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Kaua‘i Smart Trees Pacific program to train urban foresters

LIHU‘E — When the huge monkeypod tree on the St. Michael &All Angels’ Episcopal Church campus was removed, there was a noticeable change, said Marie Williams of the county Planning Department.

“The tree removal made a big difference in that Hardy Street roundabout area,” Williams said. “It changed the atmosphere.”

Williams was meeting with Sari Pastore, volunteer coordinator of the Citizen Forester Program on Kaua‘i.

“I’m from Ha‘ena,” Pastore said, meeting up with Williams at the Bodhi tree fronting the State Building Monday. “I didn’t know which tree you folks were talking about. I had to learn about Lihu‘e to find it, and I’m glad I did.”

The security guard at the State Building was unaware of any history surrounding the big tree that flanks Elua Street and the State Building’s metered parking lot.

“It has religious significance because that’s related to the tree where the Buddha was enlightened,” the guard said. “But it makes a mess, and the roots caused the sidewalk to buckle.”

The dialog surrounding the Bodhi tree illustrates the award-winning Citizen Forester Program that launched on Kaua‘i.

According to a program syllabus, “the Citizen Forester Program honors the reciprocal relationship between nature and humanity; empowering community members to become forestry leaders. Our community’s strong connection to place will help us in our work as tree ambassadors and speak and act on behalf of a healthy, functioning and resilient urban forest with both native and culturally appropriate tree species.”

Pastore said the Smart Trees Pacific, a local urban-forestry nonprofit program on Kaua‘i, is just getting started, and is looking for individuals or groups to become Citizen Foresters.

“The Citizen Forester Program is a citizen science program where community volunteers inventory public trees across the Pacific Islands,” Pastore said. “Ideally, we would like to have groups in each area of the island. With the information gathered by Citizen Foresters, our community and government leaders may be better able to manage, maintain, replace, and plant more trees in our urban areas. The collected data can also show the monetary and ecological benefits the trees are providing to the community.”

Citizen Foresters gain important forestry skills such as species identification, how to assess tree health, how to assess site condition and how to navigate the forestry data and tree inventory database.

They will also meet people who are also tree-lovers.

Aside from receiving a Citizen Science Certification, Citizen Foresters make a difference in the community they serve by educating the community about the important role of trees in their neighborhoods while working with other forestry professionals.

People and groups registering to become Citizen Foresters receive T-shirts to wear during meetups, and hands-on, in-the-field training with the Citizen Forestry staff, team leaders and experienced Citizen Foresters. Registration can be done online at smarttreespacific.org/projects/citizenforester/kauai, or email info@smarttreespacific.org with questions.

Training for new foresters includes two Zoom meetings and an in-field training on Kaua‘i in October. Tree assessments take place Monday, Oct. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. via Zoom. The Wednesday, Oct. 6 training involves tree identification and data entry, and will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. via Zoom.

The in-field training is Sunday, Oct. 10 at Lydgate Park, and will have foresters learning about tree assessments, tree species identification and data entry.

Williams, who is credited with getting the county involved with Smart Trees Pacific when it was brought to O‘ahu, said the program is very relevant today in light of the focus on climate change and its impact on communities.

This is in addition to the numerous benefits trees bring to communities and neighborhoods, including the Bodhi tree fronting the State Building that provided respite from the rapidly-rising morning heat with shade.

Smart Trees Pacific manages the program by partnering with the state, Kaulunani Urban &Community Forestry Program and County of Kaua‘i. The organization has trained more than 200 volunteers to date, and has inventoried more than 21,000 trees while working on O‘ahu and Guam.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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