Wisconsin Tree Leaders Recognized For Exceptional Community Service

The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council recently announced its annual awards honoring those dedicated to protecting, preserving and increasing the number of trees that line city streets, fill community parks and beautify neighborhoods throughout the state.

The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council advises the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on managing urban and community forest resources.

Governor Tony Evers was on hand to recognize award recipients. / Photo Credit: Joanne Edmundson

“These awards recognize individuals, associations and partnerships that play an imperative role in the celebration of urban forestry excellence within the state of Wisconsin,” said Lee Fredericks, Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council Award Committee Chair. “The passion, commitment and efforts of this year’s award winners have vastly contributed to making our urban forests a highlight in communities for decades to come.”

This year’s recipients were announced at the 2024 Wisconsin Arborist Association/DNR Urban Forestry Conference. The categories and winners are:

Project Partnership

The Project Partnership Award recognizes outstanding projects that utilize partnerships as a means of providing services or benefits to the urban forest.

  • Wachtel Tree Science, Johnson’s Nursery and Ronald McDonald House Charities were recognized for their time, trade expertise and professional skills dedicated to this project since 2008. Wachtel Tree Science and Johnson’s Nursery’s commitment to planting and maintaining the trees at Ronald McDonald House Charities ensures that visitors have a relaxing environment to surround themselves with, including a well-maintained landscape. This project is an excellent example of how landscape and nature can act as a comforting source of health and healing, especially for those enduring hardships.


The Innovation Award recognizes the creativity, commitment and success of urban forestry efforts.

  • This award recognizes Jordan Wilke and the city of Mauston’s Living Food Pantry. Fruit-bearing trees and an irrigation system were strategically planted in a city park, making fresh fruit accessible to the public. This multi-phase project is designed for future expansion to address the ongoing needs of this area, classified as a food desert. This visionary initiative has breathed new life into a struggling urban space and set a shining example of sustainable urban forestry and community engagement.

Lifetime Achievement

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes outstanding contributions to urban forestry in Wisconsin demonstrated throughout a lifetime career.

  • Christopher Birkett was recognized for his career dedicated to improving the community of Rochester, Wisconsin, as the director of public works. His accomplishments include conducting a tree inventory, developing a program to manage problem trees and increasing tree diversity. He took his commitment a step further and established an arboretum to address a multitude of issues in the community. The work that he has done in the village of Rochester will ensure that future residents can enjoy trees for decades to come.


The Leadership Award recognizes 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.

  • Jon Crain received a leadership award for his leadership in increasing the inventory of city-owned trees, removing acres of invasive species, restoring wetlands, improving species diversity, securing multiple grants, developing the GIS for forestry, establishing a nursery and donating countless volunteer hours. He also engages the next generation by working with school and community groups to instill an appreciation of trees and their benefits.
  • Julia Arata-Fratta also received a leadership award. As mayor of the city of Fitchburg, she understands the vital social and ecosystem services tree canopy provides, as well as the mental and physical health benefits. While serving as an alderperson, she guided the draft tree preservation ordinance through city committees. Once elected mayor, she continued to champion the ordinance and brought it to the common council, which passed it with a unanimous vote. As the city continues to develop at a rapid pace, this ordinance will give policymakers the information they need to incorporate existing trees in the development process.

Learn more about the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council annual awards, see previous winners and submit a nomination. The deadline for 2025 nominees is Oct. 31, 2024.

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