President's Perspective - Summer 2022

By Doug Wildman on Friday, July 1, 2022

Seeing the oaks fully leaf out throughout California reminds me how much I cherish our oak trees here in the West. Their structure, seasonal change, stately form, and beauty that I experience when walking beneath these large oaks never ceases to amaze me. I know that having trees and green spaces around me makes me feel better mentally, physically and spiritually. Studies show that with a view to trees and green spaces, people experience reduction of anxiety and depression, lowered blood pressure, and faster healing. Many studies showing health benefits of trees have been done by Dr. Kathleen Wolf and she continues to share her important research with our chapter and industry. 

After years of analysis, Dr. Browning and his research team published “Association Between Residential Green Cover and Direct Healthcare Costs in Northern California: An Individual Level Analysis of 5 Million Persons” (link below). This study was funded in part by the USDA Forest Service’s Urban and Community Grant Program. The researchers dove deep into healthcare data of over 5 million northern California Kaiser Permanente members and overlaid this with residential green cover data in each person’s neighborhood. The research demonstrates overall health care costs were lower in residential areas with greater green cover. We continue to discover that trees are part of the solution to many environmental and health outcomes: health is priceless. For those of you who write grants, or advocate during budget season to your constituents or departments, this paper contains well-analyzed data that can be used to lobby for more tree planting and higher tree care budgets. Quantifying benefits helps get money for trees.

The trees we touch, whether through planning, climbing, pruning, assessments, planting, or preserving, make a difference in the lives of those who live around them. Let’s acknowledge that arboriculture is an important piece to building healthier communities. Our profession can say that we make people’s lives better in many ways, including their health.

Recently I’ve reviewed organizational use of the grant funds for tree planting and care. Each of these groups planted significant numbers of 5 gallon and #15 size trees in high-need sections of their cities or towns. In one case, the partnerships divided the expense and labor successfully with the city’s parks division. The city agreed to supply irrigation to trees in turf areas and commit to watering and care in the future. The day before planting, the city hand-dug tree pits in the clay soils instead of augering. This was important to the trees’ establishment as glazing of augured soils prevents successful rooting of the tree. The community group trained their volunteers and planted and staked the trees. This tree planting would not have taken place without these grant funds, sought by a community group, and without their partnership with their city. The need for trees in this community park was apparent when I visited. It had a mile-long curvilinear path meandering through rolling turf spaces with almost no existing trees to shade the path. This park needed these new trees planted through this community-based volunteer group with strong city support.

Community groups who have planted large numbers of trees can also partner with corporate groups to maintain planting sites. At another site, funding wasn’t available to hire the six full-time gardeners it would have needed to maintain this large tree planting site. Here a planting organization leveraged corporate volunteer workdays and periodic volunteer workdays, with high schools to maintain this large site where the city could not commit to its maintenance and early tree care. The planting sites are generally free of weeds and adequately watered. These trees would not have been planted without the combined partnerships. I was happy to see that all the projects I reviewed had planted many different species of oak - Quercus agrifolia, Q. douglasii, Q. garryanna, Q. lobata, and Q. tomentella - because I love my oaks!

When I was reviewing one planting site, I noticed a neighbor picking up trash helping to maintain their section of the freshly planted park space.  The neighbor went on to tell me that “Anne takes care of the next section of the park.” Cities continue to benefit from engaged neighbors whose eyes on the trees will help to protect them into maturity. These projects are significant to the adjacent neighbors and are a long-term commitment by the city. They provide all the benefits we know about, including the quantifiable health benefits and health care cost reductions to community members! I am proud to be working and growing with all our tree folks, knowing the difference our work makes.

I haven’t come down yet from our annual conference last month in Oakland. It was rejuvenating to see and speak with so many of our chapter’s members and share thoughts on the educational presentations we heard. I deeply thank all the conference committees for their work in making WCISA’s conference such a positive, entertaining, learning event and giving us all a chance to get back together in-person.

I pass the presidential baton in the form of the gavel to Daniel Goyette, who is Huntington Botanical Garden’s principal arborist and holds both a BCMA and RCA. I have enjoyed working with him over the years and I will continue to help in the capacity of past president in the coming year. 

To all our members, continue pursuing your interests by participating in upcoming events, or share a great venue you know about in your area for an educational session, or present your knowledge in the coming year with your friends and colleagues. You are what makes our Western Chapter successful.

I hope to see you in the coming months, and definitely at Palisades Tahoe (formerly known as Squaw Valley) at our annual conference and the Second Annual WCISA Disc Golf Tournament on a beautiful course!


Doug Wildman