Tree inventory on Western Technical College campus

Inventorying trees can be a tedious process, though it is an important one. You look up at individual trees, but then you look back on a forest.

Tree inventories are foundational parts of any urban forest program. That was the underlying message of the recent visit of DNR staff to Western Technical College in La Crosse where, at the invitation of landscape horticulture instructor David Lein, the DNR provided an introduction to tree inventories.

Because they document a community’s trees, inventories are living documents which help managers plan maintenance activities and anticipate problems and opportunities. Lein knew of their importance and thought of another opportunity: pursuing a tree inventory to satisfy Tree Campus USA standards.

Western Technical College is one of seven Tree Campus Schools in Wisconsin. One of the five standards required by the program is to engage students in a service learning project built around forestry. Cue tree inventories. But Lein sees inventories not only as a way to check off the project box, but to get students more familiar with their campus forest and develop new skills.

During the inventory discussion in Lein’s woody plant identification class, students brainstormed the purpose of inventories as well as their composition. Students then went outside to inventory a few trees, learning about tree identification, field measurement tools and common tree health concerns. Data was collected through a smart phone application.

When the campus inventory is complete, it will be submitted with Western Tech’s Tree Campus USA application. It will also be incorporated into the Wisconsin Community Tree Map, a compilation of tree inventories from around the state. That map helps assess the status of the state’s urban forest resources. The students will thus be working in their local forest, but their impact will be across Wisconsin.

Article written by Dan Buckler, Urban Forest Assessment Specialist

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