree splits apart. Most people hear a frightening sound when trees break. I hear a goodbye.

There’s a ghost living in the spot where the tree used to live. I can see the silhouette of the tree where it used to be. I can see its cooling arms stretching out over the two houses. I see that tree in my minds eye. I don’t drive down that street any more. 

Do you have personal feelings about a tree? 

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I recently came across this resource, "Diverse Environmental Leaders National Speakers Bureau (DEL)" and wanted to share a link to the page. As you are planning urban forestry conferences in your state, perhaps one of these speakers can provide a presentation. In Georgia, we are fortunate to work with Na'Taki Osborne Jelks who has spoken about Proctor Creek and her work with the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance at several of our programs. In addition, you may be interested in following Audrey Peterman's blog at Legacy on the Land. 365 Parks in 365 Days is a real treat. I was honored to meet Audrey once and will never forget what an inspiration she was to me.

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Preparing Your Trees for the Winter

Healthy shade trees around homes provide many benefits including increasing property value by thousands of dollars, reducing soil erosion and stormwater runoff and providing a visual screen and noise buffer.

Despite these valuable benefits, homeowners may be concerned about the risk large trees provide, especially during the winter storm season in Georgia. While assessing tree risk requires training and experience by a Certified Arborist, there are some simple things you can do to get some peace of mind and determine if you need to seek a professional assessment. Start with a self-survey of each of your trees to identify the obvious risks.

English ivy and other invasive vines should be removed to help inspect the base of the tree for cavities and other fruiting bodies, such as mushrooms which indicate root disease. Cut vines and let them die back and fall off naturally. Also, prune dead, diseased and dying limbs annually. During sidewalk replacement, utility work, or other excavation, avoid cutting roots or keep root damage to a minimum.

Lastly, it’s important to plant new trees to provide benefits to future generations and keep them healthy and safe. Trees that are not properly maintained or which are stressed can quickly become major liabilities to people and property from weather phenomena. Choose the right tree for the right place. Select trees with good form at the nursery and don’t plant trees too deeply. Regular watering, mulching and ongoing tree care is important to maintain healthy trees in your yard. December through February is the best time to plant new trees in Georgia.

The Georgia Forestry Commission has a host of resources that can help you find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about trees at Ask The Arborist and a list of arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) who conduct fee-based site visits to determine tree care needs. Trees and storm safety information can also be found at GaTrees.org.

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 We need to do a better job conveying the importance of individual trees, particularly those with more than 20 years of remaining life span. Being canopy centric can lead to an emphasis on replanting. Large trees are inconvenient to urban development, but to destroy the big trees in the urban forest is the equivalent of polluting upstream, but the price paid is the degradation of the forest, soil, and the ecosystems around it. All urban dwellers should care about this, as we are what live downstream. Arborist have become much better at calculating risk using programs like Tree Risk Assessment Qualification that integrates the latest research on tree biology, health, and structure. These programs and arborists experiences can help access those trees that have the longest to live and present the least risk. 

 

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How to Shinrin-Yoku

Excerpted from an article by Barbara Brown.  Link to Full Article

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere,” or “forest bathing.” (In Japanese, shinrin means forest, and yoku, although it has several meanings, refers here to a “bathing, showering or basking in.”)

Researchers have found immediate and dramatic effects from even 15 minutes of wandering in the forest in a shinrin-yoku way. Shinrin-yoku is more than simply walking in the woods. It is breathing deeply and opening all the senses to receive the rejuvenating and restorative benefits of the forest. The idea is to let nature enter your body through the senses.

In fact, forest environments provide stimulation of various senses, such as vision (scenery), olfaction (smells of wood, grass, leaves, and flowers), auditory (sounds of running streams or the rustle of leaves) and tactile sensations (feel of the surfaces of trees and leaves). This sensory information is processed and transmitted in the corresponding areas of the brain that control emotions and physiological functions and may affect physiological changes.

Researchers have been amassing a body of evidence which supports the fact that spending time in nature has both long and short term health benefits, especially when we spend time with trees in a forest.  To participate go to a forested area and wander. Go to a park. Follow a trail. Smell the fragrances of the trees and shrubs. Listen to the water, the streams, the birds and the sounds of the forest, the breeze that sings in the leaves and needles.

Think of it as bathing in the full experience of the forest, engaging all your senses and letting the sights, sounds, fragrances and sensations wash over you.

• Set aside an hour or so at least three times a week and go to a forest.

• Leave your cell phone and camera behind.

• Gently walk or even just sit, quiet and still.

• Refrain from conversation.

• Listen attentively. Isolate the sounds of birds, breezes in the trees, even rain.

• Notice the changes of the birds and other forest life after they have become accustomed to your presence.

• Breathe deeply.

• Enjoy the different fragrances of the woods.

• Look closely at the details of leaves, needles, bark, rocks, etc.

• Touch and commune with nature.

Many studies suggest that incorporating a forest bathing experience is important for the health of seniors who are in rest homes or treatment centers. They can receive the healing benefits of nature while sitting in a wheelchair in a garden or a forest. Caregivers receive the benefits, too!

Barbara Howard is a marketing consultant and freelance journalist residing in Monterey. She specializes in natural health and LOHAS, Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, and she blogs at www.naturalsolutionsnews.wordpress.com Reach her at 521-8608 or barbara@BHMarketingPR.com

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Begun The Christmas Tree War Has

This is a great story re-posted from NPR.  When it comes to Christmas Trees do you prefer real or artificial?  Or as this story asks, are you a "Defender of Reality", "Advocate of Artifice", or "Proponent of Self Reliance" ?

I tend to lean towards reality myself, I just love the smell of a natural tree, I love the Frazier fire gum stuck to my hands and I love tossing the ole tree onto the future wood chip pile after the first of the year.  Then every spring as I walk past a couple of historic magnolia trees in front of my town's rec center I re-live that wonderful smell as the city spread those chips under their boughs.

So which are you?  Tell us your story, and post a picture of your tree (I know you already have on on instagram!)

Here is the link to the NPR story:  Begun The Christmas Tree War Has

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Forests vs. Trees

The other day I attended a very comprehensive talk on the Canopy of Atlanta. The analysis included canopy coverage overlays combined with social demographics like income and race (there was a correlation between income and canopy but not race and canopy). The bottom line is that canopy tells an important story, but it only part of the story. Satellite images, GIS layers, and canopy studies do not tell you the structure of the forest. As an arborist, I look at one tree at a time and I get aggravated with the emphasis on the technology, GIS, and canopy. It is as if we miss the trees for the forests. Municipalities love canopy studies because it lets them avoid difficult questions/conflicts like which trees should be protected and how important are specimen trees.  As long as they replace canopy, they feel they have done their job.  The problem is that specimen trees and the soil around them is not easily replaced. Older trees put on substantially more wood per year than younger trees. If it is native tree, their role in the ecosystem can never be replaced in a human life time. A replant grown in crappy soil, will be a crappy tree. Yet the best trees of the urban forest are removed  because they are inconvenient to our land uses. It is time we started paying more attention to the individual trees and back up the canopy studies with "ground truthing, recognizing the big trees that we need to save to retain the character and function of the forest.  There are ways to build around healthy trees that is win win, but it takes some intention. To destroy the big trees in the forest is the equivalent of polluting upstream, but the price paid is the degradation of the forest and the ecosystems around it. All urban dwellers should care about this, as we are what lives downstream.

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The NUCFAC wants to hear from you!

Last year, the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (Council) polled attendees at the Partners in Community Forestry Conference in Pittsburgh and learned that you'd like to have more input into Council activities. We listened to your feedback and have worked diligently this year to gather additional input from our Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) constituencies throughout the country. As we prepare to finalize the 2016 UCF Challenge Cost Share Grant Program, please take the time to complete this brief survey and help inform the categories for our next grant cycle!https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NUCFACpoll2014 

Please feel free to forward this link to anyone that you think might be interested in participating.

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The Truth About Trees

Posted by Phillip Rodbell on December 1, 2014 at 10:53am 

 “The Truth About Trees is the first full-length documentary film series to explore the indispensable role of trees for all life on Earth. Like filmmaker Ross Spears' previous series, Appalachia, The Truth About Trees demonstrates that natural history and human history are utterly connected—that they are in fact part of the same story. The series is slated for release in 2015. This group is making video histories of people who care for trees nationwide. This project sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, US Forest Service and Bartlett Tree Experts. Learn more here. http://www.truthabouttrees.org/digital-stories/

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Tree Risk & Common Ground in the Urban Forest

I wrote the following letter to my neighbors after a healthy 51 inch white oak was removed. I had inspected the tree, it was a 125 years old, no decay present, and outside the buildable area of the property. Using TRAQ, I gave it a moderate risk rating.  Unfortunately, that rating was never officially recorded, although any tree rated moderate or higher may be removed in our community. It was removed to create room for detention for a renovation and because the owner felt it to be unsafe. After the removal someone chopped down their construction utility pole and placed a sign that said, "RIP."  In response to the vandalism the owner wrote an email which slowly disintegrated into us vs. them mentality. The neighborhood has roughly 80% canopy coverage with some very large and old trees.

Dear Neighbors,

As others already have, I wish to welcome Joy and her family. Our new neighbor followed the laws of Decatur and legally removed the tree. I understand that trees are removed especially when they present a danger to human life and property. As part of my job, I condemn risky trees on a weekly basis. I have also removed a specimen tree in my own yard. This still does not appease the remorse I feel when an old tree is removed.

The Urban Forest of our neighborhood is special. I have written about it on several occasions over the years. It is a mature forest that gives us a glimpse of what the primeval forest once looked like before industrialization. While most rural forests reflect unabated logging and agriculture through the 20th century, the urban forests were often intentionally retained to provide shade and and give us a semblance of contact with nature. 

Our homes reside within this forest. As our forest matures and we expand the footprints of our homes we increase the likelihood of a negative encounter. How do we balance the beauty of the forest of which the oldest trees provide the very character of what makes it special but at the same time provide the most risk?

Both trees and ourselves are natural systems that sometimes compete for resources. Our relationship with trees is both reciprocal and antagonistic. Perhaps our depth of emotion about trees is that we have evolved with them and they are rooted deep within our existence. They embody so much that we attribute to life and death. I have yet to meet a person that is indifferent about them and cannot recite a personal tree story, often from their childhood. While our opinions might differ they always provide the opportunity for common ground. That they evoke strong feelings does not surprise me, but it is my aspiration that they help us communicate and relate with one another as individuals, neighbors, and Americans.

I work as both a tree inspector, so I have the privilege to work with trees everyday. Many prefer not to think about the risk trees present while others can not stop thinking about it. After many years of being confronted with this dilemma, the international governing body of arborist developed TRAQ or tree risk assessment qualification. The risk rating of low, moderate, hight, very high is based on target and health of the tree incorporating much research. The amount of research in regards to tree structure, heath, and biology has grown in leaps and bounds over the last decade. Using the TRAQ system the home owners is referred to the "tree risk managers" and the arborist the "tree risk assessor." As the owner must ultimately live with the consequences of the risk whether it be low, moderate, high, or very high, the final decision is theirs to make. The "tree risk assessor" applies their knowledge and experience and any mitigation (pruning, cabling, mulching, etc.) that might mitigate the risk. While the system is not used by everyone and incorporates some subjectivity it is a useful tool for the homeowner to make an informed decision weighing the costs and benefits retaining/removing the tree. As you might guess, the service is not free but ultimately can give you peace of mind and save you the cost of removal. 

It is important to not only measure a tree by its risk, but also understand trees for their many benefits many of which are not directly related to humans. For example, a native oak can support up to 523 species of caterpillars. A single clutch of Carolina Chickadees can consume up to 9,000 caterpillars in a 16 day period. It is also interesting to note that non-native species do not support nearly the level of ecosystem; as an example a Ginkgo will only support up to 5 caterpillar species in the Atlantic Region. Part of evolution is specialization, and it takes up to 1000s of years for a species to adapt to a food source that otherwise would be poisonous. Ginkgos have not been here long enough for caterpillars to adapt to its defenses. So retaining and planting native plants is not just about supporting that species, but also the biodiversity that has evolved around it for millions of years. Older trees also have more time to propagate a healthy biome. Last not all trees are equal, a white oak can have a life span up to 500 years, while a water oak is typically around 90 years.

In regards to the City of Decatur, it allows for residential properties to remove 3 trees within an 18 month period and any tree rated a moderate risk or higher. They also allow double credit for specimen trees, so if it has a tolerable risk to the tree risk manager (home owner, property manager, controlling authority), you will potentially have less to plant back to meet the canopy goal of 45%. As most specimen trees near homes will likely be a moderate risk, most any tree can be removed without penalty in the City of Decatur, although all tree removal requires a permit (can be completed online). If a land disturbance permit is being sought (do not need land disturbance permit to remove trees, typically just for new construction and renovations), they must comply to 45% canopy coverage. India Woodson, the City Arborist is working diligently towards making the ordinance work for as many people as possible. As with most new ordinances there are some flaws and confusing language. However, I respect the process by which it was composed and I think the City did an amazing job incorporating many different and emotional views. I hope to encourage the City to further encourage healthy specimen trees that have a potential remaining life span of at least 20 or more years. 
 
We have an amazing mature urban forest in our neighborhood. It is a joy and a responsibility. A nice ending to the tree removal on Mt. Vernon is that the mulch from the tree will be spread in the Glenn Creek Nature Preserve, completing its cycle in a way we can all benefit. Perhaps other possible projects to help find common ground is continuing our NeighborWoods program where we plant young trees. I would also be interested in identifying the trees that are over 100 years old. You might be surprised, some of the biggest trees are not necessarily the oldest. If you would like to help us spread the mulch, maintain trails, and pull english ivy, in the Glenn Creek Nature Preserve please join us Saturday, December 13th at 9am.  

Most Sincerely,  

Neil W Norton
ISA Certified Arborist, SO-4158A
ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualified
W-404-486-0144
C-404-271-6526
FAX-404-929-0654
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