Community ReLeaf in Action

by Maria Harwood
Community ReLeaf in Asbury Park

Ready to plant in Asbury Park, N.J. Credit: American Forests

This fall, we ventured out into the communities of our five 2013 Community ReLeaf project cities and rolled up our sleeves for some hard work! Thanks to the support of our project partners, Bank of America and the U.S. Forest Service along with 169 local community volunteers, we were able to put 175 trees in the ground, enhancing urban forests across the country.

In addition to the tree plantings, assessments of the urban forests in our project cities were performed to analyze different aspects of the canopy cover and benefits to the local communities realized from investments in urban trees. The results so far speak volumes about the importance of urban forests in our communities:

In Asbury Park, N.J., a coastal city impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, some major trees were lost during the storm, but the overall canopy cover hasn’t suffered a significant change. Tree canopy covers approximately 22 percent of Asbury Park’s 1.5 square miles. The city’s trees provide more than half a million dollars’ worth of benefits annually in filtration of air and water pollution alone. These services also provide a vital link to lessening the impact of stormwater on the city infrastructure following large storms.

Work in Detroit, Mich., was focused in River Rouge Park, the city’s largest park. Collectively, the 1,184-acre park and its 140,000 trees contribute $2.84 million in benefits by filtering air pollution, sequestering carbon and controlling rainwater. If lost, replacing the entire urban forest in this park alone would cost $84 million.

Community ReLeaf in Detroit's Rouge River Park.

Community ReLeaf in Detroit’s River Rouge Park. Credit: American Forests

In East Nashville, Tenn., an assessment was conducted looking specifically at the street trees that comprise its urban forest. It was found that these 11,130 trees provide shade for about 12 percent of all the streets and sidewalks. These street trees provide over $1 million in cumulative benefits annually. That is, for every dollar invested in the trees, the community receives $6.91 in benefits.

Pasadena, Calif., also had an analysis conducted on its 58,267 street trees, which provide over $8 million in cumulative benefits each year, including over $1 million in air quality benefits. Overall, the street trees shade around 27 percent of streets and sidewalks.

The assessment in Atlanta, Ga., is still underway, but the report is looking at the urban forests surrounding schools like Price Middle School, where we planted trees in November, to determine the amount of benefit afforded to students from their natural environment.

It’s been a busy year with the kickoff of the Community ReLeaf program in these five cities around the U.S. We have already studied urban canopies and added 175 trees to urban forests around the country, but more work is yet to come! Keep an eye out for the detailed results from each city, coming soon.


The Wilderness Compromise of S. 37 and Senator John Tester

by Alison Share, Environmental Public Policy Associate, Crowell & Moring LLP

While much of the media followed the ever-shifting tea leaves during the budget negotiations between Senator Patty Murray and Representative Paul Ryan, the background tug-of-war over wilderness protections continued this month. Two separate actions, a Senate bill sponsored by Senator John Tester (D-MT) and a statement of policy from the pro-logging group Federal Forest Resource Coalition, highlighted the spectrum of opinion among logging industry, ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists.

Montana’s Snowcrest Mountains

Montana’s Snowcrest Mountains. Credit: SeattleRay/Flickr

Sen. Tester’s bill, S. 37 — the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act of 2013, mandates specific amounts of logging on national forest land while designating over 600,000 acres of wilderness. With its compromise between utility of forests and preservation of wild areas, the bill won the support of a variety of different interest groups, including livestock interests and several local wilderness associations. One important juncture in garnering the multi-interest support was the treatment of 20,000 acres in the Snowcrest Mountains that were originally designated as potential wilderness. Following conversations between livestock and wilderness organizations, those 20,000 acres were dropped from consideration. Local ranchers graze cattle on those acres in the summertime and needed access to repair stock tanks and other ranching infrastructure. The acreage will instead be designated a special management area, leaving its wilderness quality while allowing ranchers much-needed access. That compromise gained S. 37 support from otherwise opposing factions, with an additional amendment to allow snowmobile access to Mt. Jefferson winning the isolated praise of fellow western Senator Jim Risch (R-ID).

With its compromises and amendments, the bill passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week and heads to the Senate floor in the new year. It will, however, face stiff headwinds from Republican senators who believe it does not do enough to promote timber harvests. The bill is also opposed by some Montana conservation groups due to the original proposed 677,000 acres of wilderness dropping to about 640,000. Even should S. 37 be passed by the Senate, it will have a tough time passing through the House of Representatives, with the Republican-controlled body generally opposed to wilderness protection bills.

Yet for all of the imperfections of S. 37, depending on your point of view, it is a working demonstration that compromise is possible between even longtime opposing groups. The other side of the coin is the recent policy statement released by the Federal Forest Resource Coalition (“Coalition”). The Coalition is a trade group that represents 650 wood products companies, so access to forests for logging is a high priority for many of the group’s members. According to the Coalition’s policy statement, 28 percent of national forest lands are suitable for logging. Congress should designate no new wilderness until the management of those national forest acres reflect priority for timber production. In addition to shifting the focus of that 28 percent of forests, the Coalition also pushes for a streamlined environmental review process under — yes, it is back — the National Environmental Policy Act. The policy statement also pushes for wilderness areas to not: be oddly shaped or isolated tracts, be in Alaska or block access to logging areas. And any proposed new designations should have to carry the support of the local House delegation and both senators.

It seems unnecessary to state that conservation groups think the Coalition’s statement is less that of policy and more a list of demands. But here is the take-away: It’s easy for parties on either side of this issue to publish a policy statement, which conveniently avoids the unnecessary burden of compromise required to enact legislation.

Policy statements from all interest groups are designed specifically to shift political thought while it is legislation that actually creates the policy. Policy statements can be as strident as groups wish them to be, but it is compromise, demonstrated by S. 37 and the ultimate Murray-Ryan budget plan, that actually moves policy forward.


The Town Arborist

by the Loose Leaf team

This week’s 2013 ISA True Professional of Arboriculture is Jim McCready of Carleton Place, Ontario — ISA Certified Arborist, Registered Professional Forester, Owner of McCready Tree & Forestry Consulting and Program Forester for Tree Canada

 

Jim McCready

Credit: Jim McCready / ISA

Not long after a major ice storm hammered Eastern Ontario, Canada, in 1998, government funding became available to help communities repair extensive damage to trees. But Jim McCready recalls there was an obstacle for some of the smaller communities. They didn’t have the expertise to put together plans and apply for funding. So, McCready assisted these communities by doing the inventories and preparing the applications. The money to care for the urban canopies eventually came to the three small-town communities had taken under his wing.

“One of the communities was my hometown of Carleton Place,” McCready remembers. “It received more than $180,000 to trim, remove and plant trees to replace those that were lost. As a result of the trimming, far less was spent on future cleanup after major storms.”

Those who know him best say this is quintessential Jim McCready, an under-the-radar type of guy who gives an extraordinary amount to people and trees. He may be retired following 28 years with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, but McCready is still a registered professional forester and ISA Certified Arborist who shapes the landscape of Eastern Ontario through his many volunteer efforts. In Carleton Place, McCready is known as the “Town Arborist.”

“I call it ‘small-town Ontario,’ where these communities don’t have the trained staff in arboriculture or the funds to hire anyone,” McCready explains. “As a result, it falls on dedicated volunteers like me with the background to make sure the trees are properly cared for. I am qualified so I can contribute to the community when they ask for help.”

McCready’s interest in urban forestry began in the early 1970s as a student at the University of Toronto. He was enrolled in a “Faculty of Forestry” class, which offered more than just traditional logging and silviculture courses.

Jim McCready at work

Credit: Jim McCready / ISA

“At the time, Dr. Eric Jorgensen — a man who defined the term ‘urban forestry’ — was teaching classes at the university,” McCready recalls. “So over the four years, I took full advantage of what Eric Jorgensen offered. I was extremely interested in the management of individual trees and parks in the urban setting. Jorgensen’s classes were well-attended. He engaged us with the concept later called Urban Forestry.”

McCready is the president of the Eastern Ontario Model Forest and also chair of the Regional Forest Health Network, a committee of agencies and partners promoting a sustainable forest while trying to control invasive pest species. Predictably, emerald ash borer has been at the top of their agenda for the past five years.

“With EAB in Ottawa, we came up with an urban messaging strategy for other towns and cities in our area,” McCready explains. “With help from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Eastern Ontario Model Forest, we’ve developed messaging for rural landowners on how to manage their woodlots.

Through continuing education and as a steadfast volunteer, McCready wants to ensure that anyone interested can learn more about trees. Even late in his career, McCready pursued his ISA Certification as an example to others that the achievement is well worth the effort.

“Small town Ontario is not aware of urban forestry or sound arboriculture practices. ISA’s message — the promotion of good arboriculture practices for urban trees and urban forestry across the landscape — is well known in the larger cities with forestry departments. No matter what the size of the community, we need to take time to guide small-town communities in the right direction.”—Jim McCready and ISA

 

Join us again next Monday as we wrap up our series on 2013’s True Professionals of Arboriculture with another arborist giving his time to mentor future tree care professionals.

Catch up with the True Professionals of 2013 featured throughout December:

Terrill Collier
Richard Herfurth
Scott Liudahl


Christmas Tree Diseases Hit Home

by Lisa Swann

Some of you may have brought a perfect, green Christmas tree home by now, but consider the fate of some Leyland cypress and Frasier firs that could not be sold this year.

Needle blight, which turns Leyland cypress trees’ needles brown, has been impacting many growers. After the needles turn brown, they fall off. Some farmers found they have fewer of their best-selling trees to sell this year.

Frasier fir with root rot.

Frasier fir with root rot. Credit: Linda Haugen, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Jim Butler, owner of Homestead Christmas Tree Farm in Hampton, Ga., tells NPR in Atlanta, “It’s been going on now for quite a few years, and we’ve tried many things to control it. It’ll go away on its own, and anytime we have a wet summer it seems to come back.”

Very few of Butler’s trees got needle blight this year, but he says he knows some tree farms in Georgia that are completely brown. Rather than killing the tree, needle blight makes them unsellable.

Frasier firs are also having a problem with root rot (Phytophthora). The root rot also seems to be brought on by unusually large amounts of rain.

Each year, 30 to 35 million American families purchase a fresh, farm-grown Christmas tree. Some 7 million trees are harvested in Oregon and 3 million in North Carolina. John Frampton, a Christmas tree geneticist at North Carolina State University, tells ABC news, “The organism that causes this disease was introduced in the 1900s, we think, so it’s been with the industry ever since it started in North Carolina in the 1950s and 60s.”

The Associated Press reports that until root rot is contained, North Carolina famers could suffer Christmas tree losses of up to $6 million per year, while Oregon’s Christmas tree industry could lose up to $304 million per year.

To try to contain the disease, farmers are growing other fir species that are resistant to root rot. Geneticists like Frampton are grafting Frasier fir into the roots of a resistant fir species and conducting studies to locate the genes within Turkish fir that cause resistance with the hope that they could be transferred to the Frasier fir.

Many Christmas trees, including Frasier fir and Leyland cypress are still healthy, so for those belated in selecting a tree, rest assured you can still find one.

 

More on Christmas trees from Loose Leaf:

From Tinsel to Mulch — How to recycle your Christmas tree
O Christmas Tree! — Learn about the history of American Forests and the National Christmas Tree
Deck the Halls — Why live trees are usually the more environmentally friendly choice


Moose in the Mire: Part II

by Susan Laszewski

Yesterday I wrote about the alarming decline of moose populations in the Northeast, especially in Vermont and New Hampshire. There, though many factors may be at play, winter ticks seem to be a primary culprit.

But the Northeast is not alone in watching their moose populations decline. It’s been happening across North America, though the causes differ from area to area…or do they?

Moose and calf in British Columbia.

Moose and calf in British Columbia. Credit: Arthur Chapman

In British Columbia, a report from Wildlife Infometrics Inc commissioned by the provincial government has laid a lot of the blame for the declining moose population on another tiny terror: the mountain pine beetle. The current epidemic of these beetles throughout much of the Mountain West has decimated forests of whitebark and lodgepole pine. The loss of lodgepole forests in the Caribou Mountains has deprived moose of their vital forest cover leaving them more exposed to predators and unregulated hunting, while the clearing of much of the dead lodgepole has led to the creation of more logging roads, bringing even more unregulated hunting into the area.

But are these causes really so different? These ecosystems both have natural defenses against these little critters. The real culprit here is what lies behind the sudden inability of those defenses to keep up with these threats: climate change. While the winter tick in the Northeast is surviving at a higher rate due to a decrease in snow cover, the mountain pine beetle population is soaring out of control largely due to warmer winters.

In fact, the beetle is even populating areas that were previously too cold for it — high elevation whitebark pine forests in places like the Greater Yellowstone Area, where American Forests is working to combat it. We’ve been working with volunteers to attach pheromone patches to certain whitebark pine trees to repel the beetles.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic is affecting so many species in these areas, from grizzlies to Clark’s nutcrackers. Add moose to the list.


Moose in the Mire: Part I

by Susan Laszewski

The fur loss on this young moose on Mount Washington in New Hampshire could be a result of his efforts to rid himself of ticks. Credit: Ernie Mills Photography / Mt. Washington Auto Road.

In my home state of Vermont, moose sightings were a regular part of my childhood, but for today’s children they might be a rare treat. Just since 2005, the state’s moose population has nearly halved. Next door neighbor New Hampshire has seen their moose population decline by a third in recent years.

The most likely suspect? Winter ticks. The declines in moose seem to go hand in hand in with surges of the ticks. But what would cause the tick population to surge? Warmer winters, for one thing. The ticks die when they drop from their elaphine host onto the snow. But when the ground is bare, they live to reproduce. Moose are not social animals like deer; they lack the grooming practices to keep the ticks in check. And if you’ve ever had a pet with a tick, you know what a pain the little buggers can be. In their efforts to be rid of the pain and irritation of the ticks, moose often end up tearing out their own fur. That is, the fur that is one of their most important adaptations for the harsh winter climates they call home. The conclusion of this horrible chain of events is that the moose — that symbol of snowy, northern lands so well adapted to the cold — can actually die of hypothermia.

New Hampshire has already cut the number of moose hunting licenses in half in an effort to counterbalance the population decline. In the long term, though, one way to help combat these sad stories is to combat the rapid climate change that nature is unable to keep pace with. It’s one of the reasons American Forests works so hard to protect and restore forests, one of our planet’s important carbon sinks. Our Global ReLeaf projects in northern New England have included our Riparian Tree Planting in Vermont’s Green Mountain Forest, where we’re partnering with the U.S. Forest Service and local volunteers to plant 4,000 trees.

The northeast is not the only area suffering from a decline in moose populations. And while climate change is a driver of this decline across North America, its effects take many forms. Visit us here on Loose Leaf tomorrow to for Part II of what’s hurting moose in other parts of the continent.


Forestry and Philanthropy in Fargo

by the Loose Leaf team

This week, we’re inspired by True Professional of Arboriculture Scott Liudahl — ISA Board certified master arborist and city forester in Fargo, N.D. — who is working to better his community through urban forestry.

Scott Liudahl

Courtesy of Scott Liudahl and ISA

How did Scott Liudahl make the transition from assistant manager for McDonald’s Corporation near Minneapolis to a career in forestry? His experience with the fast-food giant taught him to be a leader, how to interact with people, and make connections — all of the qualities he uses today as a forester for the city of Fargo, N.D.

“I’ve always had a passion for forest management,” explains Liudahl. “Most people want to be outside and close to nature. I am no different than that. I moved from Minnesota to Colorado to go to college. The last semester of school I took an urban and community forestry class and just loved it.”

Liudahl worked several seasonal and full-time forestry jobs in Colorado and Utah before ending up in North Dakota. He never imagined he’d be practicing urban forestry on the plains, but he says there are unique challenges for him here, largely because of Fargo’s growth.

In Fargo, Liudahl leads a full-time forestry staff of 10 professionals. All are expected to be ISA Certified along with completing continuing education. As a responsibility to the citizens of the community, it’s important for workers to be engaged and up-to-date in the industry.

“When I was working for the state of Utah, I was encouraged to become ISA Certified,” recalls Liudahl. “I’ve done that and more since then. When I can share with a homeowner or have one of our staff interact with a property owner and know we are all credentialed, it carries a lot of weight.”

Among Liudahl’s past special projects are creating a partnership with schools and other local organizations in Fargo to work with at-risk teenagers. With so much arbor work to do in the summer months, Liudahl and his forestry staff were looking for a solution to expand ground operations during a time of year when they really needed help. 

“The young team members we were choosing for this had enormous challenges in their lives,” Liudahl says. “We wanted to try and provide a positive experience along with some basic tools to help them overcome these challenges, be successful and make a positive contribution to their community. Part of our plan called for these kids to plant, prune, water, mulch, and maintain trees in public areas for ten weeks in the summer.

Scott Liudahl

Courtesy of Scott Liudahl and ISA

“It was tough to manage at first. We needed to partner with other community professionals to help them develop skills that go beyond what they were expected to do for us as a forestry department, including building relationships, money management, and mentorship. Not all of these young people end up in forestry, but we do hear about some who, after working with us, decided they wanted to turn their life around and go on to school.”

With North Dakota’s rough winters, another major project for Liudahl involved creating living snow fences by planting shelter belt trees in various locations throughout the community.

“The winter of 1996 brought so much snow to one neighborhood near the city’s airport on the north side of Fargo that the emergency vehicles could not get into the neighborhood,” Liudahl recalls. “A windbreak was installed on the north side of the development to minimize snow impact. Fifteen years later, the shelter belt is maturing and functioning as intended.”

Liudahl says he is always looking for ways to improve and be more efficient as a person and a team. He is constantly engaging his staff and asking them to speak up if there is a better way to reach their goals.  Liudahl is proud of his accomplishments, but maintains that he is chiefly driven by the success and growth of those around him.

“When I look at the meaning of a True Professional, I think about our amazing staff and the wonderful members of our community. My role is trying to prepare future leaders and instill in them my passion and excitement. I hope once I am finished here, that passion will carry on.”—Scott Liudahl and ISA

If you’re just joining our 2013 True Professionals of Arboriculture series, check out Terrill Collier and Richard Herfurth and join us again next Monday.


It’s Not Easy Being Green

by Marcelene Sutter
Recycling was much more intuitive when common beverages, like milk, were served in glass bottles.

Recycling was much more intuitive when common beverages, like milk, were served in glass bottles. Credit: Sheran/Flickr

“Reduce, reuse, recycle.” It’s a familiar mantra, splashed across posters in elementary schools across the country. Recycling itself is not a new concept — archaeological digs have revealed that the practice may date back further than the Neanderthals. The reasons for recycling bottles are abundant and well-known: Recycling plastic bottles reduces carbon dioxide emissions from the bottle-making process and conserves space in landfills.

So why are Americans slacking off in terms of recycling? In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Bill Chameides of Duke University’s School of the Environment, writes that there are two main causes that could explain the lack of recycling: increases in single-use bottles and increases in consumption. Since the 1950s, beverages are increasingly sold in aluminum or plastic containers, instead of in glass bottles. When glass bottles were used for milk, recycling was vital to the transaction; if people did not put their bottles out for the milkman, they did not receive the product. These new materials make recycling less intuitive and this, coupled with skyrocketing bottled beverage consumption rates, has caused ad decline in recycling to become an issue.

Bottle bills provide monetary incentives for people to recycle their bottles.

Bottle bills provide monetary incentives for people to recycle their bottles. Credit: Vincent Brown

The solution to this problem seems to be offering incentives; the recent “Bottled Up” report released by the Container Recycling Institute reveals that the 11 states that offer bottle bill incentives, where people can receive cash back for recycling their bottles, account for nearly half of all recycling across the United States. Enacting this type of bill is often an uphill battle for states, which may face corporate opposition from bottling companies and beverage distributors.

If you feel strongly about the rising levels of landfills and the lack of recycling in the United States, there are several ways that you can help the environment, beyond simply recycling all of your bottles. Using reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic bottles is a great start and, though it requires a bit more work, only purchasing beverages from pro-recycling bottling companies can send a strong message as well.

This is my last blog post as an American Forests intern, and I want to thank the Loose Leaf team for allowing me to write for the blog this semester. I have truly enjoyed exploring environmental current events, and have appreciated all of the thoughtful comments left by readers. Thank you for a great semester!


The Majestic Sugar Maple

by Lisa Swann
Sugar maple near the banks of the Mackinaw River - Money Creek Township; McLean County, Illinois

Sugar maple near the banks of the Mackinaw River – Money Creek Township; McLean County, Illinois. Credit: tlindenbaum/Flickr

The majestic sugar maple’s fall color finery is now at an end — but forest owners are looking forward to the next season: maple sugaring. The syrup you are devouring on your pancakes this holiday season is likely from the last sap run that happened in the spring.

The sugar maple is an amazing tree, from ample summer shade to brilliant fall colors to its ability to produce maple sugar sap, which is boiled down into syrup. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is common throughout New England, the Lake States, Mid-Atlantic states, and several Canadian provinces (note the sugar maple leaf on the Canadian flag).

Sugar maples can grow to heights in excess of 100 feet. The national champion sugar maple in New London, Conn., is 124 feet tall, with a diameter of 219 inches and a crown spread of 86 feet.  Most trees range in height from 70 to 90 feet and have diameters from two to three feet, and crowns from 60-80 feet. Most sugar maples regenerate naturally through seeds falling to the ground and wide sprouting. They are very prolific seed producers.

A sugar maple stand managed for the production of maple sugar is often referred to as a sugar bush. One of the most important characteristics for a maple sugar tree is a large crown open to sunlight and large stems, which mean high sap rates. In the early 1600s, European explorers witnessed American Indians drawing maple sap, and today maple sugaring is an important cash crop in the New England states.

The tree is also important as a hardwood timber species and was used by settlers to create common kitchen tools such as cheese pressers, rolling pins and apple grinders. Today, it is also popular for flooring, furniture, cabinets and woodenware, as well as basketball courts and baseball bats.

In late summer and fall, sugar maples stop growing and begin storing starches in the sapwood. These starches remain in “storage” until the temperature reaches 40 degrees.  When the temperatures warm in the spring, cells holding the starches change them into sugars and the sugar passes into sap. The warmer temperatures create pressure inside the tree and sap begins to flow. It takes 40 liters of maple sap — and hours of boiling down — to make one liter of maple syrup.

So when you enjoy maple syrup this winter, think about the sugar maple tree and the sweet season that is coming.

Learn more about threats facing the sugar maple and what you can do to help, so future generations can continue to enjoy the delicious taste of maple syrup.


Not Just Fungi and Games

by Marcelene Sutter
A forager finds a morel.

A forager finds a morel. Credit: Jasper Nance/Flickr

Foraging for food has become a widespread facet of foodie culture over the past few years, with classes and online guides giving rise to unprecedented numbers of forest visitors in search of fresh mushrooms. Nationwide, chefs and foodies alike seek the unique taste of the wild mushroom, inspiring them to take a trip to their local forests and raising concerns among park rangers.

Mushroom foraging is becoming increasingly trendy in California, where it is illegal in most state and national parks, Salt Point State Park being a notable exception. Although this type of collecting is legal in the park, the use of rakes and shovels to hunt for fungi is not, and visitors who illegally use these tools disturb the forest floor. Visitors have been making their presence known in other ways too; in an interview with NPR, Ranger Todd Farcau describes the trash left behind by fungi-seeking tourists as looking “like a rock festival has passed through.”  Although strict regulations are in place in the park, they are not always followed by visitors, who flock to the forest in foraging tour groups that can cost up to $90 per person.

Porcini

Porcini. Credit: Mike Kempenich

While eating fresh foods is a healthful and delicious initiative, Salt Point is taking a hit because it is one of the few parks that allows this activity. Visitors converge on the forest, seeking the delicious fungi and often disobey the five pound per day limit, exacerbating the problem. Regular Salt Point mushroom hunting tour leader Patrick Hamilton feels that the solution to the problem is not to prohibit mushroom gathering all together, but rather to open more areas where foraging is allowed, to ease some of the burden on Salt Point State Park. In his words, “If they would just open up all the parks to hunting, you wouldn’t even notice us.”