“Pensacola developing tree database to learn status of every city-owned tree”

“Pensacola developing tree database to learn status of every city-owned tree”

Photo: Tony Giberson

“Pensacola will soon know the location, size and health status of every tree on city property.

Over the next seven weeks, crews from the consulting firm Geosyntec will be in city parks and along city streets cataloging every tree into a new database.

City Arborist Kris Stultz told the News Journal the database will give the city insight into the city’s tree canopy that it has never had before.

‘It’s a very nice load of information to have because now we can truly manage the forest that we have here,’ Stultz said. ‘Right now, as a general idea, we don’t know what we have. We don’t know what condition it’s in. This will give us a very good volume of data that we can start being proactive…’

The total cost of the survey is $119,000 and will record every tree in city parks and city-owned rights of way.

Once the survey is complete, anytime a city worker performs work on a tree or plants a new tree, it will be documented in the city’s database…

Stultz said the database can be used to target where new trees are needed to plant in city parks and along city streets, as well as fully document the labor the city puts into maintaining its tree canopy.

For example, Stultz said there are lots of Laurel oaks that have a much shorter lifespan than other oak trees. ‘They don’t live longer than about 70 years,’ Stultz said. ‘Once they get to a certain size, we’ve got start looking and say hey, it’s getting about time we need to start thinking about removing this tree and replacing it with other trees to keep the forest at a continual density.’

Some tree species are more susceptible to storm damage than others, and with the data in hand, city officials can prioritize where storm assessments can begin based on the type of trees in an area, Stultz said…

‘An inventory is useless usually three years after it’s taken, unless it’s been updated,’ Stultz said.

Stultz said he hopes the software included in the database will allow the inventory to be updated by almost any city employee conducting work or even members of the public.

The software that updates the database can run on a tablet and has been designed to be updated by someone who may not have a lot of experience with trees.

Stultz said he could see a community group or a gardening club opting to get access to the software from the city and spend a weekend updating the tree inventory in their neighborhood park.

‘That’s the other beauty of this system is the simplicity to it,’ Stultz said. ‘Once you have the initial inventory, updating it is fairly simple.'”

— Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal

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Fernandina Beach Commissioners dive into tree protection controversy and go ahead with vote to protect six Heritage Trees

Fernandina Beach Commissioners dive into tree protection controversy and go ahead with vote to protect six Heritage Trees

Photo: Shown in Fernandina Observer

“Amelia Island’s trees are beloved by its residents, and problems with protecting those trees will go before the Fernandina Beach City Commission at the Commissioners’ workshop in a couple weeks. The issue drew a number of people to this week’s Commission meeting to press their concerns that real damage is ongoing to the tree canopy…

One of the problems is in development.

“You all saw the Amelia Bluff tree protection zones,” Vice Mayor Len Kreger said. “This is a major — I think there’s probably six or seven houses out there — not one of them had a tree protection zone. There was garbage, there was cinder blocks, there was everything.”

It’s crazy, he said, that there are all these tree protections that don’t seem to be carried out because of improper maintenance.

‘We’re out there planting hundreds of trees, we have a tree management plan … 17 pages, there’s like five lines devoted to tree maintenance,’ Kreger said.

He intends to reintroduce a proposal for the city to adopt tree construction procedures from an international arborist standard.

‘We lose more trees during construction — we’ll have to plant a thousand trees,’ Kreger said. ‘Remember, our canopy’s 37%. We’re never going to be able to maintain it.’

It’s a management issue they need to do better on, he added.

The discussion came on the same night as the Commission voted to protect six trees within the city as heritage trees…”

— Wes Wolfe, FloridaPolitics.com, Suanne Z. Thamm, Fernandina Observer

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“Here’s your hurricane to-do list for large trees on the Space Coast”

“Here’s your hurricane to-do list for large trees on the Space Coast”

Photo: Sally Scalera, Florida Today
A tree that is too close to sidewalks, driveways or streets is prone to blowing over in a storm.

Photo: Sally Scalera, Florida Today
Call in a certified arborist if you find a root girdling a large tree in your yard.

“…Though I do not expect a bad hurricane season (blame it on optimism), it is always best to be prepared. If you own large trees that are 50 feet or taller, complete this checklist as soon as you can.

Location. Check to see if any large trees are planted less than 12 feet from a sidewalk, driveway or street. Any closer is not recommended, because trees can cause damage by lifting and cracking cement. If you do have a large tree planted too close, consider consulting a certified arborist to determine if the tree needs the canopy thinned because of a lack of proper rooting area.

Look for girdling roots. Walk around your trees to see if any girdling roots are visible. A girdling root will be growing on the surface of the soil, close to and around the trunk. Girdling roots can eventually strangle a portion of the trunk, which, if it wraps half-way around the trunk or more, could kill the tree. If a girdling root is present, consult a certified arborist…

Know your roots. Has there been any construction activity within approximately 20 feet of the tree trunk within the past 10 years? If large roots have been cut close to the trunk to make way for things such as a sidewalk or utilities, the tree may be prone to falling in the direction where the roots were cut.

Don’t scalp your palms. Never let anyone do a “hurricane cut” on your palms to protect them from being blown over during a hurricane. Palms, in general, fair well through hurricanes, but the practice of removing all but a few of the fronds can make the palm more vulnerable to damage during straight line winds or a hurricane.

A large canopy of fronds protects the terminal bud, but when most of the fronds are removed, the bud is more vulnerable to being snapped by the wind. Once the bud is snapped, the entire palm will die. So, do not let anyone remove green fronds, or fronds with both green and yellow tissue in the same frond. Only totally brown fronds should be removed.”

— Sally Scalera, Florida Today

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Tree Canopy: Key West editorial on mitigating the damage caused by preemption of local control

Tree Canopy: Key West editorial on mitigating the damage caused by preemption of local control

Photo: Linda Grist Cunningham, in Key West Island News

“Historically, the Key West tree canopy boasted little in the way of shade trees. We are an inhospitable, oolite limestone island in the middle of salt water. What green things we had were more scraggly than soaring, the results of birds and other creatures using the island as a bathroom while stopping over on ways elsewhere.

Then came the 1920s and 1930s, when garden clubs and botanical societies held tree giveaways and encouraged folks to bring back seedlings from their travels.

That’s how we ended up with so many mahoganies, royal poincianas and other canopy trees. They didn’t spring up magically; we planted them. Sadly, most often, not in the right place. Then we built houses and pools and streets right on top of their roots. We assumed they’d live forever.

Today, the Key West tree canopy faces two life-threatening challenges: (1) The trees planted 75-100 years ago are struggling; and (2) Florida’s determination to strip municipalities of their home rule powers…

On June 26, 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis gutted Florida tree commission regulations when he signed HB 1159…

… during its 2022 regular session, the Legislature amended the 2019 law to replace “danger” with “unacceptable risk.” It said a tree poses an unacceptable risk “if removal is the only means of practically mitigating its risk below moderate as determined by the tree risk assessment procedures outlined in (ISA) Best Management Practices — Tree Risk Assessment, Second Edition (2017).” That complicated wording means some very specific things.

On July 1, when the amended law is in place, municipalities can use it to claw back some local control over tree removal. The amendment can become the first of three ways we can strengthen the Key West tree canopy:

1. File ethics violations with the ISA. Florida’s law now requires an ISA tree risk assessment, which now includes a detailed, on-site review by ISA-certified tree experts. Signing a deliberately inaccurate assessment is an ISA ethics violation. ISA will investigate and can pull the certification…

2. Approve removal permit requests and require replacement — on property whenever possible. The amended law, like its predecessor, forbids municipalities from requiring replacements for trees taken down under the law. But, if a homeowner can’t get a certified tree expert to certify that a protected tree is an “unacceptable risk,” then said homeowner needs a permit from the tree commission. If the tree commission says “no,” and if there’s an unethical tree expert or some fly-by-night dude with a chainsaw, that tree is coming down. No replacement. If the tree commission grants the permit, it can (and does) require replacement…

3. Declare a ceasefire on blaming the city. The state’s preemption appetite is the enemy. Let’s direct our frustrations where they belong. Join other groups in other Florida municipalities to advocate for our canopy. Plant the right tree in the right place — and take care of it…”

— Linda Grist Cunningham, Special To The Citizen

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Key West: City recognized by Tree City USA ten times!

Key West: City recognized by Tree City USA ten times!

Photo: Chamber of Commerce showing Key West’s official tree: the royal poinciana.

“…’Your community should be proud to live in a place that makes the planting and care of trees a priority, and you should be proud of a job well done!’ wrote the Tree City team in a letter announcing the recognition.

Karen DeMaria, the City’s Urban Forester, says she’s grateful for the recognition, one that the City has received ten times.

‘Our island’s canopy is vital to the quality of life of our residents and visitors,’ said DeMaria.

Each year on Arbor Day, the City urges property owners to plant a tree.

‘Trees on publicly and privately owned property within the city are economic and aesthetic asset to the citizens,’ says DeMaria, ‘because of their important and meaningful contribution to a healthy and beautiful community.’

Key West achieved Tree City USA recognition by meeting the program’s four requirements: a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters…”

— Key West Chamber of Commerce

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Technical Trees? Email Address for Each Public Tree “Befriending Trees to Lower a City’s Temperature”

Technical Trees? Email Address for Each Public Tree “Befriending Trees to Lower a City’s Temperature”

Photo: Alana Holmberg, The New York Times

“A program in Melbourne, Australia, that tracks every public tree — and even gives each an email address — is seen as a way to manage climate change.

High in the branches of a 122-year-old Dutch Elm, two workers in a bucket crane framed by the city’s skyline used a chain saw to slice large limbs from the top of the tree.

Office workers strolled past, seemingly enjoying the afternoon sunshine of Flagstaff Gardens, the city’s oldest public park, while the workers carried out their ‘reduction pruning’ aimed at controlling the tree’s bulk to help improve its vitality and extend its lifespan.

It is one of the most time-tested forms of tree maintenance, but at ground level the workers’ supervisor, Jake Shepherd, added a high-tech wrinkle.

Mr. Shepherd, a 27-year-old Englishman, touched a yellow circle on a portable electronic device. The circle was within a map of the park that is part of the city’s elaborate tree database and it instantly turned green to register that this specific elm was back in top shape…

New York, Denver, Shanghai, Ottawa and Los Angeles have all unveiled Million Tree Initiatives aimed at greatly increasing their urban forests because of the ability of trees to reduce city temperatures, absorb carbon dioxide and soak up excess rainfall.

Central Melbourne, on the other hand, lacks those cities’ financial firepower and is planning to plant a little more than 3,000 trees a year over the next decade. Yet it has gained the interest of other cities by using its extensive data to shore up the community engagement and political commitment required to sustain the decades-long work of building urban forests.

A small municipality covering just 14.5 square miles in the center of the greater Melbourne metropolitan area — which sprawls for 3,860 square miles and houses 5.2 million people in 31 municipalities — the city of Melbourne introduced its online map in 2013.

Called the Urban Forest Visual, the map displayed each of the 80,000 trees in its parks and streets, and showed each tree’s age, species and health. It also gave each tree its own email address so that people could help to monitor them and alert council workers to any specific problems.

That is when the magic happened.

City officials were surprised to see the trees receiving thousands of love letters. They ranged from jaunty greetings — ‘good luck with the photosynthesis’ — to love poems and emotional tributes about how much joy the trees brought to people’s lives.

Members of the public were subsequently recruited to help with forestry programs such as measuring trees and monitoring wildlife, and politicians were left in no doubt about how much Melburnians valued their trees…

Gregory Moore, an expert on ecosystems and forests at the University of Melbourne, said another major problem was that planning laws controlled by the state of Victoria did little to protect greenery on private land, allowing development that contributed to the annual loss of 1.5 percent of canopy cover across the greater metropolitan area.

‘A good tree cover can save you an enormous amount in health spending alone by reducing deaths in heat waves and getting people outside and taking more exercise,’ he said. ‘Politicians and bureaucrats seem to think that all of these benefits from planting trees are simply too good to be true, but I think they will eventually get the point when economists keep telling them how much money they will save.'”

— Peter Wilson, New York Times

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Citizens for a Scenic Florida