President's Perspective - Spring 2022
By Doug Wildman on Friday, April 1, 2022
President’s Message - Tree Planting Never Gets Old
I love planting trees, really! On Saturday, March 12th, 2022 we planted 60+ trees along an open space and trail system in the city of Pittsburg, CA. A total of 2,000 trees were planted throughout California that day, thanks to a grant from Cal Fire (through California Climate Investments Cap-and-Trade dollars) managed by the California Urban Forest Council (CaUFC). WCISA helped publicize the event and provided additional expertise on the ground in many of the 29 planting locations. West Coast Arborist (WCA) added boots on the ground for planting prep and collection of tree data. Taylor Guitars demonstrated a great use of urban wood, and Matt Ritter, Ph.D. (Cal Poly Plant Conservancy) provided a palette of underused trees to enhance site biodiversity. The energized volunteers, with their positivity and strong sense of community, created an invigorating planting experience. Thank you to all those involved!
For several years WCISA has supported these large community tree-planting efforts. In 2019, one of the tree plantings I participated was in Daly City where Cal Fire, CaUFC, and WCA had the same roles as this year. It went off seamlessly and the volunteers were outstanding. We were able to prepare tree root balls by eliminating nursery production defects, plant our trees at the correct depth, and make a large watering berm enabling the city to water each tree quickly and deeply. It is always a challenge to stay ahead of the volunteers to ensure giving necessary pointers and direction; quality control is in the planting leader’s hands. To reap the long-term benefits of tree plantings, proper installation and aftercare are essential. The maintenance commitment for the city is also a major component to the success of these community plantings.
Before these recent Cal Fire grants existed, WCISA was one of the groups involved in supporting community-based urban forest tree plantings. In 2007 I was part of the earliest large-scale tree planting in California in the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County areas. At that time, I was on the board of directors for CuFAC and we had the opportunity to coordinate with several organizations and agencies. California ReLeaf helped with outreach and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) was the largest funder. WCISA and WCA provided support to plant about 3,500 trees in one day throughout Southern California. This was a CuFAC Board decision to do this planting and even though we had the funding, CaUFC could not have had the success without its partners. Because CuFAC had no history of community-based tree plantings, it took significant and ongoing engagement to develop the partnerships, secure all the planting locations, and get maintenance agreements from all the agencies involved.
2007 was a particularly dry year; wildfires were burning throughout the state. Our planting day was October 27th and the week before the Santa Ana winds severely escalated the fires, with speeds of 90 mph and gusts reported up to 112 mph. The previous year was the driest year on record in the Los Angeles basin. The Santa Ana winds propelled some 30 listed fires into what is now called the Fall 2007 California Firestorm, which was located between Santa Barbara County and the US-Mexico border. Almost 1 million people were evacuated due to the fires and power grids were down in many regions. This was generally not a great time to be coordinating a large tree planting! October 27th was the planting date and except for a few groups who really could not plant due to immediate fire danger or air quality, all of the communities still wanted to plant their trees. They did not want to reschedule the planting. It was truly an emotional experience for me as I flew from San Francisco to Ontario and the large smoke plumes came into view. The extent and intensity became clear. To plant trees as communities and forests were burning was a poignant moment and it felt good to have a small role in this significant event. By December of that year the Fall 2007 California Firestorm had burned nearly 972,000 acres.
Unfortunately, wildland fires will continue in the West - and fortunately, tree plantings will continue in our communities. It’s important that WCISA continues to support these plantings where the payoff is “treemendous!” Getting into our communities and sharing our love and knowledge of trees will encourage others to participate in planting and caring for trees. Whether it is supporting our efforts at the California State Fair (planned to be open this July in-person!) or leading a group of volunteers to plant trees on Arbor Day, join the fun and know that your efforts are needed - because you can be instrumental in the success of community trees plantings. There are opportunities in other states to assist with tree planting, data collection, or outreach through organizations such as Arizona Community Tree Council, Smart Trees Pacific in Hawai’I, and the Nevada Shade Tree Council. Our chapter covers a lot of territory! Participate!
Planting trees can feel like an uphill battle while millions of acres of forested land continue to burn in the West. Forest fires move easily into the wildland-urban interface (WUI) where ongoing drought increases tree mortality and creates huge fuel loads. We know that putting trees in urban areas is extremely effective in reducing the heat island effect, capturing ambient carbon at the source, reducing storm water runoff, and providing a calming effect to community residents. Right now, I cannot think of anything more positive that we can do than to engage communities in planting and managing trees.
Our conference this year in Oakland will touch on post fire tree evaluation. We will review wildfire and fuel management in the Oakland Hills. The Tunnel Fire (1991 Oakland Firestorm) was only 1,600 acres, yet destroyed over 2,900 structures and took 25 lives. It was one of the most destructive western WUI fires. Look for additional forums and roundtable discussions in the coming months through our Chapter
Plant a tree! It is always an uplifting experience getting your hands in the earth and sharing that positive experience with other people. As an arborist you can make a significant difference environmentally and in the hearts of the community.