Urban & Community Forestry
In 2009, America will be celebrating the 137th anniversary of Arbor Day. The first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska on April 10, 1872. It is estimated that more than a million trees were planted across the state of Nebraska on that first Arbor Day. This tree planting holiday was the brain-child of J. Sterling Morton, a journalist, who moved to Nebraska in the mid-1850s. Arbor Day was a result of the appreciation he had for trees.
Arbor Day is celebrated on many different days throughout the country. The earliest date is in Florida and Louisiana where they celebrate on the third Friday in January. In South Carolina, the first Friday in December is Arbor Day. In Colorado, we celebrate Arbor Day on the third Friday in April; for most of Colorado that date is ideal for tree planting. However, mountain communities usually wait until May or June. Some communities combine the Arbor Day observance with Earth Day, which is celebrated on April 22nd. The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) can provide information and ideas on how to celebrate this tree planters' holiday. Arbor Day can be any day you choose to plant a tree.
Tree City USA®
The National Arbor Day Foundation, in conjunction with the United States Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, sponsors the Tree City USA® program. This program, in existence since 1976, recognizes communities for their tree care programs.
To become a Tree City USA®, a community must annually satisfy the following four standards:
- A Tree Board or Department - Most communities are not large enough to support a staff position devoted entirely to the care of trees within the town limits. Therefore, a group of citizens is appointed and charged by an ordinance to develop and administer a management program for trees on public property. This group of citizens usually serves on a voluntary basis much like other boards in a municipality. Some communities have elected to have the city council or trustees serve as the Tree Board. Larger cities usually have salaried employees to care for public trees.
- A Community Tree Ordinance - This ordinance gives power to the tree board or department. The ordinance determines public tree care policies for planting, maintenance and removals on public property. A list of recommended trees for the community should be referenced in this ordinance and be made available to the citizens of that community. Learn more.
- A Community Forestry Program with an Annual Budget of at Least $2 Per Capita - A municipality must spend at least $2 per capita on their community forestry program. Examples of acceptable tree-related expenditures include: planting, removals, inventories, maintenance, pest surveys, pruning, public classes on tree care and educational handouts. These expenditures must be applied toward, and directly benefit, the public trees in the community.
- An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation - Arbor Day must be celebrated to fulfill the fourth standard. A proclamation, issued by the mayor, must accompany the observance declaring Arbor Day in the community. Take a look at a sample PDF.
In Colorado, more than 30 percent of the communities have been acknowledged by the National Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA®. Montrose, Olathe and Ouray — all within the Montrose District — were recognized for their accomplishments in community forestry. The CSFS annually assists communities that desire to become and continue as a Tree City USA®.
The CSFS assists communities wishing to avail themselves of several grants available for public tree planting and education about trees. All tree grants require a level of match by the applicant and, in addition, an action plan. If trees are to be planted a maintenance plan is also required.
The Colorado Tree Coalition (CTC) grant can be for tree planting or educational projects concerning proper tree planting, maintenance, or management of the urban forest. This CTC grant is available to local governments, neighborhood groups, and private non-profit organizations. Applicants can request from $500 to $2,000 but must match the requested amount. The match must be with non-federal dollars; in-kind personnel and volunteer services will not be considered as a suitable match. The grant project must have an educational component to it. Grant applications are usually available in the fall with a deadline of mid-December to the local CSFS District Forester.
The State Street Tree (SST) grant is for the planting of trees on the public right-of-way. The SST grant is only available to communities who may request from $500 to $2,000 while matching the requested amount. This match can be in-kind personnel or operating costs related to the installation or maintenance of trees. Grant applications are usually available in the fall with a deadline of mid-December to the local CSFS District Forester.
The Colorado Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA), in cooperation with Colorado ReLeaf and Global ReLeaf, sponsors a tree planting grant that is sometimes co-sponsored by a local corporation (e.g., Leanin' Tree Inc, etc.). This CPRA tree grant is sometimes co-sponsored by a local corporation (i.e., Leanin’ Tree Inc.). These grants are for entities that would normally not qualify for financial assistance. Matching grants of up to $500 are available. These grants must be matched with local funding and must comprise at least 50 percent of the project cost. Grant applications are usually available before Christmas with a deadline of mid-January to the ReLeaf Coordinator.
A community forest is a dynamic entity. As a result, community tree care managers must address the needs and health of these trees annually. The Gunnison District has several programs to assist communities in the effective management of their urban forests.
- A tree inventory of the public trees is often the first step toward effectively managing the community forest. A tree inventory can be very useful to the community. It will identify tree species, hazardous trees, pruning needs, insect problems, incidence of disease and open spaces available for tree planting. The inventory is an integral part of any long-range plan to sustain the urban forest.
- The Fruita tree board and CSFS have teamed up to create Sick Tree Day for citizens of Fruita. The tree board advertises Sick Tree Day in the local newspaper and invites citizens to sign up at the town hall to have their trees inspected by a forester. The tree board and the forester then address problem trees. This service, provided twice each summer by the tree board, is a great opportunity to promote their community forestry program and provides an educational opportunity for tree board members.
- Thousands of trees have been planted in Colorado communities since the Tree Grant program was established in 1991. The first trees planted in this program are now ready to be pruned. Research by urban foresters in large cities and universities has shown that the pruning done in the early stages of a tree’s life can significantly improve and prolong the effective life of the tree. To accomplish that goal, CSFS has set up the Pruning Workshop. This all day class covers the "when, where and how to" of pruning and caring for young trees. The target audience for this workshop are tree board members, city maintenance personnel and local citizens
Champion Tree Program
American Forests maintain a national registry of the largest trees in the nation. The Colorado Tree Coalition (CTC) administers the Champion Tree Program in Colorado. The CSFS assists by helping to locate champions, publicizing the program and educating Coloradoans about our big trees. The CTC website provides a database listing of current Colorado champions and provides instructions on how to measure and nominate big trees and the procedure used to verify potential state champs.