OCAA News March-April 2011

So what is on our industry agenda for 2011? Increasing tree canopy cover? Selecting native trees for planting more often? Prolonging the life span of trees as an important carbon-sink? Saving the world? OK, maybe not the last statement. What is it we do as arborist? Let me put it a different way – what is our responsibility and how are we going to achieve these goals?

We live and work in a world of compromise. Often considerable compromise. Each of us is asked regularly to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and help trees which are impacted by their environment. People count on us for this because trees matter. We love what we do, and likely another line of work would not resonate with many of us. I suspect however you may sometimes ask how fair is it to be “responsible” for a large piece of the living environment when you haven’t had much say in how that environment came to be or where it is going.

If we are expected daily to provide solutions for tree health then it follows, doesn’t it, that we should take every opportunity to express our views of how future development should transpire. 

Let’s look at the legacy of our development process. I’ll cut to the chase. While we are all focused on our profession and dealing with the reality of the deterioration of our urban forests, this is what else is happening. Loss of drinking water quality, loss of terrestrial and aquatic habitat, erosion and sediment problems, storm water management challenges, continued development of wetlands (70% are already gone), significant reductions in biodiversity and increased agricultural use of pesticides due to GMO pesticide friendly crops. We often sit quietly on the sidelines as yet another large scale development gets underway in the exact same fashion as the developments of the past 50 years. Is it reasonable to expect future trees to fare better than our existing trees? Where is the progress? If nothing changes, how can we expect to achieve our goals?

There are whole neighbourhoods of city owned and private trees which we are depending on lasting for generations that as we speak are meeting an early demise one by one as they heave up the public and private infrastructure around them and are removed from the landscape because of something as basic as the lack of suitable site and soil specifications. This is but one example. Where is the sustainability here?

Let’s consider redefining arboriculture as a profession that not only cares for existing trees, but a profession that takes an active part in directing the process of development from today onward into the future. How far are we willing to expand the definition to make a positive difference in our urban forests? I spoke of terrestrial and aquatic habitat, water quality, erosion and sediment and storm water management along with our urban forests. What serves one, serves them all. This is how nature works. There is no separation. Caring for the urban forest requires an ecosystem management approach. 

What knowledge do we need to possess to create change? Let’s not let the profession of arboriculture become confining to the extent that we can’t see the large picture. We each need to expand our profession as far as each of us is able to make it possible to achieve change. Call ourselves arborists, but understand that we need to be multi-disciplinarians. If this means a different definition of arboriculture, that’s not much to ask. We interact with politicians, architects, engineers and developers daily. We have influence, so let’s use it. That way we can keep planning for increased tree canopy cover and all the other goals which matter to us. Take a night school course in a related discipline and you just expanded arboriculture. Let’s stay the “go-to” people for trees and their environment. Let’s re-brand ourselves.

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Regardless of how we define this industry, two individuals stand as steadfast examples of commitment to this profession we all cherish. Both Ken Lund and Ruurd van de Ven’s dedication to arboriculture cannot be easily expressed in words. They love what they do and it shows. Ruurd and Ken are founding board members of the OCAA and have worked endlessly to include everyone in the industry. Both have chosen to step down as directors to encourage the participation of others. They have always been committed to the ideal of sharing knowledge and this is the cornerstone of OCAA. On behalf of all OCAA members past and present, I give wholehearted thanks for that commitment.

Jon Arnold and I (Chris Morrison) have been elected to join the board. It’s always good to know you have a resource in Ken and Ruurd. We will continue to pursue ideas and directions which serve our members.        
— Chris Morrison


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