|April 2014 • Vol. 19 • Number 9
Below and in the box on the left side of this page are some of the
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When A Tree Calls
By Lynn Geiger
When A Tree Calls
The pros behind tree care and forest management
Some of us are tree lovers, some of us are tree huggers. But who do you call when your favorite tree starts to look sick or that 150-year-old maple has started to lean toward your house? Or maybe you own 20 acres of forestland and want to “manage” it for future harvesting?
In the professional tree world there are two main camps: foresters and arborists, and both are represented in our local economy. Perhaps the easiest way to tell the two apart is to remember the environments in which they primarily work. An arborist typically interacts with trees in urban environments (arboriculture) and is most concerned with the health and safety of individual trees and plants. Meanwhile, foresters are primarily focused on rural tree management, ranging from health all the way to harvesting.
With the approach of spring and all things green, this month the TCBN profiles a few individuals who spend their days amongst the trees.
Whether climbing for work or for recreation, Bo Burke is seemingly always up a tree. A certified arborist, Burke moved to Maple City in 2011. The Michigan native first learned the trade in Colorado and in 2007 moved to Chicago where he was the tree surgeon for the city’s Park District.
While he works with homeowners, developers, architects and property managers on all matters arboricultural, his real clients are the trees.
“Trees are very valuable assets and people should want a pro looking at these assets,” said Burke. “I educate folks on the value of their trees.”
One of Burke’s specialties is tree identification and he holds classes through NMC and leads people on hikes. He also evaluates and diagnoses ailing trees and recently obtained his tree risk assessment certification, which looks at a tree’s structure, cracks, whether it’s leaning or not, or has exposed roots – all especially important if he is going to be climbing them.
And climb them he does. Burke is also a certified tree worker/climber specialist and believes he’s the only one with these certifications in business for himself in Michigan. A climber specialist has to have the skills and endurance to climb trees, a high regard for safety and be able to get the job done off the ground.
“I do consultations and estimations and then go back out and climb,” said Burke.
He has also rescued a few cats as part of a day’s work, retrieved the occasional Frisbee, hung tree swings and dismantled treestands.
While the emerald ash borer is easily the most pervasive pest attacking local trees, Burke has identified another major challenge to local tree health: people handling trees who don’t have the proper credentials, schooling and certifications. In the tree business, there is a lot of misidentification and misdiagnosis of diseases and subsequent treatment, according to Burke. He also sees a lot of damage from improper pruning – either at the wrong time of year or the “ripping” of branches, both of which expose (or overexpose) a tree to pests and disease.
“It is malpractice,” he said. “We are tree doctors.”
So does someone who hangs out in trees so much have a favorite? A favorite is tough, he said, but one of his most beloved species — and a favored climbing tree — is the sugar maple.
“It just provides so much,” from its structure and beauty to its fall colors, sap, valuable wood and habitat for wildlife. “It lives for hundreds of years and doesn’t get a lot of pests because the wood is so hard,” he said. “Yeah, the sugar maple is pretty good.”
Kama Ross is the new district forester for the Leelanau, Grand Traverse and Benzie Conservation Districts, having transferred last fall from the same role for the Wexford and Missaukee Conservation Districts. Her job is to help educate and inspire landowners to more actively manage their forest properties or the health of their trees – whether on 20 acres or two.
On an early springlike day last month, Ross paid a visit to a homeowner in Grand Traverse County, who had contacted Ross because her neighbor’s trees are suffering from oak wilt and she feared for her own. She also has red pine with bark beetle and a wet area she wants to improve for wildlife habitat.
“It was great that she called,” Ross said, adding that she can help people make informed decisions on “trees of concern” by prioritizing risk level, or if need be can refer to an expert.
“I am the person I want people to come to first because the services are free,” she said. Ross’ position is funded through a grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and any on-site and in-office technical assistance is provided at no charge to county landowners.
Ross’ role also takes her to landowners who want to “manage” tracts of forestland for timber sales and she offers recommendations on ways to develop a healthy, sustainable forest for a future revenue stream. Other times, landowners call on her services because they’ve been approached by a timber buyer and need insight on the market and the right way to pursue such deals.
“Whether a forest or tree, if I can’t help it’s my job to find someone who can,” she said.
Daniel Schillinger is one of those professionals who Ross calls on. Schillinger is the owner of Schillinger Forestry, LLC based in Traverse City. He is both a registered consulting forester and a certified arborist and has been in private business since 2007.
There are people out there who call themselves “foresters” who simply buy timber, Schillinger said.
“A true consulting forester submits bids for private landowners for timbering,” he explained. That involves everything from selecting and marking the trees for harvest and guiding the sale process from bid solicitation through to sale.
In addition to assisting private landowners across the region, he also works with conservation groups and environmental organizations in the management of healthy woodlands.
Schillinger spent the bulk of his time this past winter writing forest management plans, which are designed to promote wildlife, protect wetlands, and/or generate income. A typical client may be a landowner with 40 acres who wants to grow timber for harvest. As part of the plan he takes inventory of current tree value and sometimes recommends trees to be removed for better overall health of the forestland.
He is seeing an uptick in management plans for people looking to take advantage of tax benefits through the state’s recently-revised Qualified Forest Property Program (QFP), which encourages private forestland owners to “manage their land in an economically viable and environmentally sustainable manner.”
Property not claimed as homestead can receive a tax exemption of 16 of the 18 mills levied for school operating tax (reimbursed by the state) and exemption from an “uncapping” of taxable value when the property is transferred. (District Forester Kama Ross is the person landowners should start with to see if the QFP is a good option for them. She can be reached at 256.9783.)
There are approximately 11 million acres of private, non-industrial forestland in Michigan, according to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and it is estimated that some 20 percent of that resource is being actively managed for forestry.
Fellow consulting forester Richard Cooper of Honor has been working in the region’s forestry industry for more than three decades, assisting landowners in marketing the timber they want to sell to sawmills.
“I’ve done about 900 timber sales in all, about 30 a year,” said Cooper. “I handle the sale from start to finish, acting as the landowner’s agent,” as opposed to timber buyers that work for mills or “timber brokers” who buy the wood one day and re-sell it the next.
“When a forester (whether consultant or government or industry) is involved in a timber sale, fewer trees are cut and the landowner receives more money for those trees (due to competitive bidding),” Cooper added.
Managing the resource in this manner brings sustainability and ethical practice to the timbering industry.
“Trees are valuable,” Cooper said. “Whenever landowners buy, sell, gift or trade land with trees, they need a forester the same way they need a banker.”
Cooper said that by this time of year he is usually back out in the woods and hard at work. Instead, this year he planned an extended vacation in warmer climes to wait out the snowmelt.
What’s Bugging Our Trees?
The most prevalent tree health concerns in northwest lower Michigan are the emerald ash borer, beech bark disease and oak wilt (a fungus that spreads via connected root systems). A consultation with a forester or arborist on how to best manage any of these health concerns and the decline of trees is recommended.
The good news? “We will see a good kill on over-wintering insects from this harsh winter,” said District Forester Kama Ross. “Not the emerald ash borer because it’s so advanced, but for beech bark disease and other insects.”
One pest to watch out for: The Asian longhorned beetle. It’s not here yet, said Ross, but it’s “a very real threat.”
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