Hurricane Katrina Forest Recovery

As we work together to tackle the historic challenge that Hurricane Katrina has presented to the forestry communities of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, we hope that this blog will be a valuable resource and tool.

Monday, November 7

Groups Offer Green for Tree "Triage"

by Mike Keller, Sun Heald

The battered trees of South Mississippi's urban forests will receive a helping hand from state, federal and private grants totaling around $500,000, officials and nonprofit conservation groups said on Friday. Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, a local conservation group, received a Home Depot Foundation grant totaling $100,000 to help save coastal Mississippi's hard-hit urban forests.

"We feel that trees are very important and it is vital that we save them," said Judy Steckler, the director of Land Trust. Ed Macie, a representative of the U.S. Forest Service, which brokered the grant, said the money will be used in five areas of tree "triage" during the project called the "Mississippi Live Oak Rescue Mission."

The money will be used to pack exposed roots in good soil, place mulch around the trees, hire water trucks to flush salt from roots, and for protective fencing to be placed around healing trees. Steckler said her group was in the best position to use the grant money for all three coastal counties. She said Land Trust's non-governmental status allows them to go on private property to save trees; government employees must get right-of-entry forms signed and filed.

Two other grants, one from the Mississippi Forestry Commission and one from the U.S. Forest Service, will also go specifically to roadside trees and to help "urban and community forestry." Walter Passmore of the Mississippi Forestry Commission said an analysis of urban forests showed the state lost around 3.5 million trees totaling $1.1 billion in damage. He said values were estimated by costs to replace the trees, but also by intangible values trees add to communities, such as higher real estate prices and energy savings from buildings shaded by them.

Before Katrina, development had already reduced Harrison County's tree cover by 40 percent in the last several years, so the initial grants will be the seed in the long process. The Home Depot Foundation's $100,000 grant "is probably not going to go a long way but maybe we could use it as a basis to get more support," said Donna Yowell, the executive director of the Mississippi Urban Forest Council.

Officials hope to extend the grant money by using local volunteers and donations instead of paid contractors. "We're short on manpower and money," said Passmore. "Something as simple as people volunteering to spread mulch and soil would really help out a lot."


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