Tree City USA:
| "Being a Tree City USA has
challenged us to set long- and short-term goals and enabled all facets of our
community to work together as a unit. We are more aware of, better educated
about, and taking steadfast control of our environment."
|| "With a municipal deficit of
over $3 million, Cleveland's Division of Urban Forestry held its own during
1991. Politicians are eager to reward those agencies that achieve national
acclaim for their efforts. For us, Tree City USA has made the difference
between an ordinary and an extra-ordinary program."
City Tree Board Member
Cook, Nebraska (Pop. 339)
|- Ralph Sievert,
Cleveland, Ohio (Pop. 500,000)
Framework for Action
Meeting the four standards for becoming a Tree City USA provides initial direction for an urban or community forestry program. Like the first rungs on a ladder, the standards help get a community started toward annual, systematic management of its tree resources.
|Annual, systematic tree care is essential in a good community forestry program.|
Education begins with discussion of the standards and getting organized to apply for Tree City USA status. It continues as the desire for Tree City USA recognition leads to contacts with the state forester's staff. In turn, this can set in motion aid from a variety of professionals in the form of technical advice, literature, films, and other assistance.
|Applying for Tree City USA recognition puts a community in touch with experts who can help with technical advice.|
A community's public image is a very real phenomenon and important in many ways. Being a Tree City USA helps present the kind of image that most citizens want to have for the place they live or conduct business. The Tree City USA entrance signs along public highways tell visitors that here is a community that cares about its environment. It is also an indication to prospective businesses that the quality of life may be better here. It has even been known to be a factor in where meetings or conferences have been held. This reason alone caused a motel owner to start action for his community to join the network!
|Being a Tree City USA helps shape an attractive community image.|
Pride is sometimes a less tangible benefit. Gaining and retaining Tree City USA recognition is an award to the tree workers, managers, volunteers, tree board members and others who work on behalf of better care of a community's trees. Non-involved citizens, too, often share a sense of pride that theirs is a Tree City USA. This may translate to better care of trees on private property or a willingness to volunteer in the future.
|A Tree City USA award instills a sense of pride among volunteers, staff and residents.|
Preference is sometimes given to Tree City USA communities over other communities when allocations of grant money are made for trees or forestry programs. The reason is that there are invariably more requests than available funds when grants are available through state or federal agencies. If requests are equally worthy, some officials tend to have more confidence in communities that have demonstrated the foresight of becoming a Tree City USA.
|Funding assistance for new trees sometimes goes first to communities with Tree City USA recognition.|
Presentation of the Tree City USA award and the celebration of Arbor Day offer excellent publicity opportunities. This results not only in satisfaction for the individuals involved and their families, but also provides one more way to reach large numbers of people with information about tree care.
As one forester put it, "This is advertising that money
can't buy - and it is free."
|Assistance is available to help publicize Tree City USA awards and ceremonies.|
Steps to Becoming a Tree City USA
To qualify for Tree City USA, a town or city must meet four standards established by The National Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. These standards were established to ensure that every qualifying community would have a viable tree management plan and program. Importantly, they were also designed so that no community would be excluded because of size.
1. A Tree Board or Department
Someone must be legally responsible for the care and management of the community's trees. This may be a professional forester or arborist, an entire forestry department, or a volunteer tree board. Often, both a professional staff and advisory tree board are present, which is a good goal for most communities.
|The Tree City USA flag is a symbol of public pride.|
A tree board, or commission, is a group of concerned volunteer citizens charged by ordinance with developing and administering a comprehensive tree management program. Balanced, broad-based community involvement is encouraged. Boards function best if not composed entirely of tree-related professionals such as forestry professors, nursery operators, arborists, etc. Fresh ideas and different perspectives are added by citizens with an interest in trees that is entirely avocational. Limited, staggered terms of service will prevent stagnation or burn out, while at the same time assuring continuity.
2. A Community Tree Ordinance
The tree ordinance must designate the establishment of a tree board or forestry department and give this body the responsibility for writing and implementing an annual community forestry work plan. Beyond that, the ordinance should be flexible enough to fit the needs and circumstances of the particular community.
A tree ordinance provides an opportunity to set good policy and back it with the force of law when necessary. Ideally, it will provide clear guidance for planting, maintaining and removing trees from streets, parks and other public places.
For tips and a checklist of important items to consider in writing or improving a tree ordinance, see Bulletin No. 9.
3. A Community Forestry Program with an Annual Budget of at least $2 Per Capita
Evidence is required that the community has established a community forestry program that is supported by an annual budget of at least $2 per capita. At first, this may seem like an impossible barrier to some communities. However, a little investigation usually reveals that more than this amount is already being spent by the municipality on its trees. If not, this may signal serious neglect that will cost far more in the long run. In such a case, working toward Tree City USA recognition can be used to re-examine the community's budget priorities and re-direct funds to properly care for its tree resource before it is too late.
Ideally, this standard will be met by focusing funding on an annual work plan developed after an inventory is completed and a report is approved by the city council. Such a plan will address species diversity, planting needs, hazardous trees, insect and disease problems and a pattern of regular care such as pruning and watering.
4. An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation
This is the easiest and probably the most enjoyable standard to accomplish. An Arbor Day celebration can be simple and brief or an all-day or all-week observance. It can be a simple tree planting event or an award ceremony that honors leading tree planters. For children, Arbor Day may be their only exposure to the green world or a springboard to discussions about the complex issues of environmental quality.
The benefits of Arbor Day go far beyond the shade and beauty of new trees for the next generation. Arbor Day is a golden opportunity for publicity and to educate homeowners about proper tree care. Utility companies can join in to promote planting small trees beneath power lines or being careful when digging. Smokey Bear's fire prevention messages can be worked into the event, as can conservation education about soil erosion or the need to protect wildlife habitat.
Still another way to develop Arbor Day is to link it with a tree-related festival. Some that are currently celebrated include dogwood festivals, locust blossom festivals and Macon, Georgia's Cherry Blossom Festival that annually brings more than $4.25 million into the local economy.
In meeting the four standards, help is available! The urban and community forestry coordinator in your state forester's office will be happy to work with communities in taking these first steps toward better community forestry.
|The Foundation, cooperating organizations, and the nation's media work together to educate the public about the value of community forestry and Tree City USA through print and broadcast public service advertising.|
From the inception of the Tree City USA program, its success can be credited to an active partnership between the USDA Forest Service, National Association of State Foresters and The National Arbor Day Foundation. The USDA Forest Service has consistently provided financial assistance and technical advice, the state foresters have, provided local assistance as well as serving as key promoters, certifiers and coordinators in each state, and the Foundation provides educational materials and management of the cooperative venture. In addition, hundreds of professionals and volunteers work together on behalf of Tree City USA, and the program is endorsed and promoted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.
Looking into the future, the key individuals for making the program grow are the state urban and community forestry specialists. This cadre of professional men and women has expanded in recent years in response to greater emphasis on community trees and their role both in local environmental quality and environmental well-being on a global scale. Some states have a single coordinator; others have a staff in one central location; and others have individuals scattered through the state with single or multi-county responsibility. Whatever the administrative ' structure, the common goal is to promote better management and health of the state's urban and community forests.
Tree City USA has proven to be an excellent way to help achieve this goal, so it is no surprise that many urban and community forestry specialists are among the program's best ambassadors.
To help others use Tree City USA to promote community forestry in more towns and cities, several veteran foresters were asked to share their insights on what approach has worked best. The foresters, Jim Nighswonger in Kansas and David Mooter and Tom Schmidt in Nebraska, have been very successful in promoting community forestry in their states. They often use Tree City USA as the "hook" or the "carrot," as they say. But they also call their approach the "soft sell," which means the real key to success is working their program ideas into the community's rather than inflexibly trying to impose the same program in all places.
Here are ten suggestions based on the success of these community forestry coordinators:
1. Begin with solid staffing at the state level. Be sure the hiring process screens for professionals who are technically competent and enjoy working with lay citizens in an education and support role. Communication skills - including the ability to listen - and plenty of patience are essential.
2. Let all communities know you are there to help and give them an idea of what services can he provided. Then, respond to requests and prioritize your efforts based on the degree of interest expressed by the various communities.
3. Early in the process, identify potential local partners. There is usually a group, maybe several, that can be brought into the initial meetings. At the same time, identify the one or two individuals who are the "doers" - the natural leaders. They need not be knowledgeable about trees, but they do need enthusiasm and lasting commitment. Without at least one such person, a community forestry program can not exist.
4. Win city council support. When there is interest in the community, go before the city council to win its support and have a tree board officially established,
5. As a matter of routine practice, make sure that city staff are involved in all decisions. Park, utility, street, budget and attorney's office personnel can be the key, to long-term success or an impassible barrier.
6. Begin with simple projects that are sure to succeed. A few park plantings or beautification around an entrance sign will do more to launch a lasting program than a grandiose plan or exhausting project. Follow up with other "bite size" projects.
7. Develop a plan, but fit the plan to the community. A plan hammered out in a local cafe and written on a paper napkin may be more effective than an inch-thick document. However, in most cases, a street and park tree inventory is the way to begin, using it to then develop a five-year or longer action plan. TreeKeeper jr. provides an excellent aid.
8. Use award recognition to build awareness and support. The appropriate time to introduce potential Tree City USA recognition will vary with the circumstances, but usually this is done best at one of the initial meetings. When the interest is there, assist in preparation of the application and support materials. Use the award as a way to publicly recognize accomplishments to date and all who have helped.
9. Know when to let go. In a successful program, the local board will want to make the decisions. The state community forester's job is to provide enough education to assure that good decisions will be made, and to be available with technical advice as needed.
10. Keep in touch. Through newsletters, invitations to workshops and occasional personal visits, keep each new program moving forward. The Tree City USA, Growth Award can be useful for suggesting new projects that help make a good community forestry program even better.
Through the cooperative efforts of all who make these programs work, it is indeed possible to improve America's urban and community forests. Instead of more trees succumbing to disease or other sources of destruction than are being planted, we can work toward replacement and filling the empty planting sites. We can work toward diversity of both species and age classes, and toward matching the right tree to each site. Hazards can be reduced and energy-conscious placement can be encouraged. In short, working together with the full support of municipal government-we can transform neglected or deteriorating situations into managed community forests that are healthy, safe and a source of pride. These are the goals of Tree City USA.
A basic library to help anyone grasp the extent of urban and community forestry, its opportunities and how to meet its challenges, will include these four publications:
In 1992, The Arbor Day Institute created the National Urban Forestry School to offer effective background education for professionals and lay leaders finding themselves in urban and community forestry but without formal training in that field. The School consists of three one-week sessions spread over either two or three years and becoming progressively more in-depth. Dates are spread throughout the year so that individuals can begin virtually anytime. Locations of Session I vary, also, to accommodate residents in all parts of the country, with Sessions II and III being offered in centrally-located Nebraska City, Nebraska (near Omaha).
For a complete program description, phone 402/474-5655 or write to The National Arbor Day Foundation.
This bulletin was produced in cooperation with Thomas Schmidt of the Public Land Management Program; David Mooter, Community Forestry Program Leader; and Kris Irwin, Assistant Community Forester; Nebraska Forest Service.
Tree City USA is a cooperative program of The National Arbor Day
Foundation, National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest
To join the Friends of Tree City USA... To receive a subscription to the Tree City USA Bulletin, and to become more involved in the community forestry movement in your town and throughout America, send a $10 dues-donation to Friends of Tree City USA, National Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, NE 68410. Make your check payable to "National Arbor Day Foundation."
|Tree City USA Bulletin ©1992 The National Arbor Day Foundation. John E. Rosenow, publisher; James R. Fazio, editor; Gerreld L. Pulsipher, graphic designer; Gene W. Grey, William P. Kruidenier, James J. Nighswonger, Steve Sandfort, technical review committee. Although copyright is vested with the Foundation, permission is hereby granted for the contents of this bulletin to be reproduced for non-commercial educational or public-service purposes provided the source is acknowledged.|
Published for the Friends of Tree City USA by
Return to: Chapter 5 - Regreening the Community