President's Message - Fall 2020

By Jimi Scheid on Thursday, October 1, 2020

WCISA President’s Message – Trees Now More Than Ever

“Strange days have found us

Strange days have tracked us down

They’re going to destroy

Our casual joys….”

Jim Morrison, poet and frontman of the seminal rock band The Doors, wrote these foreboding opening lines of “Strange Days” more than half a century ago. While the tune was a piece reflective of the emerging mid-60’s counterculture movement amidst a time of foreign warfare and a fomenting chaos in the United States, I can’t help but think how prophetic these words are today. I would be ignorant not to recognize the divisions that have grown amongst our fellow citizens in recent months related to issues of racial and social justice, abuse of authority, economic disparity and collapse, personal health and welfare related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying civil unrest, anxiety, violence, bloodshed and societal unraveling that it has brought about. In an election year no less, there is more than ever an inescapable undercurrent of Americans feeling disenfranchised, unrepresented, and restless for change. But while Morrison notes that our casual joys may be temporarily destroyed (or postponed or reconfigured), I personally remain optimistic not just for a time when we can return to a sense of normalcy, but for the opportunity this situation affords our industry to step forward. We can be agents of change, and refocus a light on the causes we have always advocated for long before the year 2020 unleashed its gloom upon the land.

With widespread restrictions in place related to social gatherings and our typical sources of entertainment and leisure, we need trees now more than ever. Their proper appreciation, care, and advocacy need to be essential elements of the arborist’s playbook. In a time when common relaxation destinations, like pubs, restaurants, movie theaters, beaches, stores and even libraries are off-limits or have their access sharply-curbed, nature is still at hand beckoning us to embrace it, to marvel at it, and to learn from it. Our forests, be they urban or native, are calling us to find peace within them. I have found myself increasingly drawn to and inspired by the trees where I live. My appreciation continues to grow for the cedars, pines, firs and oaks that comprise the El Dorado National Forest near my home, and so too does my gratitude for having a job where I can share that appreciation with others.

As CAL FIRE’s Regional Urban Forester in the San Francisco Bay and North Coast areas of California, I continue to find eyes opening amongst constituents from the communities I serve regarding the many benefits that trees do provide. Finding common ground with any particular individual or group can be a bit of a struggle at times, but just about anyone I meet has a reason why trees are important to them. For some, it’s the obvious cooling shade their leaves provide on a hot day. For others, it’s the specific fruit or flowers, color or contrast given off. For others still, it’s the architecture and artistic form a particular specimen takes on. For some, it’s the cultural, historical, or familial connection that certain trees have made with them; a bond that’s everlasting. Upon understanding whatever attachment exists, it is incumbent upon us to deepen the client’s understanding of the reasons for proper management of said trees to ensure they thrive. In today’s climate, respite, reflection and recreation may be chief among the reasons for connecting with trees. Will these values we place upon our forests carry over in a post-pandemic world? It is our time, as the professionals of this industry, to capitalize on this renewed affection to ensure the benefits of trees are realized not just in these, but in all times.

I write this inaugural message as Western Chapter President from the fire lines, having recently been reassigned from the Hog Incident in Lassen County, in northeastern California, to the Apple Incident along the San Bernardino/Riverside County line, some 550 miles to the south along the eastern Sierra. While my profession may have me seasonally far removed from the urban forests where I typically work, I am comforted that technology allows me to stay connected almost wherever I am. Just this week, while hiking fire containment lines installed by bulldozers in timberlands northwest of Susanville, I was able to, via my smart phone, listen to a webinar the chapter hosted focusing on utility arboriculture and, ironically, its relationship to wildfire causation. In prior months, I have found many other webinars and topics presented remotely through virtual learning platforms, such as Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Adobe Connect, and others. As webinars have long been a goal of mine, in terms of connecting our underserved areas of the chapter, I am very much uplifted to see how far Epicenter Management has come in such a short time to support our remote learning through a plethora of online streaming talks. Hats off as well to the many professionals and members that have stepped up to present and teach at these events. Having been on the “microphone side” of some of these myself now, I found the experiences rather seamless. I am definitely optimistic as to the capabilities this type of learning affords us not only during these strange days, but hopefully after they pass. I look forward to the evolution of this process and how we might explore added functionality like video archival, breakout sessions and more interactivity amongst attendees. From the turnout at these webinars thus far, I’d say we’re off to a successful start.

While virtual learning is not intended to stand as a direct substitute for in-person gatherings and typical workshops, we should see the value that it does have in connecting a larger audience that may, in normal times, be hindered by travel, health concerns, work schedules, cost and other obstacles. This said, I hope before long we will be able to meet again on-site, following proper protocols. Taking that a step forward, I hope to see more interactive workshops and field demonstrations applicable to our varied demographics and disciplines within the practice. While conference-based PowerPoint presentations will always have their place, I can certainly identify with those many members that learn best in a hands-on atmosphere, dare I say, amongst the trees! Perhaps, with social distancing requirements in place, now is as a good a time as any to explore this concept further. If you have ideas in this vein, and appropriate venues that could serve as host, please reach out to me and the Regional Conferences Committee. No idea should be discouraged!

Speaking of presidential goals I have for the coming year, others I’d like to share with you in brief are as follows:

  • licensing of arborists or tree workers;
  • reforming professional practices for utility arboriculture;
  • certifying nursery stock, growing and sale standards;
  • supporting underserved and geographically-remote sectors of our membership;
  • continuing to broaden collaboration with partners;
  • sustaining financial & membership solvency and growth, seeking diverse representation on our board, committees and volunteer groups; and
  • focusing on Executive Committee leadership, training and succession planning, revisiting and revising outdated policies, procedures and by-laws as appropriate, and revising and implementing the goals of our strategic plan.

I plan to discuss each of these in more detail in future issues of Western Arborist and am happy to report that some of these are seeing progress as we speak. If you’d like to know more in the meantime, or have any other concerns or questions, never feel bashful to reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you!

As your recently installed President, I am committed to leading this organization through any rough waters and advancing the mission of the Western Chapter. I am thankful to be surrounded with a very talented, committed and caring staff, fellow board and committee leaders, wonderful volunteers and contributors, and above all, you the members that make this the best chapter in the ISA!


For the Trees

 Jimi Scheid, WCISA President