By Bill ArmstrongApril 24, 2009
FORT RILEY, Kan. - The Arbor Day Foundation has named Fort Riley a Tree City USA community for the 22nd year in a row for its commitment to community forestry.
Tree City USA is sponsored by the foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.
Communities receiving Tree City USA recognition have established a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
A good tree program has added many benefits to Fort Riley workers and residents, said John Barbur, lead management agronomist with the Directorate of Public Works. Trees reduce heating costs in winter and air conditioning costs in summer. They also provide sun shade and wind protection.
"Having trees in a cantonment area provides more of a home feeling rather than a place that is more sterile and does not have trees," Barbur said.
Instead of sticking to one plan for decades, Fort Riley's tree program has had to be very flexible over the years to maintain a healthy community forest.
"There have been times in the past that we have made some big efforts to plant trees, but in the last number of years, we've focused our attention on trying to maintain the trees that we have," Barbur said.
Just maintaining strong, mature trees has been a challenge on post. A December 2007 ice storm caused an estimated $1 million in tree damage at Fort Riley, Barbur said.
In past years, other natural factors such as insect infestation have cut a swath through the post's tree program. American elm trees lined streets on Main Post nearly a century ago. The trees were thick, stretching over the streets.
Their branches touched those from the other side for an arbor effect. That landscaping changed once Dutch elm disease came to Fort Riley.
"Dutch elm disease in the late 1950s started killing these elm trees," he said. "We have some left, but not very many."
The post's battle with tree predators continues today, he said. One example of a modern threat to trees is a microscopic worm known as a pinewood nematode, which feasts on pine trees across Fort Riley. The worm gets to trees by traveling in the mouth of a Pine Sawyer beetle.
"As the beetle chews on the needles of a tree, these little nematodes come out of its mouth and get into that tree," Barbur said. "They clog the vessels in a tree that provide the water and nutrients for the tree and those pines usually die very quickly once they're infested."
A tree inventory performed on post in the mid 1990s revealed about 40,000 trees, he said.
The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit, environmental education organization of nearly one million members. Its mission is to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.