Buchanan, Dowagiac receive Tree City U.S.A. recognition

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN – The trees are just beginning to bud in southwest Michigan, but two cities bloomed as Tree City U.S.A. honorees at the beginning of April.

The cities of Buchanan and Dowagiac were among the 124 communities throughout Michigan to be recognized by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Arbor Day Foundation with a Tree City U.S.A. designation for 2020.

“People don’t think of a city full of trees as a forest. In fact, it is,” said Dowagiac Mayor Don Lyons. “It takes management as any forest does. We can’t afford to let it run wild.”

Aligning the thought that trees in the city are actually an urban forest is something Lyons said Dowagiac worked to do years ago. The city has received the Tree City U.S.A. distinction since 2007.

“It’s been a long-standing honor,” Lyons said. “It does require that we do certain things relative to managing herb and forest. We do those [requirements] every year. We are proud to have another year as a Tree City.”

In a released statement from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Tree City U.S.A. program has four standards communities must meet.

“The standards that must be met each year are: a city department or tree board, a public tree care ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita and a proclamation and celebration of Arbor Day, which takes place April 30 this year,” the statement said.

Lyons said Dowagiac has budgeted for its forestry and has several ordinances in place related its trees.

“Anytime the city takes a tree down, we are obligated to plant another one,” Lyons said.

Lyons said the city works to ensure it has a variety of trees on the city’s properties.

In years’ past, there were more ash and elm trees in the state. In the early 2000s, like many communities, Dowagiac lost its ash trees to the arrival of the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect. Elm trees had faced an invasive tree disease previous to that.

“We have lost all but one of our giant elm trees,” Lyons said. “We are carefully looking after that.”

A few of the tree species found in the city are maple, basswood and walnut.

“We try to use species that provide shade and a fair amount of leaves to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. There’s a lot of reasons to have the right species of trees,” Lyons said.
The city’s Arbor Day celebrations in the past have included giving away tree saplings to residents. With COVID-19, the celebrations themselves have been on hold.

“We always have a resolution before city council to acknowledge [Arbor Day’s] importance,” Lyons said. “Those are things that we can do to help draw attention to the need for managing an urban forest well.”

Kevin Sayers, a representation of the Michigan DNR’s urban and community forestry program, said communities honored with the distinction receive items like hats, flags, and an annual metal medallion to affix to an existing plaque to show the city’s commitment to the trees.

“One-hundred twenty-four communities were certified this year,” Sayers said. “This is up from the recent past, but just shy of our record of 126 communities.”

In addition to the communities, nine college campuses, one healthcare institution and one utility service company were recipients of the distinction for 2020.

A representative with the city of Buchanan could be reached for comment on the city’s Tree City U.S.A recognition as of publication.

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