UW News

July 23, 2009

UW lauded by Arbor Day Foundation for tree management, environmental stewardship

For a number of years, UW has been a three-campus university; well, now it’s a tree campus university too. That’s thanks to the Arbor Day Foundation, which conferred the title of Tree Campus USA on the UW for its “dedication to campus forestry management and environmental stewardship.”

The University had to submit an application showing that it met five criteria to earn the designation:

  • A committee that deals with landscape and trees.
  • A campus tree plan.
  • An Arbor Day program.
  • Dedicated annual expenditures for trees.
  • A service learning or outreach project.

The University has had a Landscape Advisory Committee since 1970, so that standard was easy to meet. As for a campus tree plan, Jon Hooper, facilities manager for the Central Zone in Facilities Services, said the campus gardeners and arborist have managed the trees, but there was no formal written plan. So he turned to Sara Shores, a lead gardener and the campus arborist, to draft one. This was no easy task, as the plan had to include matters such as:

  • Tree selection and planting.
  • Preventive maintenance pruning
  • Protection and preservation
  • Hazards and emergency removal
  • Invasive species policies.

Included in the new plan is the University’s year-old system for evaluating significant trees that deserve some protection when construction projects displace them (see our story here). It also includes the tree salvage program begun recently (see our story here).

Shores’ plan was reviewed by Hooper and by Grounds Maintenance Manager Rod White and UW Landscape Architect Kristine Kenney before being finalized. It can be viewed here.

The College of Forest Resources — which recently became the School of Forest Resources in the new College of the Environment — has had an Arbor Day program for many years, thus fulfilling that requirement. The University does have dedicated annual expenditures for trees, which amounts to a little more than $250,000 a year. That includes tree plantings, initial care, tree management, some volunteer time and some storm cleanup activities.

And as to an outreach project, Hooper said Facilities Services has created a tree inventory using Geographic Position Systems and lasers to locate campus trees and is using Geographic Information System software to link maps to a database of information about the trees.

“Grounds department technicians have mapped about 9,500 significant trees,” Hooper said. “They’ve tagged those trees, located them geographically, put them in a database and have developed a Web feature where you can look at them. So, for example, you can ask for all the sugar maple trees and it will show you where they are located on a campus map.” That feature isn’t available to the public yet, but soon will be, he said.

This is the second year for the Tree Campus USA Program; last year 29 schools were chosen for the honor. The UW is the first college in Washington to make the list.

“The application process has been interesting for us,” Hooper said. “I think we all took it for granted that we had a great campus for trees, but this pushed us to develop a more formal management plan.”

He said the University will also be applying for an Arbor Day Foundation grant to plant new trees.

John Rosenow, chief executive of the foundation, said, “The Tree Campus USA program will have a long-lasting impact at the University of Washington as it engages college students and local citizens to plant trees and create healthier communities for people to enjoy for decades to come.”