Tree champions lauded for community service

Five individuals and organizations earned recognition from the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council for their efforts to protect, preserve and increase the number of trees that line city streets, fill community parks and beautify neighborhoods throughout the state.

The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council advises the Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry on the best ways to manage urban and community forest resources. The awards recognize and thank individuals and organizations for their work and commitment to the trees, plantings, habitat and economic benefits they provide, said Kristin Gies, co-chair of the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council’s award committee. Reviewing the nominations each year is a wonderful way to see the great things happening around Wisconsin and to support healthy community forests. Following are recipients of the awards, which were announced recently at the 2017 Wisconsin Arborist Association/DNR conference in Green Bay.

Distinguished Service: Sean Gere, 6-time state champion climber, ISA certified arborist, arboriculture researcher/educator, member of the American Society of Consulting Arborists, the Tree Care Industry Association, and Wisconsin Urban Wood and owner of Gere Tree Care in Madison, Wisconsin, received this award for contributions to urban forest health, safety of arborists, and community education and awareness. Sean has been involved in research and teaching on topics related to tree care, urban ecosystems, and safety for members of the tree care industry, and providing programming for community members to support his commitment to helping people and the environment exist together in mutually beneficial ways.

Project Partnership: The Popple Trail Invasive Species Removal Project in Webb Park, Reedsburg earned this award for the excellent demonstration of a partnership between local businesses, service and recreational clubs, middle and high school students, city government, nonprofits, athletes, and other community members working together to improve an urban corridor for increased recreational and educational opportunities. The effort involved numerous community groups of all ages working together to remove invasive buckthorn and plant trees to restore the urban forest and enhance wildlife habitat.

Innovations in Urban Forestry: This category includes two winners. Adam Alves, Dane County Forestry Specialist, was recognized for creating sustainable partnerships providing outreach and educational events around arboriculture including climbing events for kids of all abilities. He is the founder of the Dane County Regional Arborist Group dedicated to sharing knowledge and skills involved in urban forestry and to promoting arboriculture as an exciting and viable career option. WholeTrees, a Madison-based architectural design and building products company that brings low-value forest byproducts into high-value building markets, received the second award in this category for their use of whole urban local trees in the construction of Festival Foods at the Galaxie in Madison. This project involved extended collaborations and generated income for local businesses employing researchers, engineers, builders, and foresters throughout the Madison metropolitan area, paved the way for continued partnerships between cities and local businesses to tackle issues in urban forestry, and demonstrated new ways to utilize local wood for building.

Lifetime Achievement: Dick Rideout received this award in recognition of his leadership, organizational skills, and dedication promoting and improving urban forestry which has had a lasting impact on arboriculture in Wisconsin, the Midwest and across the country. Dick served as Wisconsin’s first urban forestry coordinator, and until his retirement in 2015, his career focused on ensuring the future of healthy urban forests in Wisconsin and the US. His legacy includes such programs as the WI DNR Urban Forestry Grants Program, Champion Tree Program, Urban Forestry Awards, and engagement in the Tree City, Tree Line, and Tree Campus Award programs and Arbor Day observances and activities across Wisconsin.

Interested in previous winners? Have ideas for nominees? The deadline for 2018 nominees is October 31, 2017. However, you can nominate your community tree champions any time. Learn more by visiting and searching for the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council.

CONTACTS: Sara Minkoff, Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council liaison, 608-264-6039,; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084,

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