President's Perspective - Spring 2018

By Rick Gessner on Sunday, April 1, 2018

Spring is here and the annual conference is just around the corner. The conference program is set and it looks to be a good one. There will be a variety of traditional topics and familiar faces along with some new presenters and subjects.

After an extremely warm and unusually dry winter in Northern California, most of our trees have already leafed out—much earlier than normal. So, I think that our keynote speaker, Lynda Mapes, an environmental journalist from Seattle, will be quite timely. Her talk recounts the year she spent working at the Harvard Forest on, what she dubbed: the Witness Tree Project. It’s a detailed look at how a single tree, a 100-year old red oak, responded to gradual environmental changes over its lifetime. She documented the subtle changes in growth patterns that have occurred as our climate has been changing. Lynda writes in her acclaimed book (Witness Tree) that this oak bears witness to climate changes that have been occurring each year. Her talk reveals the historical, cultural, and ecological connections trees have, and how important they are to our welfare, and to the ecosystem we’re connected to. As Lynda puts it: our lives and communities are intertwined with the trees around us and climate change threatens that connection. We’re entering a new era that presents some tough challenges for arborists managing urban forests in each of the four states within WCISA. These challenges range from warmer, dryer and longer summers, new invasive pests and diseases, critical water shortages, and massive wild fires near urban centers, etc.

During the last WCISA board meeting in Los Angeles, members of the Britton Fund board met for their annual meeting. The Britton Fund Board is composed of seven people, five of whom are WCISA past presidents, and I’ll soon make the sixth. After ten years of operation, the Britton Fund has produced at least six publications and funded five research projects, some of which are still on-going. This year there will be a request for proposals for more research projects. The fund distributes about $30,000 annually for projects. The Britton Fund has also supported several educational programs. Catherine Naegele, has agreed to manage the educational projects in the coming years. Educational accomplishments include supporting the Tree Circus, tree plantings at schools, and the purchase two new “Treeture” character costumes, Dr. Vinestein and Professor Arbor E. Tum. In addition, a new coloring book is also in the works and should be available next year, and we plan to use it for the Tree Circus and other educational programs. Most of the funding is provided through four events: the annual Britton Fund Ride, WorkDays, and the auction along with Stump the Chump at the annual conference. So, most of the money supporting the Britton Fund comes from WCISA members. This support has been invaluable to the Britton Fund helping to advance its mission:  encourage arboricultural research and promote community education. I challenge our members to use their connections and influence to reach out to their clients and communities to spread the message that trees and professional tree care are important for everyone’s well-being.

My tenure as WCISA president will be nearly over by the time you read this. I will have one last message in the next Western Arborist to sum things up, before we welcome Carol Kwan, from Hawaii, as our next chapter president. I want to encourage members to participate in the chapter. As our membership grows, educational programming is expanded, and new services are added, the need for more volunteers increases. There are three new committee chairs who could use a few more enthusiastic members. I’m excited about the reinvigoration of various committees and the new leadership expanding throughout the chapter.

Rick Gessner