Archive for the 'Trees' Category

Time to speak out

I’ve bitten my tongue for far too long. I’ve let climate-change deniers have their say to avoid stepping on various toes and I can’t do it any longer.

Climate change is real. Period.

There, I said it.

It took a vacation to “my” Colorado mountains for a family reunion to open my eyes to how bad things really are.

If you don’t believe me or the consensus of real scientists who deal in facts, I have a challenge for you: Take a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and go up to about 9,000 feet. Take in the wonder that is around you for a while and then start looking at things in detail. You will start to notice dead and dying lodge-pole pines; in some places whole mountainsides wiped out.

You will see burn piles where last winter, after snow fell, rangers burned 5,000 piles of beetle-infested and dead trees, according to rangers I spoke with. The burn marks were evident at that altitude and they’ve already started building piles to burn this winter (when snow’s on the ground so as to not spread fire).

Who did I get this from?

  • Two different park rangers at two different locations, one as worried as I, the other slightly more optimistic.
  • A wildlife biologist who lives there (extended family member to fully disclose).
  • I also observed the destruction myself.

One of the rangers told me he started a talk at one of the campgrounds two years ago detailing how climate change is affecting the park.

Today, groups are studying a little mammal, a cousin to the rabbit, called the pika. It’s the park’s canary-in-the-coal-mine, if you will, a term I used with the ranger. Groups are studying its changing migration patterns and watching the little guys for signs of extinction. It will go first, the ranger said.

There wasn’t enough cold last year to kill the beetles that are eating the trees from the inside out. Some always survive and kill a few trees. But the trees need at least a week of below 20 degree weather in winter to kill off the bulk of the beetles. That didn’t happen.

Can I say that again? There weren’t 7 consecutive days of high temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in that part of the Colorado mountains last winter. That’s stunning. I remember that kind of cold in Denver, much less the mountains.

Then there are the fires raging all across the parched west, including the one west of Fort Collins, about 50 miles or so as the crow flies from the northern edge of the park. All those dead trees are tinder for a spark; fuel for fires started by nature or humans and quickly spread by winds that won’t quit.

Or check out Africa, where parched is taking on a whole new meaning. Or the arctic, where polar bears can’t find enough ice to survive.

How much observable data do you need?

Study what’s really happening, then come back and tell me climate change isn’t real with a straight face.

And just for fun, watch this clip of physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Real Time with Bill Maher cleaning the clock of climate denier and former GM chairman Bob Lutz using changing migration patterns as his example.

Closer to home, Kentucky didn’t have much of a winter last year. School actually got out on time, which didn’t happened in three prior years that I’ve paid attention because of a school-age child. And many of the “snow days” in those years weren’t because of snow, they were because of ice. We get ice because it doesn’t get and stay cold enough to snow.

We might have an extreme winter this year, Colorado might have little winter again, or the reverse might be true or some combination of severe storms, or drought, too much cold or not enough. Remember the deadly and destructive March 2 tornadoes? Awful early in the year, don’t you think?

That’s what climate change is: Long-term it means the planet is warming, but short-term, it means changing weather patterns, and more extreme and severe weather (droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc.).

There’s no more “normal.”

We better get used to it since politically no one seems willing to stand up to the deniers.

Buying spring plants at a big box store? Beware the signs.

I have had two experiences this spring with buying plants at box stores that I want to pass along as a caution:

1. At one store, the hostas were sitting in the bright sun, in front of a sign that said “SUN.” Hostas are, of course, shade lovers, as the little plastic label that came with them said.

2. I bought a small weeping willow tree at another store. It and all the other weeping willows had a paper label around the trunk that said “SHADE.” Nope, the Google verified that weeping willows like a spot that gets a lot of sun.

The stores are tempting this type of year with their bountiful greenery, but make sure you know what you’re getting and where to plant it when you get home. If you do research after you get home and find that that willow really won’t work in the shady spot you had in mind, take it back.

By the say, I tried telling the sales clerk at the store where I bought the hostas that the sign was wrong and that the plants should be moved to a shady display area.

Her reply: “Nobody here knows anything about plants.”

Get free trees and grocery bags on Earth Day

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, merchants at Lexington Green will give away either a dogwood or redbud tree seedling with a purchase Thursday, while supplies last. The trees average 12” to 18” tall and come bare-root from the Kentucky Division of Forestry.

Meanwhile, in Versailles, the Woodford County Conservation District will be at Kroger from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., giving away reusable canvas grocery bags. And elementary students have decorated more than 2,000 paper grocery bags that customers can use that day.

There will be other free stuff during the day at the store, including compact fluorescent light bulbs and water gauges.

Fight invasive species, help a Lexington creek

Volunteers are invited to participate in a restoration project for Wolf Run Creek in the Roanoke Drive greenway area, near Alexandria Drive.

Activities are planned for Saturday, March 13 and Saturday, March 20.

The Port Royal Neighborhood Association and Friends of Wolf Run are working cooperatively on the restoration project. A 2009 Neighborhood and Community Sustainability Grant was awarded by the city of Lexington to the Port Royal Neighborhood Association for the project aimed at improving water quality in Wolf Run Creek.

On Saturday, March 13, volunteers are needed to remove Bush Honeysuckle, an invasive plant that has overrun the creek bank in many areas. Volunteers are asked to bring work gloves and hand tools such as saws and loppers. Workers will meet Bruce Hutcheson, with the Port Royal Neighborhood Association, on site at 10 a.m. Saturday.

On Saturday, March 20, the restoration work will continue with the installation of creek-side native plants. Workers will be needed to install trees, shrubs and perennial plants from pots to replace the Bush Honeysuckle. Volunteers are asked to bring work gloves and digging tools such as shovels and trowels. Wendy Haven, also with the Port Royal Neighborhood Association, will coordinate the work that begins at 1 p.m.

For more information on the Wolf Run Creek project call 859 940-8234 or send an e-mail to

Northern Kentucky University prof gets tree kudo

Here’s the release:

Reeda Hart of Northern Kentucky University Named 2010 National Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educator

Washington, D.C. – Project Learning Tree® (PLT), the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation, has announced that Reeda Hart, a science outreach specialist at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, was named one of five 2010 National PLT Outstanding Educators. She is a resident of Falmouth.

PLT’s Outstanding Educators are selected for their commitment to environmental education, their exemplary use of PLT, and their exceptional teaching skills. Hart will be honored at PLT’s 24th International Coordinators’ Conference in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, May 17­–20.

Hart has worked at Northern Kentucky University’s (NKU) Center for Integrative Natural Science and Mathematics for the past seven years. Before that, she was an elementary school teacher for 27 years. In her current role as science outreach specialist with NKU, Hart takes PLT into classrooms in six school systems, integrating the environment into academic lessons and modeling teaching practices for teachers. She has created units on topics ranging from water to energy to life cycles, using PLT as a foundation to provide interactive content that supplements the teaching of core subjects, methods for elaboration, and assessment tools. Over a three-year period during which she worked with six schools, the schools’ Academic Index scores rose significantly.

Hart also helps the schools she works with design and develop outdoor classrooms, and emphasizes training for teachers in PLT to ensure the spaces are used as effective teaching tools. Hart is trained as a PLT facilitator, which means that she can train other teachers how to use PLT’s preK-12 environmental education curricula. “If we multiply the number of teachers by the number of students they reach each year, times the number of years they teach, it tells us how powerful it is to be a facilitator,” Hart notes, realizing that her work has touched the lives of thousands of students.

Hart helped develop PLT’s new Early Childhood program that was launched nationally on February 17. This curriculum resource, designed specifically for early childhood educators, uses developmentally appropriate techniques for connecting young students to nature. With Hart’s assistance, NKU is beginning an Early Childhood Alliance to provide PLT training to local preschool teachers.

“Her enthusiasm and positive attitude toward science has spread to others,” noted teachers at Dry Ridge Elementary School in Dry Ridge who recommended Hart for the honor. “Students know she makes learning fun, and parents, the school nurse, janitors and other Grant County employees have been found ‘sneaking in’ to hear her lessons, too.”

“Project Learning Tree is proud to honor Reeda Hart, whose passion for environmental education is helping students learn about the world around them, and their responsibility for it,” said Kathy McGlauflin, Director of Project Learning Tree and Senior Vice President of Education for the American Forest Foundation. “PLT is known for quality environmental education because dedicated educators like Reeda use PLT to engage students in hands-on learning about the environment, both inside the classroom and outdoors.”

In addition to attending the PLT International Coordinators Conference, Hart is invited to attend the World Forestry Center’s International Educators’ Institute, July 11–16, in Portland, Oregon.

Ash trees’ loss would be costly all around

By Andy Mead

Shady Lane is well named. The Arboretum Woods runs along one side of the winding street, and a line of mature ash trees follows the curves on the other side.

Terry Conners has one of the ashes in front of his house. He figures that his tree and the others were planted soon after the street was laid out in 1927.

On Tuesday, the Urban County Council will be presented with a survey by volunteers who counted nearly 7,500 ash trees lining Lexington streets.

The odds look pretty good that, in five years or so, most could be dead or dying.

And that’s just the trees between streets and sidewalks. There are an estimated 500,000 ash trees in parks, private yards, parking lots, greenways and woods in Fayette County. Some are blue ashes that have been standing their ground since before there was a Lexington.

The estimate for the rest of Kentucky: more than 200 million ashes.

They are being attacked by the emerald ash borer, an insect that tunnels beneath the bark of ash trees and kills them.

The borer was found seven years ago near Detroit, and has wiped out countless millions of ashes on its way to Kentucky, where it appeared in May.

The cost to Lexington and Kentucky of losing its ash trees could be astronomical. Peter Barber with the state Division of Forestry has done rough calculations that each tree provides $54 each year in lower home utility bills, the carbon dioxide and other air pollutants it captures and the rain runoff it slows.

Individual homeowners are likely to notice costs that are easier to calculate, such as treating a tree versus having to replace it.

Conners, the Shady Lane resident, is prepared to spend about $400 every couple of years to have his tree treated with a chemical that will protect it from the borer.

His neighbor, Mike Flynn, has two large ashes, one very close to Conners’ driveway. Flynn hasn’t decided whether to treat them or pay to have dead trees removed.

“I am a bit ambivalent,” he said. “It’s between aesthetics or economics.”

Flynn mentioned that part of his deliberations will involve getting financial help from the city in removing trees, and the cost of treating them.

But, at current spending levels, there won’t be nearly enough money to spread around in the city’s cost-share program for removing street trees.

In the fiscal year that started in July, that fund had $10,000. Tim Queary, the city’s urban forester, sent letters to a handful of people who were on a waiting list, and the money was gone. He estimated that the 50-50 share program helped fewer than a dozen people.

The cost of treatment is all over the place. Conners says the $400 estimate he has may be on the high side, even for a large tree such as his. But it’s from an arborist he knows and trusts.

A second bid from someone he doesn’t know came in much lower, he said. That person was proposing to use a chemical that could be less effective. (Conners knows more than the average homeowner about this sort of thing; he’s a wood extension specialist at the University of Kentucky.)

Many factors can go into whether to treat a tree, and even when to start treatment, said Lee Townsend, a UK extension entomologist.

Ash borers fly around in May, but homeowners aren’t likely to see them because they start out high in trees. Most people won’t notice until a tree starts to lose leaves and limbs. The good news, Townsend said, is that treating a tree can be effective even if it already has up to 50 percent dieback from the insect damage.

For a relatively small tree, a homeowner can buy an insecticide at Lowe’s, Home Depot or Wal-Mart. Look for something that is for 12-month tree and insect control.

Trees larger than 15 inches in diameter will need to be treated by a professional, he said. Expect to pay about $10 per inch of the tree’s diameter.

Although the do-it-yourself method for small trees is cheaper, Townsend said, that’s not necessarily what you should do.

“For relatively small trees, if you’re going to be on the property for a long time, you may be better off to go ahead and replace the trees or just let nature take its course,” he said.

For a large tree, he said, the homeowner should consider the much larger expense of removing the tree, and the chance that it could fall and damage people or property. You might decide that treatment is the best choice in those cases, Townsend said.

Another thing to take into consideration: A house with large trees is more valuable, but a tree that needs regular treatments — or a tree that is likely to die — could be a drawback in a house that’s on the market.

Some treatments have to be repeated annually. Some last for two or even three years. Chemical treatments have become more effective, and there is long-term hope for a biological control — perhaps a bug that eats the bug.

But Townsend said he doesn’t expect any major breakthrough in the next five years.

Conners also is concerned about what will happen when ash trees along streets die. A city ordinance requires that the homeowner replant those trees. But Queary said that his office, which has three people, is too busy dealing with trees that are in danger of falling on people to handle missing trees.

The city also is going to have its hands full dealing with ash trees on public property, Queary said.

There is no way that most can be treated, which means a lot of removal costs. Green ash trees along Vine Street have been treated this year and probably will be treated again next year, he said. After the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, they might be replaced.

Karen Angelucci, the chairwoman of the Lexington Tree Board, organized volunteers to count street trees. She will make a pitch Tuesday for the city to step up its tree program to deal with the coming ash die-off.

She is worried about dead trees not being replaced, about homeowners being scammed by con artists offering weak chemical treatments or hap-hazard tree removal.

Angelucci said she has heard in recent months from people who don’t want to use chemicals on their trees, from people who want to do anything to save their trees, and from those who wouldn’t give it a second thought if all the ashes die.

The tree board’s role is to advise city officials on tree issues, but Angelucci said she doesn’t know what kind of response she will get Tuesday.

“I’m not going to ask them for money, I’m not going to ask them to come up with a solution, I’m just going to let them know what is going on,” she said.
Reach Andy Mead at (859) 231-3319 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3319.