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.