UT Austin Receives Recognition for Its Tree Management and Conservation Efforts

April 29 is National Arbor Day and last month The University of Texas at Austin earned 2021 Arbor Day Foundation Tree Campus Higher Education recognition for its commitment to promoting healthy trees and educating the campus community—all thanks to the efforts of Landscape & Integrated Building Services and its Urban Forestry team, as well as contributing students, staff, faculty and other campus partners. This marks the fourteenth consecutive year that the university has received this honor.

The Arbor Day Foundation is the world’s largest membership nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees. Its Tree Campus Higher Education program began in 2008 to encourage colleges and universities to plant trees on their campuses. The program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and engaging staff and students in conservation goals. UT’s Landscape & Integrated Building Services achieved the distinction by meeting the program’s five standards:

  • Maintaining a tree advisory committee
  • Following a campus tree care plan
  • Demonstrating annual expenditures for its campus tree program
  • Participating in an Arbor Day observance
  • Sponsoring service-learning projects with students

“We’re honored to have received this recognition for the last 14 consecutive years. It reflects our commitment to the UT urban forest and the successful collaboration with other teams across campus like the Office of Sustainability, Capital Planning and Construction, the Green Fund and other FAS business units,” said James Carse, Landscape Services manager.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, trees on campus and in urban spaces can lower energy costs by providing shade cover, cleaner air and water and green spaces for students, staff and faculty. In addition, the benefits of trees on people’s mental and cognitive health is well researched, providing an aesthetic for campuses and creating shaded areas for studying and gathering. You can see some of the tangible impact on the UT campus ecosystem trees have at the TreeKeeper website. Some of the benefits according to the website include more than 16 million gallons of water saved and 332,568 pounds of carbon dioxide avoided.

The main campus also features trees that are considered historic landmarks. The three live oaks—also known as the Battle Oaks—that surround the Barbara Jordan statue are older than the university and are believed to have existed prior to the Civil War.

Each day, UT arborists care for the more than 5,000 inventory trees on the main campus and surrounding UT System properties as well as numerous other trees on campus. According to Jennifer Hrobar, landscape supervisor with Urban Forestry, some of the tasks include pruning, planting, root management, inventory, plant health care, invasive tree species management and tree removal as needed.

“In addition to caring for the campus ecosystem, we want to be a source of innovation, a resource for teaching people how to maintain their own landscapes and an advocate of the benefits of diversity of wildlife, pollinators and trees,” Hrobar said.

The arborists also provide support services for protected trees on campus during construction projects. One of the team’s ongoing objectives for the past several years, Hrobar explained, has been providing standards and technical specifications for new construction and renovation projects to protect existing trees on campus.

“It starts very early; there’s a lot that goes into the planning and it’s a long process—from review on the front end in the design process and meeting with design teams to the final end of construction and tree maintenance,” she said.

“It can sometimes be challenging—trees don’t exist in a bubble,” she added. “On this campus, they’re surrounded by hardscape, roads, sidewalks, buildings, utilities both above and below, animals and people.”

Hrobar explained that the team uses the Arbor Day Foundation’s service-learning project requirement to educate students, faculty and staff about these challenges and to let them participate directly in conservation work.

One past service project focused on trees and pollinators.

“We wanted to teach people about what trees have to do with pollinators,” Hrobar said. “There’s a very real direct connection, because many of our native tree species are hosts to larvae for butterflies and moths and also provide habitat for bees and wasps.”

Hrobar received a grant from the Arbor Day Foundation, which she used to purchase some new trees, shrubs and plants to create a pollinator garden. Students, staff and faculty were involved in creating and maintaining the garden.

To celebrate National Arbor Day this year, Landscape & Integrated Building Services is planning on hosting a tree planting event at the UT Orchard to replace some trees that were lost in recent freezes. Check out the Landscape Services site for more information and updates about upcoming events this fall to celebrate Texas Arbor Day.

Urban Forestry team members hold numerous professional credentials from the International Society of Arboriculture including Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist, Certified Tree Worker Aerial Lift Specialist, Certified Arborist, Certified Arborist Municipal Specialist, Tree Risk Assessment Qualification and Wildfire Risk Reduction Qualification.

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April 15, 2022