Forest service considers Saluda for Tree City USA

Published 6:06 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Forest ranger gives annual report to county

The N.C. Forest Service is interested in qualifying the City of Saluda as a Tree City USA destination.

Polk County Forest Ranger Brian Rogers attended Saluda’s May 13 meeting and reviewed the program, saying he feels Saluda would be a good fit for the program.

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The program is similar to Play City USA, which Saluda has been designated as well. Tree City USA is a recognition based program that promotes trees and maintenance of trees in the city. The designation was developed by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA forest service and the National Association of State Foresters.

Rogers said the forest service would write an urban forestry plan for Saluda and the city would have to have a public tree care ordinance and must designate or establish a tree board or department and give that board/department the responsibility for managing and maintaining the urban forest. If awarded Tree City USA, Saluda would be given a sign in recognition of the work that’s being done, Rogers said.

“Everybody wants to be associated with healthy trees,” said Rogers. “The trees are healthier and it provides good volunteer opportunities for the citizens.”

Another standard for the program is to have an annual budget of $2 per capita. Rogers said the last census put Saluda at 715 residents, so Saluda would have to spend approximately $1,400 on trees, but most likely Saluda is already exceeding that figure. The funding includes for mulching, pruning and regular maintenance, he said.

Another requirement would be for Saluda to have an Arbor Day celebration annually, where the mayor would have a proclamation for Arbor Day and a celebration.

Rogers said if Saluda is interested in the program, he could start the necessary steps to get certified.

Commissioner Lynn Cass said she thinks it would be important for Saluda to be a part of the program.

Rogers said the city could start developing a tree board, which could be a department in town, a volunteer agency or a garden club. Commissioners suggested the Saluda Community Land Trust be designated as the board.

Annual report

Rogers also visited the Polk County Board of Commissioners on May 20 to give the forest service’s annual report.

“I wanted to give a rundown of what we’ve been accomplishing,” Rogers told county commissioners. “I think it’s important to let the county know what kind of service is being done and what kind of services we offer.”

Services from the N.C. Forest Service include management plans, timber exams, financial incentives for property owners, technical assistance, forestation, seedling sales, a stewardship program, marketing advice, urban forestry assistance, fire prevention/control, insect and disease surveillance, information and education.

Rogers said the forest service has written 37 management plans for 1,556 acres in Polk County with cost share plans totaling $4,656 this year. The forest service did a timber exam at Alexander’s Ford this year for the county to make a management plan. The forest service has also done grinding and worked with landowners to open up and reduce the risk of fires occurring on their properties, Rogers said.

The forest service completed tree planting on 163 acres of private land and conducted three prescribed burnings on private lands to reduce the risk of wild fires.

In the 2013 fiscal year, the forest service responded to 20 fires, with 12 homes threatened, two structures damaged and one structure destroyed. The forest service issued 13 warning tickets, 20 false alarms and had an average of a 12-minute response time.

Rogers said in November, the forest service responded to a 20-acre fire at Camp Bob Harden in Saluda with 12 structures threatened. The forest service worked with the camp and did prescribed burning on 70 acres to protect the property in the future.

A forest fire caused one structure to be destroyed in Tryon and a 15-acre fire in Green Creek had eight to 10 structures threatened, Rogers said.

Rogers also discussed a program where the forest service assists local fire departments in obtaining equipment, including a federal program where the Mill Spring Fire Department obtained on old military vehicle for free to use for off road areas.

Rogers also mentioned the forest service’s new brown bag lunches done at the Ag Center once a month. One program was on the topic of selling timber, another was held on caring for trees and earlier this month was a program on managing forests.

The forest service’s total budget this year is $138,844 with 60 percent funded by the state and 40 percent funded by the county.