Act fast to keep your Tree City, Bird City, and Bee City status! Due dates are as follows:
- Tree City USA (TCUSA) applications are due Dec. 31
- Bird City Wisconsin renewal applications are due Jan. 31 (new applications can be submitted anytime)
- Bee City USA renewal applications are due Feb. 28 (new applications can be submitted anytime)
These three programs are each managed by a different nonprofit, but they have a lot in common. In fact, a single project could be used to help meet all three programs’ requirements!
The original program, Tree City USA (TCUSA), is an initiative of the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. TCUSA has been greening up cities and towns across America since 1976. It provides a framework for communities to build sustainable urban forestry programs, providing direction, technical assistance and public awareness. To achieve recognition, a community must fulfill four criteria: 1) tree board or department; 2) tree care ordinance; 3) community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita; and 4) an arbor day observance and proclamation (waived this year).
Wisconsin is a national leader in the TCUSA program. According to a recent summary by the Arbor Day Foundation, Wisconsin has the second highest number of TCUSA communities in the nation (195), the fourth highest number of TCUSA growth awards (17), and a 97.95% recertification rate. The majority of Wisconsin residents (59.42%) live in a TCUSA community, and $49,711,739 was spent on urban forestry management in 2019. Wisconsin is also proud to recognize ten Tree Line USA utilities, ten Tree Campus Higher Education schools, and two Tree Campus Healthcare facilities.
Bird City Wisconsin was created by a coalition of Wisconsin conservation and birding organizations in 2009. The DNR helped Carl Schwartz, founding director of Bird City Wisconsin, launch the program. Modeled on TCUSA, Bird City supports communities in their efforts to protect and manage green space, educate citizens, build nesting structures, landscape with native plants, reduce threats to birds and generally make urban areas friendlier for both birds and people. The program currently has 111 registered members. To receive Bird City status, an applicant must achieve at least eight points across six different categories (see their website for details). For example, in Category 2, Community Forest Management, a community can achieve one point for having been awarded Tree City USA status and another point for attending the WDNR’s Wisconsin Community Tree Management Institute.
Founded in 2012, Bee City USA is an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. It aims to protect pollinators by raising awareness, enhancing habitats and celebrating achievements. The program endorses a set of commitments, defined in a resolution, for creating sustainable habitats for pollinators. Incorporated cities, towns, counties and communities are invited to make these commitments and become certified as a Bee City USA affiliate. There are currently six bee cities in Wisconsin: Appleton, Elm Grove, Greenfield, Hales Corners, Madison and Mequon.