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Tree City USA Program

The Tree City USA program is sponsored by The National Arbor Day Foundation in Cooperation with the US Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the National Association of State Foresters, the US Forest Service the SC Forestry Commission. In order to qualify, a community must meet four standards:

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TREE CITY BENEFITS

Every community, regardless of size, benefits in different ways from being a Tree City USA. Reports of these benefits have reached The National Arbor Day Foundation through the years and are summarized below in six general categories:

Framework for Action

Meeting the four standards for becoming a Tree City USA provides initial direction for an urban or community forestry program. Like the first rungs on a ladder, the standards help get a community started toward annual, systematic management of its tree resources.

Education

Education begins with discussion of the standards and getting organized to apply for Tree City USA status. It continues as the desire for Tree City USA recognition leads to contacts with the state forester's staff. In turn, this can set in motion aid from a variety of professionals in the form of technical advice, literature, films, and other assistance.

Public Image

A community's public image is a very real phenomenon and important in many ways. Being a Tree City USA helps present the kind of image that most citizens want to have for the place they live or conduct business. The Tree City USA signs at community entrances tell visitors that here is a community that cares about its environment. It is also an indication to prospective businesses that the quality of life may be better here. It has even been known to be a factor in where meetings or conferences have been held. This reason alone caused a motel owner to start action for his community to join the network!

Citizen Pride

Pride is sometimes a less tangible benefit. Gaining and retaining Tree City USA recognition is an award to the tree workers, managers, volunteers, tree board members and others who work on behalf of better care of a community's trees. Non-involved citizens, too, often share a sense of pride that theirs is a Tree City USA. This may translate to better care of trees on private property or a willingness to volunteer in the future.

Financial Assistance

Preference is sometimes given to Tree City USA communities over other communities when allocations of grant money are made for trees or forestry programs. The reason is that there are invariably more requests than available funds when grants are available through state or federal agencies. If requests are equally worthy, some officials tend to have more confidence in communities that have demonstrated the foresight of becoming a Tree City USA.

Publicity

Presentation of the Tree City USA award and the celebration of Arbor Day offer excellent publicity opportunities. This results not only in satisfaction for the individuals involved and their families, but also provides one more way to reach large numbers of people with information about tree care. As one forester put it, "This is advertising that money can't buy -- and it is free!"

TREE CITY STANDARDS

The Four Standards of a Tree City USA
  1. A Tree Board or Department
  2. A Tree Care Ordinance
  3. A Community Forestry Program With an Annual  Budget of at Least $2 Per Capita
  4. An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation

To qualify for Tree City USA, a town or city must meet four standards established by The National Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. 

These standards were established to ensure that every qualifying community would have a viable tree management plan and program. 

It is important to note that  they were also designed so that no community would be excluded because of size.

1. A Tree Board or Department

Someone must be legally responsible for the care and management of the community's trees. This may be a professional forester or arborist, an entire forestry department, or a volunteer tree board. Often, both a professional staff and advisory tree board are present, which is a good goal for most communities. A tree board, or commission, is a group of concerned volunteer citizens charged by ordinance with developing and administering a comprehensive tree management program. Balanced, broad-based community involvement is encouraged. Boards function best if not composed entirely of tree-related professionals such as forestry professors, nursery operators, arborists, etc. Fresh ideas and different perspectives are added by citizens with an interest in trees that is entirely avocational. Limited, staggered terms of service will prevent stagnation or burnout, while at the same time assuring continuity.

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2. A Tree Care Ordinance

The tree ordinance must designate the establishment of a tree board or forestry department and give this body the responsibility for writing and implementing an annual community forestry work plan. Beyond that, the ordinance should be flexible enough to fit the needs and circumstances of the particular community. A tree ordinance provides an opportunity to set good policy and back it with the force of law when necessary. Ideally, it will provide clear guidance for planting, maintaining and removing trees from streets, parks and other public places. For tips and a checklist of important items to consider in writing or improving a tree ordinance, see Bulletin No. 9.

3. A Community Forestry Program With An Annual Budget Of At Least $2 Per Capita

Evidence is required that the community has established a community forestry program that is supported by an annual budget of at least $2 per capita. At first, this may seem like an impossible barrier to some communities. However, a little investigation usually reveals that more than this amount is already being spent by the municipality on its trees. If not, this may signal serious neglect that will cost far more in the long run. In such a case, working toward Tree City USA recognition can be used to re-examine the community's budget priorities and re-direct funds to properly care for its tree resource before it is too late. Ideally, this standard will be met by focusing funding on an annual work plan developed after an inventory is completed and a report is approved by the city council. Such a plan will address species diversity, planting needs, hazardous trees, insect and disease problems and a pattern of regular care such as pruning and watering.

4. An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation

This is the least challenging and probably the most enjoyable standard to accomplish. An Arbor Day celebration can be simple and brief or an all-day or all-week observation. It can be a simple tree planting event or an award ceremony that honors leading tree planters. For children, Arbor Day may be their only exposure to the green world or a springboard to discussions about the complex issue of environmental quality. The benefits of Arbor Day go far beyond the shade and beauty of new trees for the next generation. Arbor Day is a golden opportunity for publicity and to educate homeowners about proper tree care. Utility companies can join in to promote planting small trees beneath power lines or being careful when digging. Smokey Bear's fire prevention messages can be worked into the event, as can conservation education about soil erosion or the need to protect wildlife habitat. Still another way to develop Arbor Day is to link it with a tree-related festival. Some that are currently celebrated include dogwood festivals, locust blossom festivals and Macon, Georgia's Cherry Blossom Festival that annually brings more than $4.25 million into the local economy. In meeting the four standards, help is available! The urban and community forestry coordinator in your state forester's office will be happy to work with communities in taking these first steps toward better community forestry.

 

For more information on how to become a Tree City, contact: your urban forester or the National Arbor Day Foundation at www.arborday.org

Tree Cities for 2008

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Forest Management/ Urban Forestry