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Kansas Forest Service

Kansas Forest Service
2610 Claflin Road
Manhattan, KS 66502

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Community Forestry FAQ

The following is a listing of commonly asked questions with answers. If you are unable to find an answer to your questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

What is Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF)?

U&CF focuses on the economic, environmental and social relationships that develop between people and plants within a community. In Kansas the preference has been to refer to this program as the Community Forestry Program as the majority of the general public live in smaller, more rural communities. As a profession, Community Forestry is the planting and management of trees and green-spaces on publicly-owned properties, such as parks, greenbelts, natural areas and right-of-ways (city easements). While there may be many definitions of U&CF, the general goal is to create safe, healthy, sustainable and more livable communities by integrating trees and plants into our cities and towns.

What does a Community Forester do?

A community forester establishes, protects, and manages individual trees and forest systems within a community or urban environment. They also work closely with non-profit groups, businesses, and city government to promote the benefits of trees in community areas as well as provide technical assistance, training and guidance. Community foresters are often employed by county or state government and typically provide assistance on a county or regional level.

The Kansas Forest Service provides community forestry assistance through the Community Forestry Program. To find out which forester services your area please visit the District Map.

What services and assistance does the Community Forestry Program provide?

District and Community Foresters provide assistance to communities by targeting four main priority areas: technical assistance; education and training; resource development; and public awareness. The Community Forestry Program also administers programs in Kansas such Tree City USA, Arbor Day Poster Contest, Arborists Training and Champion Tree Program.

How can I become more involved with community forestry in my community?

Begin by contacting your Mayor, City Administrator, City Clerk or City Forester and see what your city or town is already doing for trees. Remember that the parks, public works, planning, engineering and community development departments all make decisions that affect trees. Then, seek out local partnerships such as tree and shrub nurseries, the county research extension office, Master Gardeners' organization, civic groups (such as Rotary and Lion's Clubs), and other environmental organizations, such as watershed or wildlife enhancement groups. You might also consider contacting a neighboring community that is already certified as a Tree City USA.

When you've talked to a variety of people, you may want to start a volunteer tree board, help your community work toward Tree City USA status, address city or county council meetings, etc. 

Another excellent resource on-line is the Simple Act of Planting a Tree.

You can also contact your local District or Community Forester for further assistance and resources in assistance in beginning a locally led volunteer based tree board.

What is Tree City USA?  Can my community be a Tree City USA?


Tree City USA is a recognition program for cities and towns. It was started by the National Arbor Day Foundation to help communities better manage their trees. Four criteria have to be met to achieve Tree City USA status:

  1. There must be a volunteer tree board or someone on staff to address tree-related issues.
  2. There must be a tree ordinance.
  3. Two dollars per capita must be put toward tree planting and care.
  4. The community needs to celebrate Arbor Day.

These might seem like steep requirements, but you'd probably be surprised at how qualified your community already is. Tree City USA is flexible enough to allow the largest cities and the smallest towns to participate. The program is open to all incorporated cities, towns and military bases across the United States. For more information on Tree City USA or the National Arbor Day Foundation, please visit

What is Arbor Day?  When is it?

Arbor Day is America's National Tree Holiday, the day we set aside to plant ceremonial trees, educate children about the importance of trees, and honor the important role trees play in our daily lives. The first Arbor Day took place on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska. It was the brainchild of Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1902), a Nebraska journalist and politician. Today, National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April. In Kansas, we also celebrate Arbor Day on the last Friday in April. For more information on Arbor Day, visit the National Arbor Day Foundation website to find a complete list of all state Arbor Day celebrations, a list of state trees (Kansas's is the cottonwood) and a variety of other notable tree facts, figures, and advice. Contact your City Parks or Forestry Department and ask them what events in your community celebrate Arbor Day.

What is arboriculture? What is an arborist?


Arboriculture is the art and science of the proper care of woody trees, shrubs and vines as conducted by an arborist.

An arborist is a tree care industry professional who is versed in the care of trees. An arborist should be knowledgeable of the safest and most current tree care practices, as well as the fundamentals of tree biology and physiology. 

The Kansas Arborists Association, KAA, is a statewide association of arborists who are dedicated to the advancement of sound arboricultural practices in Kansas.

The ISA is the International Society of Arboriculture. The ISA is a worldwide association of arborists who are dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and pro per tree care practices through continuing research, education and networking opportunities. The organization conducts an arborist certification program in order to raise the bar for knowledge and professionalism within the tree care industry.

If you are thinking of hiring an arborist, be certain that they are currently licensed, insured and ISA or KAA certified. The International Society of Arboriculture can be found at

What is the Arborist's Training Course?

The Arborists Training Course is a week long training course put on by the Kansas Arborists Association with support from the Kansas Forest Service. The purpose of the course is to educate and train people who work with trees. This week-long school was developed primarily to instruct potential or existing tree maintenance workers, tree board members, park managers, ground maintenance personnel, and administrators to learn about proper tree care. The course provides participants with training in professional tree care while meeting the basic requirements for certification with the Kansas Arborists Association. Typically held in Manhattan during the 1st or 2nd week of October, the course has been an annual training event with over 1,550 participants over the last 36 years.

For more information on the course contact Tim McDonnell, Community Forestry Coordinator, KFS or Dr. Charles Long, Executive Secretary, KAA.

What is the difference between a consulting arborist and a commercial arborist?

The main difference is that a consulting arborist will spend typically more time on a tree or site assessment, may perform diagnostic testing, and go into much greater detail than a commercial arborist, who specializes in the physical care of your trees. The consultant's product is usually a report of findings and recommendations, whereas the product of a commercial arborist is the pruning, removal, cabling or other treatment performed for a tree. Some private arborists may be both consulting and commercial arborists because both can evaluate the health and condition of trees. 

You can find out more information about consulting arborists by visiting the American Society of Consulting Arborists.

My tree was recently damaged in a storm, what can I do now? 

Ice storms are fairly common events. Severe ice storms can affect trees, but trees can also be remarkably resilient. Healthy trees that have not suffered major structural damage, such as split trunks and broken crowns, may recover with time. In winter, trees are dormant and further injury by insects and disease is less likely than if the injury occurs during the growing season. Recovery depends on the health of the tree and the extent of the damage; healthy trees with few damaged branches should recover and in time the crown may even appear normal. 

For more information please read the following articles: 

Caring for Ice-Damaged Trees
Tree Care After Storms
Trees and Ice Storms

There is a leaning tree in my yard. I am concerned that it may fall over. What should I do?

Leaning trees are not necessarily a problem. If the tree is growing naturally at an angle it may have a very low risk of failure, as long as there are no other problems with the tree, such as defects, injuries, decay, disease, etc. It is more likely a potentially dangerous situation if the tree had been growing upright and has shifted to a leaning position over time or after a storm. Call a KAA or ISA Certified Arborist to examine the situation and discuss the appropriate action.

My tree has a bunch of mushrooms growing on and around it, should I be concerned?

Yes! The presence of mushrooms, or fruiting bodies of fungus, are typically an indication of wood decay associated with your tree. This is of special concern if you see the fungus around the base of the tree or along the roots extending into the soil. The fungus feed on the wood of the tree and weaken the structural integrity of the tree. Such trees have the potential to fail without warning and should be taken very seriously. Call a KAA or ISA Certified Arborist to examine the situation and discuss the appropriate action.

Are some tree species more prone to decay and failure more so than others?

In general, the faster a tree grows, the weaker the wood is and more prone to failure or decay. Several species stand out in Kansas with distinct failure patterns. Green ash, hackberry and silver maple are three species in particular that have a tendency to develop multiple defects and have a higher probability of failure as they mature. This does not mean that these are "bad" or dangerous trees necessarily and that they should not be planted. It does mean that large or mature trees, in particular the species listed above, should have a periodic inspection done to check for defects or other potential problems. Contact a local KAA or ISA certified forester for further assistance.

My tree looks sick. What should I use to fertilize it?

Fertilization is not always the first option, because fertilizer is often unnecessary. In many cases, fertilizing your tree may create more problems rather than what it solves. To know what your tree needs for fertilizer, you need to know what is lacking in the soil. This can be determined by performing a basic soil test. The results of the test will tell you exactly how much and what kind of fertilizer you'll need. For trees, slow-release fertilizers are preferred. In Kansas, information on soil testing can be found through the Kansas State University (KSU) Research and Extension.Check their website for an office location in your county or visit the Public Soil Testing website.

How should I water my trees?

All trees benefit from long, slow watering. A controlled, gradual release allows the water to thoroughly soak in and filter deeply into the soil. Watering this way will improve your tree's drought-tolerance during extended periods of hot, dry weather. Soaker hoses are a very convenient option. Another technique is to punch a few tiny holes in the bottoms of five-gallon buckets. By filling them with water and placing them around your trees, the water can slowly seep into the soil. Irrigation for turf-grass will also help your trees; however, turf waterings are typically shorter, faster, and more frequent - the opposite from which trees truly benefit. Knowing the tree species and the soil type, in addition to using a rain gauge, will help you learn how to properly water your tree.

What are those large green bags placed around newly planted trees on the streetside?

The bags are often referred to by their trademark name of "Treegator Bag." They are plastic bladders placed around a newly planted tree, zipped up, and filled with water. The bag slowly releases water into the soil over about a two-day time period. The bags are easy to use, reusable, and effective at helping a newly planted tree establish itself. They can be purchased at most home and garden stores.

My tree died suddenly. What happened?


There are many things that could have contributed to the death of your tree, although it is unlikely that it "suddenly" died over the course a few days. For months, the tree has probably been showing signs of stress that only a trained expert in tree care would recognize. Because trees typically respond very slowly to stress, you have likely witnessed the final phase of decline for that particular tree. That being said there are occasions when trees do die suddenly in cases such as where herbicides are improperly applied or gas leaks occur, but this is definitely not the norm.

My home was built within the last three to seven years. The trees looked fine when I moved in but now are looking very unhealthy. Why?

There is a good chance that the trees were not properly protected during your home's construction. Trees are highly susceptible to construction damage, yet often they will not exhibit signs of stress or decline for a period of three to seven years or longer after construction. The stress response time in construction-damaged trees is a function of the site conditions, degree of injury, and the health and size of the tree. 

What is the best thing to do to help a newly planted tree survive?


Newly planted trees usually take two years to get established, which means they need some care during this time period. In the absence of regular rainfall, a newly planted tree will need water about three times per week. To be most effective, apply about 15 gallons per watering with a watering can or plastic bucket in the evening. During prolonged dry periods (you'll typically see cracks in the soil and lawns will brown out during these times), place your hose at a very low volume (a trickle) at the base of the tree and let it run until the water no longer penetrates the soil and begins to run off the top. This usually takes two to four hours.

Just as important as watering, make sure that there is a mulch ring around the base of the tree. Mulch acts as a "moisture trap," keeping the soil moist beneath it. If the mulch is removed, or as it decomposes, you'll have to water more often because the water will evaporate more quickly. 

Where can I go to learn more about tree care?


The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is the world's leading organization devoted to tree care. They publish a 17-title Tree Care Consumer Information Series that covers a wide variety of topics relevant to tree care. The Kansas Forest Service also has a variety of publications on topics that may be of use to you.

When should I prune my trees? How do I do it?


The ideal time to prune deciduous (or hardwood) trees is when they are dormant. On some flowering trees you may want to prune right after flowering. Conifers may be pruned any time of year, but pruning during the dormant season may minimize sap and resin flow from cut branches. For a complete guide to pruning, check out the U. S. Forest Service's publication on How to Prune Trees. Again, when the job is too big, it's time to hire a Certified Arborist. If the tree is growing in a tree lawn (the area between the sidewalk and the street), you should check with your city to see what regulations govern pruning of right-of-way trees.

We are adding on to our house. How can I protect the shade tree that is growing close to where we intend to add-on?

Preserving existing trees on a site doesn't only happen when the bulldozer begins work; it happens in the planning stages. Trees in construction zones must be mapped on the plans before work ever begins, and everyone involved in the process needs to know the preservation guidelines. The publication Protecting Trees From Construction Damage: A Homeowner's Guide provides some great information with helpful illustrations.

My utility provider just pruned the tree in front of my house, and I don't like the looks of it. What can I do now?


Nothing, the work is done and it needed to be done to ensure that you and your neighbors would have reliable electric power at the flip of a switch. Large trees and overhead utilities do not co-exist well and periodic line clearance work is required to maintain electric lines as well as provide a safe environment around the tree. The best solution is often times to remove the tree and replant a more appropriate tree variety that will not be in conflict with the utility lines. Another useful tool is the ISA brochure on avoiding tree and utility conflicts.

How do I select an arborist in Kansas?


The services of a certified arborist are needed when a job is beyond the skills of an individual or city employees, or specialized equipment is needed to safely prune, evaluate or remove trees. While many people can perform work needed for young trees, the needs of large-tree care often require the services of a tree-care professional.
Certified arborists are professionals in the care of individual trees. It is encouraged to use certified arborists who have demonstrated competency and ethical and technical attributes for tree care. Certified arborists in Kansas have completed training, passed a certification exam and posses a minimum of two years of practical experience applying sound and proper arboricultural practices. They also maintain property damage and personal liability insurance, and receive continuing education. Most certified arborists have or can obtain the appropriate equipment to do tree work safely.

Hiring an Arborist in Kansas