Department of Natural Resources: Wisconsin Tree Champions Praised for Outstanding Community Service

Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council recently announced its annual awards honoring those dedicated to protecting, preserving and increasing the number of trees that line city streets, fill community parks and enhance neighborhoods throughout the state.

The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council advises the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the best ways to preserve, protect, develop and enhance Wisconsin’s urban and community forest resources.

“The Urban Forestry Council Awards recognize individuals, organizations and communities for their tireless work and commitment to trees and the plethora of benefits they provide. It’s such amazing work that people are doing in communities of all sizes across the state to support healthy community forests,” said Linda Cadotte, Chair of the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council Awards Committee.

“Each year, the awards committee scrutinizes many quality nominations. It is an honor to learn about all the work that is happening in our state and to select the winners,” said Cadotte. “We continue to be very grateful for all the impressive work and commitment to forestry shown by these recipients.

This year’s winners were announced at the 2022 Wisconsin Arborist Association/DNR Urban Forestry Conference February 20-22, 2022. The categories and winners are:

Next Generation Pricing
the The Next Gen award is the new award category. It recognizes organizations or individuals who work to inspire and educate the next generation of engaged citizens with their urban forests through projects, activities and various additional contributions. These inspiring adults will support the future growth and development of the field by encouraging these young people to become the next generation of urban forestry professionals and their followers. Eligible programs engage young people up to the age of 18.

Mequon Nature Preserve’s Environmental Education Program (MNP) has been recognized as a key contributor to ecological success, providing students of varying backgrounds, ages and abilities with immersive, engaging and hands-on lessons in ecology and methods of applying this knowledge in their backyard. The education team strives to foster environmental empathy and motivate participants to collaboratively advance MNP’s 150-year land restoration master plan.

MNP also partners with schools, universities and local organizations for specialized educational experiences on active land restoration and the promotion of green industry. During the pandemic, MNP’s education team has produced short educational videos, virtual field trips, land restoration project updates, and hours of digital crafts and storytelling to continue fostering environmental stewardship.

In the wake of a post-pandemic world, with a renewed appreciation for green spaces, the team combined digital and in-person educational programming to promulgate the ease, efficiency and necessity of planting trees and forestry in general. The resulting feedback inspired an increase in requests for tree planting from volunteers and donors, confirming the effectiveness of forestry and restoration programming.

Project partnership
Recognize outstanding projects using partnerships to benefit our urban forests.

Johnson’s Nursery Community Tree Planting Program has been recognized for developing effective partnerships with schools, businesses, nature centers and individuals to improve the area’s urban canopy. Celebrating more than 60 years of shaping the Midwest’s green industry, Johnson’s Nursery has demonstrated how working together brings tremendous benefits to both the urban forest and the people who live there.

Johnson’s Nursery cultivates a diverse inventory of plants on over 600 acres in southeastern Wisconsin. Under the direction of employee Robert Dummert, the Community Tree Planting Program participated in tree planting events at several schools, nature centers and the Forest Exploration Center.

Innovation
Recognize creativity, commitmentsyou and the success of urban forestry efforts. This year, there were two deserving winners.

Elton Rogers, an arborist instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College-Mequon, is recognized for his efforts in the Arborist Apprenticeship program. The program develops unique educational experiences for people entering the world of arboriculture.

Over the past few years, Rogers has been instrumental in growing the program in the Milwaukee area by planning and developing an exceptional workforce training program that introduces our industry to a new, diverse audience. and underrepresented. While planning and teaching both the apprenticeship and workforce training programs, Rogers always finds time to teach his regular traditional arborist classes at MATC.

Cedarburg Green was established as a non-profit neighbor organization to support urban forestry in Cedarburg. The organization has demonstrated the power of community to create a beautiful, sustainable and healthy landscape by creating meaningful relationships between community residents, businesses and others.

The group responded to the city’s 2020 $0 Tree Replacement Budget by declaring 2020 the “Focus On Trees” year in Cedarburg and implemented an aggressive public awareness and tree planting campaign. This campaign was multifaceted and included fundraising, tree sales, grant writing, educational activities and media attention. This organization serves as an example to other communities on how to create effective programs through partnerships and collaborations for the benefit of the public.

Leadership
Recognize an individual or elected official at the county or local government level who has recently made an outstanding contribution to urban forestry in Wisconsin.

The leadership award was presented to Andy Sims, assistant director of operations for parks, recreation and forestry for the City of Wausau and Marathon County, for his leadership in community management of urban forests. Sims showed excellent leadership when he combined the Wausau Urban Ash Management Program with Urban Evolutions of Appleton. The ash management plan involved treating, removing, and replacing ash trees on the boulevard, parks, and other city-owned properties, but Sims went even further.

This project involved partnerships with the DNR, which had contact with Urban Evolutions of Appleton. Urban Evolutions uses new and reclaimed materials to design furniture, fencing, flooring, doors, wall panels and more for retail, residential, hospitality and commercial projects.

A contract was negotiated to allow ash logs from Wausau to be removed from area parks and sold to Urban Evolutions. The proceeds from the sale of the logs were used to plant new trees.

Sims is also developing a partnership with the Wausau School District to use the wood with the school’s sawmill to give students the opportunity to learn about the process of sawing, drying, and use.

Learn more about the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council’s annual awards, view past winners, and nominate your online community tree champion here.

The deadline for 2022 nominations was October 31, 2021. The nomination deadline for next year’s awards is October 31, 2022. However, Community Tree Champions can be nominated at any time.

Jill E. Washington