“And then it was spring…”

It’s been coming for a while, but with the longer days, it seems like the flowers on trees and in gardens popped open overnight. It must be time to celebrate Arbor Day!

All month UCF staff, members of the Washington Community Forestry Council, along with Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz, and State Forester, Gerry Day have the opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of Tree City USA communities at Arbor Day celebrations throughout the state. Events can be large, like the Yakima Area Arboretum’s Arbor Festival which draws hundreds of families, or relatively small, like city council meetings. What they have in common is that each one celebrates the contribution trees in their community and the commitment that has been made to manage them.

A community must meet four standards to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation: 1) designate a city staff person or department responsible for tree management, 2) adopt a tree care ordinance, 3) document spending of at least $2 per capita toward tree care and maintenance, and 4) annually proclaim and celebrate Arbor Day. And even though the name is ‘City,’ a community doesn’t need to meet a population threshold (Seattle – population 686,800 is Washington’s largest Tree City USA, and Farmington – population 155 is the smallest).

But the designation is just a starting point toward good tree management and a sustainable urban forest. Best practices include performing a tree inventory and/or canopy assessment, to understand the structure, function and value of the urban forest resource; developing a management and maintenance plan to guide the program, including budget development; building a framework for inter-departmental and community collaboration; and measuring program success.

You can find out more about urban forest management in the “Sustainable Urban Forest Guide” by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station in cooperation with The Davey Tree Expert Company.

Is your town or city a Tree City USA? Visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA website to learn more about the program and how you might communicate the importance of the program to community leaders.

By Linden J. Lampman, program manager, DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program