President's Perspective - Fall 2021

By Doug Wildman on Friday, October 1, 2021

President’s Perspective: "What a long strange trip it’s been" - Jerry Garcia

It was about 20 years ago when I attended a WCISA workshop on soils and I asked the speaker “What about using a granular polymer with mycorrhizal inoculant in the backfill when planting a tree in a freshly cut concrete sidewalk? Any assistance with tree survival, especially with an adjacent property owner’s uncertain watering schedule would surely be worth the small expense.” The speaker answered “...snake oil my friend. Save your money and plant more trees!” He went on to explain why in greater depth. Talking with others after the session, I changed my practices and my budget opened up. I left the workshop with a strong sense of appreciation for the WCISA community.

Now as president of WCISA, I am excited to start this year with planning for our WCISA 2022 Annual Conference in Oakland, California. Our conference will focus on the best URBAN forest practices in our high population centers, including a closer look at historic local fires and their ongoing prevention in Oakland’s Wildland Urban Interface. It is the Chapter’s intention to have our conference live and in-person, though we are also providing a virtual attendance option to make information more accessible to you.

Over the years I have met many of you through our Chapter regional workshops and conferences. We are the largest ISA chapter with nearly 3,500 members. I look forward to meeting more of you this year. Our Chapter includes diverse regions from the giant trees of the Pacific Northwest, to the lush tropical trees of the Hawaiian Islands, to the dramatic trees of the arid Southwest. Since our practices span this broad geographic area with diverse climates, WCISA needs to address a large range of topics to support the development of our members’ professional skills. Whether describing new technologies in tree climbing or sharing the science of how shifting USDA Hardiness Zones affects trees in the West, WCISA provides opportunities to grow your knowledge through educational programing and credentialing.

I want to listen to your feedback and understand your interests so WCISA can better meet your needs. Thank you for responding to our recent member survey. We have already worked many of your learning preferences and topical interests into our schedule this year. Since COVID-19, life and methods of educational delivery have changed. According to the member survey, most you prefer having educational opportunities in person, yet another significant set prefers virtual-only training. Some of you prefer a hybrid model - a combination of in-person and virtual trainings - which meets everyone’s needs and so we are moving in that direction.

Diversifying delivery methods of our educational materials is especially crucial to our members in remote areas, as well as those with less ability to travel - and it saves members’ time and money. Currently, we are enhancing our website to support a web-based library of educational opportunities and provide members with an index of articles in our publication Western Arborist to ease your search for specific content.

It is our committee members who have added so much to all of our educational programming. Three committees stand out to me with their current efforts. One stellar example is our Women in Arboriculture committee, who produce well-attended climbing and chainsaw safety workshops. Our Tree Care for Birds and Wildlife committee has already completed the final draft on Tree Care for Wildlife Best Management Practices - with Western Chapter ISA which now covers our entire region. And the Spanish Education Committee has ramped up their offerings of high-quality training workshops and programs. A sincere thank you to these and the other twenty-seven committees’ volunteer participants!

Our Western Chapter brings together our vast interests and shared knowledge. I have seen the strong teamwork that goes into making the Chapter highly functional, guided by our board members and its committees and managed by Epicenter Management.

For those who don’t know me, I have been working on gardens since I was in grade school and I’ve had my hands in the soil ever since. One of my strongest memories from high school is working on large estates, mowing endless lawns and pruning trees and shrubs. I enjoyed being outside working in gardens and earning what I thought was pretty good money. Later I installed landscapes and then worked at a retail nursery, which strengthened my understanding of construction and plant material, respectively. I received my degree in landscape architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, worked in design offices and became a licensed Landscape Architect in California.

While doing designs, my interest shifted to working with trees in public spaces. Having lived in San Francisco for many years, I began working in citywide greening efforts. This added to my understanding of trees as a component of a city’s infrastructure. I became an arborist with a landscape architecture background. Rather than build new developments, I’d rather improve the existing urban condition. I worked in building community gardens with young adults in low-income neighborhoods and I also worked with neighborhoods planting trees. I continued to work with these community-based, non-profit organizations for over 20 years, planting over 25,000 trees. Over years of applying the most up-to-date science I could find to plant trees and observing the trees I planted in many microclimates, my arboriculture knowledge grew. I am completely enamored with the science of trees and urban infrastructure. I have enjoyed my journey into arboriculture becoming an ISA-certified and TRAQ qualified arborist. Working with communities, in communities, for communities in public spaces with a focus on trees has been my passion.

My journey has been a long, strange trip for sure. Our Chapter has also had a wild journey over the past two years. COVID-19 has touched all of us in different ways. My condolences to those who have lost loved ones. I am fortunate to be healthy and working with an amazing group of leaders in all levels of our industry. I appreciate this opportunity to serve our chapter.


Doug Wildman

PS: Stay tuned for our First WCISA Annual Frisbee Golf Tournament next year in Oakland, California supporting research in arboriculture through the Britton Fund!