Wisconsin Tree Champions Lauded for Outstanding Community Service

By Sara Minkoff, DNR Urban Forestry Council liaison, Madison, sara.minkoff@wisconsin.gov, 608-669-5447

The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council has announced awards honoring those dedicated to protecting, preserving and increasing the number of trees that line city streets, fill community parks and beautify neighborhoods throughout Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council advises the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Forestry on the management of urban and community forest resources.

“Wisconsin plays a critical role in conservation, especially when it comes to trees,” said Linda Cadotte, Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council award committee chair. “These awards honor individuals, organizations and communities for their hard work and dedication to trees and the benefits they provide. Every year, the awards committee closely reviews the nominations. It’s an honor to learn more about all of the incredible work happening around our state that helps to support healthy community forests.”

This year’s recipients were announced at the 2021 Wisconsin Arborist Association/DNR Urban Forestry Conference, which was held virtually. The categories and winners are:

Distinguished Service
Recognizing an individual for outstanding contributions to urban forestry in Wisconsin.

This year’s honoree, Cindy Kohles, is an exceptional leader in Wisconsin’s urban forestry community and has served with distinction as the Village of Gays Mills volunteer forester for many years. Through her hard work and perseverance and the successful acquisition of multiple DNR urban forestry grants, the village’s tree program has grown under her energetic leadership. Kohles’ dedication and energy are exemplified in all her accomplishments. Her efforts have resulted in the village becoming a leader in small community tree care and regional urban forestry training in southwestern Wisconsin.

The Arbor Day Foundation has also announced that Gays Mills is the country’s smallest community to earn the Tree City USA Growth Award, with a population of 502.

Project Partnership
Recognizing outstanding projects utilizing partnerships to benefit our urban forests.

Restoration Of Our Trees Sheboygan (ROOTS) is a collaborative effort between the Sheboygan Rotary Club and Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, created to address emerald ash borer’s (EAB) threat to Sheboygan County’s rich forestry resources. The group was recognized for its effective partnerships with municipalities, businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals to enhance the area’s urban canopy. This year, ROOTS formed a new grant program for local governments in Sheboygan County to help them manage ash trees beyond putting new trees in the ground and focusing on planning and public awareness. This project has demonstrated that collaboration brings enormous advantages for both the urban forest and its people.

Recognizing the creativity, commitment and success of urban forestry efforts.

The Village of DeForest was recognized for its achievement in developing an innovative and effective process for utilizing local urban ash trees removed due to an EAB infestation in the construction of a municipal park building. The urban lumber salvaged from the trees has been used in three unique ways: Interior and exterior trim for the buildings and park picnic tables, enhancing the park’s buildings and recreational areas, and demonstrating their commitment to keep planting and caring for trees so the community can continue to have an urban canopy in the future. This project also serves as an example to other communities on how they can use their local wood resources to benefit their communities. DeForest has demonstrated that local urban wood use is not only possible but affordable and adds tremendous value to the community.

Lifetime Achievement
Recognizing outstanding contributions to urban forestry in Wisconsin demonstrated throughout a lifetime career.

John Neumann was recognized for his leadership in promoting and improving urban forestry, especially within his City of Beaver Dam. For the past 27 years, Neumann has worked to increase and diversify Beaver Dam’s tree canopy. He understands you can accomplish a lot more by leveraging partnerships. His connections with local businesses support Beaver Dam’s forestry program not only financially but with volunteers as well. His knowledge, experience and humble nature have made him the go-to tree expert across Dodge County. His efforts have included outreach and education, creating a city tree nursery, working on Arbor Day celebrations, and establishing a partnership with the local Walmart and Rotary Club to provide funding and volunteers for tree planting events. He always has the interest of trees in mind. His impact will endure, and his work will continue to provide multiple benefits to the residents of Beaver Dam for decades.

Recognizing an individual or elected official at the county or local level of government who has made an outstanding recent contribution to urban forestry in Wisconsin.

The Leadership award was presented to Dennis Fermenich, City Forester for the City of Greenfield. Fermenich’s vision and leadership have led Greenfield’s urban forestry program to the next level and played an indispensable role in the city’s positive transformation from “Concrete City” to “Tree City,” even gaining the designation as “Bee City” recently. His wealth of knowledge, collaborative mindset, and generosity in sharing his expertise, passion and dedication have positively impacted the development of a comprehensive community urban forest enjoyed by all residents. Fermenich is creating a legacy that future generations of residents will enjoy.

To learn more, see previous winners and nominate your community tree champion, visit the DNR’s website. The deadline for 2022 nominees is Oct. 30, 2021. However, community tree champions can be nominated at any time.

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