Tree assessment, planning strategy presented to city council

Trees probably don’t pop to the top of many lists of community assets upon first consideration.Posted Feb. 21, 2014


ACR Editor

Trees probably don’t pop to the top of many lists of community assets upon first consideration. But, especially on the prairie, trees are valuable for a wide variety of reasons aside from aesthetics.

There are 535 tree representing 31 different species in Hettinger, according to a report prepared by Joel Nichols, community Forestry Specialist for the North Dakota Forest Service.

In the summer of 2012 the NDFS began establish and executing rapid community forest assessments through the “Community Threat Assessment Protocol “ project, or CTAP.

“This effort to establish a new assessment protocol to response to increasing concerns of forest insects and diseases in North Dakota,” Nichols told the Hettinger City Council when he presented his report during its meeting.

These assessments are aimed at giving current information about community forest resources.

There are more American Elm Trees in Hettinger (20.7 percent) than any other species.

This is a very high percentage, as many of this species has succumbed to Dutch elm disease in neighboring states.

“Ideally one species of tree will not be more than 10 percent of the total community forest population,” said Nichols. “However, the American Elms here are very healthy and generally in good condition.”

In addition to being pretty and providing shade, trees are a very important part of any communities infrastructure, and care should be made when selecting the species, finding the right planting site, and knowing how large the tree will be in 30 or 40 years.

“When planning subdivisions, for example, it is important to know what kinds of trees will grow well in the climate,” said Nichols. Where the root systems go (down deep or shallow and spread out) how fast they will grow and site choice are questions that should be decided before trees are planted.

Species that have spreading, shallow roots and can cause breakage in sidewalks, foundations and pipes. Planted too close to a house they can damage roofs, windows and siding during storms – in addition to foundations if not far enough away. Too close to power lines or other overhead utilities can cause dangerous situations if branches break. Too close to the street, especially on corners, can impair line of sight for drivers.

Replacement of trees

Citywide, a total replacement of trees would not be cheap.

“As the trees stand now, the same sizes, species and condition, the trees are valued at $825,503,” said Nichols.

This monetary value can be put on the trees because of the energy, air quality, storm water, CO2 and aesthetic benefits community trees provide.

“In Hettinger, the community forest provides total annual benefits of $36,351,” said Nichols. The community can increase benefits by improving overall tree health and planting more large, canopy shade trees.” The rule of thumb for community forestry is when there are approximately 200 trees per street mile, the town can be considered fully stocked.

“In Hettinger there are about 14 miles of road,” said Nichols. “That means a stock rate of 38.2 trees per street mile [a stocking rate of 19.1 percent,] or 2,800 trees.”

A tree is considered mature when it has diameter of 12 inches. In Hettinger less than a quarter of the trees are this size or larger.

“Planting species appropriate trees in the right locations every year is the way to increase trees,” he said.

For the Beauty of Hettinger is a community group which formed several years ago to bring the aesthetic benefits of trees to downtown Hettinger. The group planted trees on Main Street, and waters and maintains them and the flower baskets that come out each spring.

The early snowstorm Hettinger experienced in October did some severe damage to trees all over town, bring down many branches. On the up side, however, it did clear out some dead limbs with the weight of the heavy, wet snow.

It also made residents award of the trees on their property, and where they are located in relation to power and other utility lines as branches brought some down when they succumbed to the snow.

Some of the trees on Main Street, especially some of the smaller ones, have been lost to vandalism as well, and will need to be replaced.

In Nichols’ report he gives information on what types of trees would be good replacements, in addition to various funding possibilities the city could explore.