Clinton foresters keep city green and growing

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Saturday, July 14, 2012

— Art and his fellow foresters know their trees.

They know Clinton’s terrace trees and the park trees.

They know the variety and condition of each one.

Most importantly, they know the value trees give their city, from the spring beauty of the crab apple trees lining Allen Street to the shade and recreation value of park trees.

The village of Clinton might be the only Wisconsin town of its size with a forestation committee and two volunteer co-foresters.

Their work has won the foresters—and Clinton—awards from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council Urban and the distinction of being named a “Tree City USA” every year since 2003.

In December, village board member and forester Art Bushue was recognized by Gov. Scott Walker for all his work.

Bushue’s tree initiation began when he ran for and won a position on the village board in the 1990s.

In the spring of 1998, Bushue started an “adopt a plot” program that encouraged people to beautify different areas of the community.

At the end of that summer, a resident sent him a letter decrying the conditions of trees in the terraces.

That got him started. A forestry committee was formed, forestry ordinances adopted and Bushue and his committee members got to work.

Now, it’s all trees all the time.

The foresters sponsor poster and poetry contests, plant trees and give conservation lessons at the schools, write weekly articles for the local newspaper and hold tree care workshops. They apply for grants from the DNR and other agencies to fund their efforts.

The foresters, all volunteers, prune more than 55 crab apple trees lining the median on Allen Street and occasionally do work on trees in other public spots.

They’ve put together a plan for the arrival of emerald ash borer, the beetle that has already killed millions of ash trees in the Midwest and Canada.

Counting trees

One of the foresters’ duties is taking an inventory of all the trees in parks, on terraces and on school district land. They also inventory the ash and elm trees on private property—at least the ones they can see from sidewalks, Bushue said.

During a tree inventory, volunteers measure the diameter of the tree trunks and check their general health. Are there dead limbs or limbs rubbing against each other? Any signs of serious insect damage or disease?

Finally, the tree is rated “good”, “fair” or “dead.”

The inventory is about 100 pages long.

Elm and ash trees are of particular concern.

Most elms were decimated by Dutch elm disease in the 1960s and 1970s.

“We have about 20 elm trees left,” Bushue said.

The ash borer recently was found in Janesville, but it

hasn’t been spotted in Clinton—yet.

Why count trees?

Mike Maddox, horticulture educator for UW Extension and certified arborist, said the inventory work is crucial.

“It is difficult to manage anything if you don’t know something about it,” Maddox said. “Frequent inventories can also give you an idea of the health of the whole forest or individual trees.”

The key is managing from a “proactive position rather than a reactive one,” Maddox said.

Ideally, a city shouldn’t have more than 10 percent of a single kind of tree, Bushue said.

“If you have 20 percent ash trees in your community, and emerald ash borer come through, you’ll lose one in every five trees,” Bushue said.

Tree huggers

“Diversity of selection” was one of the many things Louis Schull has learned during his time as a volunteer forester.

Schull got his start about three years ago when he saw an ad in the local paper asking for volunteer help.

“I thought there was a need for it,” Schull said. “I knew the crab trees on Allen Street needed pruning.”

Schull said his fellow foresters are “great to work with.”

He’s especially impressed by Bushue’s relentless energy.

“I bet he puts in 30 hours a week,” Schull said.

Wayne Heglund joined because he had two ash trees in his yard and was concerned about emerald ash borer.

He has happy memories of growing up in the heavily wooded area of northern Wisconsin.

“I like camaraderie, the work,” Heglund said.

As for Bushue, he said, “I know in my heart that the work is important,” Bushue said.


Last updated: 4:57 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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