Archive for the ‘Urban & Community Forestry’ Category

Hurray for Arbor Day; do you live in a ‘Tree City USA’?

April 8, 2015
It takes all kinds of help to plant trees in celebration of Arbor Day. Photo: Linden Lampman/DNR

It takes all kinds of help to plant trees in celebration of Arbor Day. Photo: Linden Lampman/DNR

Today is Arbor Day, a celebration of trees and all the great things they do for us in “The Evergreen State.” Washington State Arbor Day is always celebrated on the second Wednesday, April 8 this year as proclaimed by Governor Jay Inslee.

However, Arbor Day is more than just a celebration of trees. It’s a celebration of responsible natural resource management.

Salmon streams that DNR protects in native forestlands flow out of the foothills, across the landscape, and ultimately through one or more of Washington’s cities. Urban areas are where streams, shellfish beds, and fragile nearshore habitats are most threatened by stormwater runoff, erosion and sedimentation, toxic pollutants, low oxygen levels, and climate fluctuations.

As foresters we recognize that trees are erosion reducers, pollution mitigators, water purifiers, climate stabilizers, and carbon sinks. The practice of forestry in cities offers practical, low-cost, natural resource-based solutions to many environmental problems that affect our daily lives in Washington. Planting a tree in a city is an act restoration. Caring for urban trees is an act of stewardship. Cultivating an urban forest is natural resource management.

Sixty percent of Washingtonians live in an incorporated municipality, and approximately 90 percent of the State’s population lives in an area identified as “urban” by the 2010 census. There are 86 Tree City USA Communities in Washington and nearly 50 percent of Washington’s population lives in a Tree City USA.

Tree City USA is a national award from the Arbor Day Foundation that recognizes cities and towns for making a commitment to plant, protect, and maintain their trees. At DNR we celebrate Arbor Day in partnership with local communities across the state that have earned the Tree City USA® award. Find out if your city is a Tree City USA, as there may be special programs to celebrate trees in your community this month.

If your city isn’t part of the Tree City USA Program, contact your city officials to help them plan Arbor Day celebrations next year. Sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the US Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, Tree City USA® provides technical assistance and national recognition for urban and community forestry programs in thousands of towns and cities.

DNR provides assistance and support to many forest landowners, including Washington’s cities and towns. The agency’s work in urban forestry helps protect natural resources, engage urban residents in forest stewardship, and preserve the environmental character of our state.

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Diversify your yard with a different type of tree

March 12, 2015
The Japanese pagodatree isn't fussy about soil or water.

The Japanese pagodatree isn’t fussy about soil or water.

Looking for a tough, unusual tree to diversify your yard or woodland? One with character and multi-season interest? Give the Japanese pagodatree, sometimes called the Chinese scholar-tree, a look. Japanese pagodatree has been extensively planted near temples and shrines in eastern Asia for centuries. It is native to China and Korea, but—oddly enough, considering both its common and botanic names—not Japan. The tree was introduced to the western nursery trade in 1747.

Those of us who know the tree as Sophora japonica should be aware that botanists have recently renamed the tree Styphnolobium japonicum to differentiate it from trees of the genus Sophora. The roots of Sophora species form associations with soil bacteria to fix nitrogen like most members of the Fabaceae family. Recent scientific studies, however, show that Japanese pagodatree is one of the few trees in the extensive Fabaceae family that does not fix nitrogen in the soil. Who knew?

The Japanese pagodatree produces large, very showy panicles of creamy white pea-like flowers over several weeks in mid to late summer, a time when most other flowering trees are done with their show. Dark green compound leaves provide dappled shade through summer, becoming yellow in fall. Bark develops a rugged look similar to oak as the tree matures, offering winter interest. Bean-like pods are 3 to 8 inches long, and are retained on the tree through winter, an additional seasonal texture. The roots tend to be fibrous and deep, unlikely to affect nearby hardscape. (more…)

You can’t top a healthy tree

February 23, 2015

 

The practice of topping trees creates large wounds that are susceptible to disease and decay. Remember to always prune responsibly.

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Planting for success

February 9, 2015

Here are six tips from a DNR urban forester on how to properly care for your trees. Well-cared-for trees provide a lifetime of benefits.

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Guide your tree’s life: prune as it grows

February 2, 2015
Learn how to prune properly by taking a class.  Photo to DNR

Learn how to prune properly by taking a class.
Photo to DNR

If you want your trees to live long, healthy, sturdy lives, pruning is the way to go. Good pruning practices act as structural training, which develops strong ‘bones’ as trees grow and mature. In other words, less work for you and more safety for everyone.

Simply put, structural pruning helps your tree keep its ‘head’ – its leader – and develop strong branches. You can start by identifying the central leader, the straightest stem in the middle of the tree. Then prune away the 3Ds:

  • Dead
  • Diseased
  • Damaged

Next, support that central leader by removing any branches that look like they will grow higher than the central leader.

Prune with care. Over-pruning reduces a tree’s ability to feed itself and may stress a tree enough to encourage insect or disease problems. Never remove more than 25 percent of a tree’s live crown in a single year.

If you’d like to see structural pruning in action, take a drive to the City of Shoreline. Throughout the month of February, the City will work with a Puget SoundCorps team to prune young street trees to help them develop a strong, sound structure that will keep them healthy and safe as they mature. To conduct this work, the City received an Urban Forestry Restoration Project (UFRP) grant, which is administered by DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

The UFRP provides Puget SoundCorps crews to assist communities with urban forestry maintenance and restoration tasks, such as structural pruning and invasive plant removal. For more information about the UFRP, visit our webpage or contact Micki McNaughton at (360) 902-1637 or micki.mcnaughton@dnr.wa.gov.

Well-cared for trees provide a wide variety of environmental services, such as cleaning the air, while contributing to the health, beauty and economic vibrancy of a community. Give your trees the right care to help them grow up to be healthy, safe, beautiful citizens of your community!

Learn more about good pruning practices with these resources:

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Timely Tree Tips; suggestions for bare-tree season

January 15, 2015
Don't forget to check often any structural support cables or stakes used on your trees.  PHOTO DNR

Don’t forget to check often any structural support cables or stakes used on your trees.
PHOTO DNR

Winter is often regarded as a slow time for working with trees; even the hardiest of Northwesterners don’t exactly enjoy working outside in freezing cold, pouring rain, or blowing snow. Any volunteer coordinator will tell you that it’s much harder to coax would-be volunteers out of their cozy abodes for a mid-morning ivy yank on a gray day in January.

Nonetheless, this season of leafless trees sets the stage for work that might be easier – yes, easier, to do now than in the warm days of summer.

Here are some activities particularly suitable to our leafless deciduous trees in winter:

  • Tree Inspections. Leaves send us important signals about tree health; however a dense summer canopy may obscure other signs of tree distress such as dead wood, broken limbs, cracks, cavities, included bark, and decay fungi. Binoculars are a great tool for performing ground-based inspections of tree canopies in the leaf-off season.
  • Cable Inspections. Many tree owners make the mistake of installing structural support cables and never following up with regular inspections. Cable inspections are easier in the winter as there are no leaves to interfere with visual inspections. Cabling systems should be periodically inspected by an ISA Certified Arborist to ensure they are still performing as intended and no causing harm to the tree(s).
  • Invasive Species Control. Remove perennial invasive plants in the winter to reduce the abundance of seeds come spring. Where English Ivy is flourishing out-of-reach in tree canopies, winter is a great time to cut a “lifesaver” ring in the ivy around trees. Doing so means you’ll witness the dieback of treated ivy before tree leaves re-emerge, and you will be assured your hard work was effective.
  • Tree Removal. No leaves means less mess. Frozen ground also means less damage to turf from heavy equipment and other impacts of large tree removal.
  • Structural Pruning.  If January brings a lull in your maintenance schedule, fill it with structural pruning to “pay it forward” and you won’t regret it. Structural pruning is easier in winter when you can clearly see the structure of the tree. Pruning to encourage good tree structure in young trees can significantly reduce the need for costly tree maintenance in the future. This work is best done by those with the experience and skill to recognize the difference between dead limbs and live ones in the absence of leaves.

If tree work entices you outside this winter, stay warm, stay dry, stay hydrated, and stay positive. Remember that you’re doing important work for a good cause. The busy days of spring will be here before you know it, and you’ll be grateful to have made the most of your time and maintenance opportunities this winter.

From DNR’s January Tree Link Newsletter

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New Year’s Resolutions for community tree advocates

January 9, 2015
This red oak tree helps cool and freshen the air, mitigate stormwater runoff, reduce stress and anxiety, increase property values, and so much more.

This red oak tree helps cool and freshen the air, mitigate stormwater runoff, reduce stress and anxiety, increase property values, and so much more.

The dawning of a new year compels many of us to take a hard look our habits and behaviors, and then to set new goals to pursue what we believe will make us better people in the year ahead.

Resolutions are most often personal: lose weight, eat healthy, stay in better contact with friends and loved ones, or try a new hobby. These are all worthy pursuits, but how about investing energy in New Year’s resolutions that make a difference to trees in your community (and which might help you too).

Suggested resolutions for 2015:

  • Write articles, blogs, or letters that champion the importance of trees in your community, and encourage others to become active tree stewards where you live.
  • Take a child to a local park, forest or natural area and explore the environment with him or her. Unsure where to start? Search for a nearby nature center, natural area, or state, county, or city park that offers interpretive signage or guided activities.
  • Attend at least one public meeting to better understand how your community operates. It’s a good way to learn what others believe are issues of local importance, and it can help you strategize how trees might be included in community projects and activities.
  • Arrange a friendly chat, perhaps over coffee or lunch, with a local developer, business owner, HOA president, or other stakeholder in community forestry. Learn which issues, struggles, opinions, or feelings about trees are important to them. Ask how you can help them to incorporate trees successfully in their work in 2015 and beyond.
  • Donate to, become a member of, or volunteer for an organization that supports healthy community trees and forests. To get you started in Washington State, consider organizations such as:
    • Conservation Districts (statewide), Friends of Trees (Vancouver), Earthcorps (Seattle), Forterra’s Green Cities Partnerships (Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Kirkland, Redmond, Kent, and Puyallup), The Lands Council (Spokane), the Mid-Columbia Forestry Council (Tri-Cities), the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust (I-90 corridor), Plant Amnesty (Seattle), Washington State Extension Master Gardeners (statewide), or the Yakima Area Arboretum (Yakima).

Or simply…

  • Plant a new tree every month! Or, twelve trees sometime during 2015. By volunteering at community planting events, you’ll not only meet, but likely exceed that goal.

Together, let’s resolve to make 2015 a banner year for community trees.

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Restoring our urban forests, one at a time

January 2, 2015
The City of Lacey works toward improving the health and functionality of their trees in urban settings. Photo: City of Lacey

The City of Lacey works toward improving the health and functionality of their trees in urban settings. Photo: City of Lacey

It starts in Lacey, Washington. This city is enhancing their urban forests by managing stormwater and improving air and water quality. They are doing this by improving the health and functionality of their trees and forested sites in urban settings.

Recently, the Lake Lois Habitat Reserve received a facelift. With the help of a Puget SoundCorps team and other volunteers, English ivy, Himalayan blackberry, spurge laurel, Scotch broom and Robert’s geranium were removed. These invasive non-native plants prevent forested areas from providing our community the full benefits and services of healthy forests by competing for water and nutrients, and in some cases even killing trees. Many undesirable plants that grow in dense thickets also harbor rats and other vermin, creating a public safety hazard as well. Now that the unwelcomed plants are gone, native vegetation will be planted in its place.

The Lacey Board of Park Commissioners approved the Forest Management Plan for Lake Lois Park and Lake Lois Habitat Reserve in September of 2012. Volunteers have been removing invasive plants and replanting those areas with native trees to implement the recommendations in the plan. Paul Royer, Chair of the Park Board states, “Many people are not aware of Lake Lois Habitat Reserve, but once they have been out to volunteer, they realize the importance of what they are doing and the difference it makes in the health of the forest.”

This project is an Urban Forestry Restoration Project, administered by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Urban and Community Forestry Program. For more information about the Urban Forestry Restoration Project, visit the project online or contact Micki McNaughton at (360) 902-1637 or micki.mcnaughton@dnr.wa.gov.

DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program is made possible through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service. Puget SoundCorps is part of the broader Washington Conservation Corps program, administered by Washington Dept. of Ecology. Puget SoundCorps crews work on projects that help restore and protect water quality in Puget Sound. The Washington Conservation Corps is supported through grant funding and education awards provided by AmeriCorps.

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DNR advises caution in aftermath of wind storm

December 12, 2014
Saturated soils and strong winds toppled this big tree.

Saturated soils and strong winds toppled this big tree.

Does your yard resemble a ‘war zone’ of downed trees and limbs after the recent wind storms that swept across much of Washington?

High winds and rain-saturated soils can lead to damage to even the healthiest of trees. If you’re lucky, the storm removed the weakest limbs from your trees, and all you need to do now is prune and clean up debris.

If your tree suffered more than a little damage, you may need help. The Arbor Day Foundation has some excellent tree recovery tips.

Whatever you do, please don’t top your trees! There are much better ways to deal with damaged trees. Arborists and plant scientists agree that tree topping is bad tree management practice.

Topping is severely cutting and removing large branches in a mature tree. Trees cut back indiscriminately will respond by quickly growing multiple branch-like shoots that compete for dominance. The result is a bushy re-growth that will be the same size as the tree’s original height, but with weaker branches.

As shoots increase in weight, the branches of a topped tree become susceptible to breaking off during storms. They must be continually pruned to avoid potentially hazardous branch failures. Rather than creating a safer tree, topping can actually create a greater hazard.

The best answer is to consult a certified arborist for any tree care.

Certified arborists and other legitimate landscape professionals do not practice tree topping. If problems caused by a tree cannot be solved through acceptable management practices, the tree should be removed and replaced with a different tree or plant more appropriate for the site. (more…)

Look up, down, all around…how are your trees faring?

November 24, 2014
It's always a good idea to inspect your trees for any damaged from past storms.

It’s always a good idea to inspect your trees for any damage from past storms. Photo by: Guy Kramer

Trees provide many benefits but, like us, they may sustain injuries, become ill, or just get old and creaky. It’s a good idea to walk through your yard occasionally and take a peek at your trees from time to time to assess their condition.

Here’s a quick three-step process to inspect trees in your yard – think “up, down, and all around.”

  1. Look UP to the crown. Check for dead or hanging branches, limbs that lack bark, or show no signs of life. Dead or hanging branches may fall at any time, especially during winter winds. Do you see lots of fine twigs that have living buds? If not, that may indicate the entire tree is beginning to decline.
  2. Look DOWN to the roots. Visually inspect the root zone and the trunk flare (also called the root collar) just above the roots for damage. Look for peeling, cracking, or loose bark on the roots and lower trunk. If you see mushrooms growing out of the trunk or along the roots, these can be signs that a tree’s roots are decaying. Be alert to mounding or cracked soil that you haven’t noticed before, especially after heavy winds. This can be an indication that roots are broken and are not supporting the tree properly. If you see newly mounded or cracked soil, call a certified arborist as soon as possible to assess the tree for structural root damage.
  3. Look ALL AROUND the trunk. Inspect the trunk for wounds, cracks, or splits in the trunk, particularly where branches are attached. This could indicate decay or the potential for branches to fail. Look for decay pockets; if they extend over 1/3 the diameter of the trunk of the tree, that may indicate significant internal decay that compromises the strength of the trunk. Check for a lean greater than 40 percent, which may overbalance the tree if the root system is weak or damaged.

If this quick inspection of your trees raises questions about tree health or safety, contact a certified arborist to conduct a full inspection. This will give you peace of mind about whether your tree is okay, needs special care, or is approaching the end of its life.

If you’d like to learn more about assessing your trees, check out “How to Recognize and Prevent Tree Hazards” from the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. The brochure contains explanations about warning signs to look for in trees along with great photos that illustrate those signs. You may also contact DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program for more information about caring for your trees properly to keep them healthy and safe.

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