First discovered in Michigan in 2002, the emerald ash borer, native to Asia, has since traveled to at least 10 other U.S. states, as well as Canada.
First discovered in Michigan in 2002, the emerald ash borer, native to Asia, has since traveled to at least 10 other U.S. states, as well as Canada.
To save programs from being cut, urban foresters must convey to decision-makers how urban forests benefit stormwater management, water/air quality, and property values.
To save programs from being cut, urban foresters must convey to decision-makers how urban forests benefit stormwater management, water/air quality, and property values.

We're all worn down by “do more with less.” We're expected to embrace this tiring cliché and be grateful we have jobs. For urban foresters the phrase acquires a schizophrenic element.

With climate-related issues at the forefront of legislative actions in concert with the growing emphasis on green infrastructure, the urban forest is finally getting the attention it deserves. Citizens and policymakers alike are summoning urban foresters and municipal arborists to play larger roles in public works and planning projects.

Yet financially strapped municipalities are slashing urban forestry budgets. And many urban forestry managers who just a year ago were hopeful that stimulus funds would help sustain tree maintenance programs, are still waiting for those dollars.

The following are tips from Society of Municipal Arborist members to help weather this year's perfect storm of limited funding, reduced manpower, added duties, and potential legislation.

Public outreach: Get resident support for initiatives and programs through education; use trees to solve problems.

Volunteers: Enlist citizens and partner with nonprofits to provide manpower for small tree pruning, parkway tree maintenance, and other activities.

Interdepartmental support: Couch urban forestry with public safety programs (i.e., sign, signal, and roadway clearance) and public utilities (using trees to reduce air conditioning costs, provide stormwater retention, and lengthen roadway resurfacing intervals).

Grants: As reported in PUBLIC WORKS' “2009 Outlook,” January 2009 issue, the 2008 Farm Bill authorized the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program to provide matching grants to buy private forestland threatened by conversion to nonforest uses. According to the U.S. Forest Service, this program is in the rulemaking process, and when it becomes available it may benefit municipalities attempting to protect high-priority community forests. For other federal grants see the Web extra on page 50.

Cap and trade: With states and Congress considering bills that include greenhouse-gas cap-and-trade programs, urban foresters may soon be in a position to sell their communities' carbon storage capacity and use the money to continue funding their programs. If a community has local industries subject to cap and trade, it may be able to negotiate directly. That would cut out the middleman and redirect the offset costs directly into the community.

Prove your worth: Inventory, assess, and calculate the monetary value of your urban ecosystem to demonstrate that the benefits are worth the maintenance costs (this can be done with i-Tree software, available for free at www.itreetools.org). Spreadsheet your budget and run different scenarios to assess potential budget cuts and suggest options that would cause the least damage to your program.

Alison Stewart, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman, stresses that it's essential to have information on-hand of how your urban and community forests benefit stormwater management, water and air quality, human health and well-being, property values, and other contributions to the local economy. Communicating this information to decision-makers as they decide where to direct funding and how to address federal and state stormwater, clean air, and clean water requirements should be a vital part of your job description.

Web Extra

For more on federal grants for urban forestry, visit here



Bugging out

“Unfortunately, some of the potentially most destructive pests in urban forests have become more troublesome,” says the U.S. Forest Service's Alison Stewart.

This is because these pests are on the move. The emerald ash borer, for example, is moving westward, and new populations of the Asian longhorned beetle have been discovered in New England.

Other pests and diseases urban foresters should watch for include bacterial leaf scorch, sudden oak death, gypsy moth, and hemlock woolly adelgid. “But detecting the not-yet-known pest may be even more critical,” says Stewart.

Fallen trees

In the Western states, entomologists are warning that black walnut trees may face extinction due to “thousand canker” disease, caused by a fungus recently found on native walnut twig beetles. And, in the Rocky Mountain region, Aspen trees are dying by the thousands. A prolonged drought, warmer temperatures, and even the lack of forest fires may have allowed parasites to flourish and cause “Sudden Aspen Decline.” National forests are cutting dying aspen stands in several areas to encourage root sprouting and regenerate dying forests.

One near-extinct tree, however, may be on the comeback trail. The American Chestnut Foundation reported in September that recent plantings of a blight-resistant version of the American chestnut tree survived their first year in Eastern states. Taking a cue from the foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been deploying scientists to collect seeds from ash trees so they can be stored in the cooperative National Plant Germplasm System, with intent to engineer trees resistant to the emerald ash borer and reintroduce them within the next 20 years.