Within an urban forest, a tree is not just a tree

Within an urban forest a tree is not just a treeSo, Atlanta homeowner, you’re weathering the latest ice and snow storm and you open the front door of your Buckhead home to investigate a loud, crashing thud. And, OMG!

Half of the Northern Red Oak that used to be in your front yard is now in the street, and the other half, sharing your neighbor’s driveway with her Prius. So, who are you going to call?

Barring any safety, health or injury issues, your first call might be to your homeowners insurance agent. That call would be followed by a call to your arborist and city forester. Those lines would most likely leave you at “please leave a message.” Not much to do but wait your turn.

Massive ice storms are going to happen, and as the climate revolution unfolds, they could get worse and occur more often. Knowing that, we can take some steps to mitigate the effects of broken limbs and property damage. First, have your trees inspected by trained professionals. In the case of the fallen oak, that Buckhead homeowner can contact www.treesatlanta.org for arborist referral, help removing the downed tree and, perhaps more important, replanting.

No big deal? It is just a tree, right?

Urban foresters know that it is not that simple. That one tree is part of a neighborhood of trees which in turn form an urban forest, and in the larger sense, part of a complete ecological system. That oak provided tangible, valuable services to the environment and the neighborhood. A very good summary of just how much an urban forest is worth can be found in this excellent Wisconsin DNR report.

Better yet, all wood industry professionals who go to the SmallWood Conference in Rochester, Minnesota June 3-5, can sit in with a blue ribbon panel of urban forest experts as they present the most current and relevant issues facing our city woods. Policy issues, invasive pests, new and improved urban forest maintenance techniques, and yes, massive ice storms will be discussed. Check out the conference details.

Dusty Moller is the Wood Utilization Manager for the University of Nevada Reno, and is the track leader for the Urban Forestry track at the 2014 SmallWood Conference. SmallWood 2014 is June 3-5 in Rochester, Minnesota.