Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tree Thursday - Red Maple

Okay, it’s fall and even though it doesn’t really happen in South Florida, most of us are thinking of the leaf color up north so here’s a tree that can bring it to you in South Florida (a few months later).

Red Maple
Acer rubrum

Red Maple is a tree that you probably wouldn’t expect to see in South Florida but it is actually native to our area.  This is the same Red Maple species  you would see in Canada.  This tree species is one of the most common and widespread deciduous trees in eastern North America.  It has adapted to a wide range of site conditions, from swamps to dry soils.  In South Florida, it grows much better in wet or irrigated sites.  I have seen quite large Red Maples in the north part of Broward County Tradewinds Park.  In the northern part of its range, many cultivars and varieties have been selected for  spectacular fall color displays.  The cultivars have names like Autumn Flame, October Glory, Red Sunset and Scarlet Sentinel.   Red Maple’s fall color can range from yellow, orange and red.  Unfortunately, in South Florida we do not get the spectacular color displays but in late fall early winter there is a little bit of red. 

The newly emerging leaves and red flowers and fruits signal that spring has come. They appear in December and January in Florida, later in the northern part of its range. The seeds of red maple are quite popular with squirrels and birds.

When planting the species Acer rubrum , select only those which have been grown from seed sources in your area.

Pictures below –  (1) Red Maples along a lake up north.  (2) Red Maple Leaf.  (3) Red Maple flowers


Great website with Red Maple photos -

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Check tire pressure monthly

One way to make your vehicle greener:

1.     Check tire pressure monthly.  This not only saves fuel but makes for a safer drive. 

Americans waste 4 million gallons of gas each day by driving on under-inflated tires. 
Under inflated tires are responsible for automobile crashes that result in 660 fatalities and 33,000 injuries each year.
Under inflation can lead to tire failure. It results in unnecessary tire stress, irregular wear and possible loss of vehicle control or accidents.
A tire can lose up to half of its air pressure and still not appear to be flat. The best way to check tire pressure is with a properly working analog or digital tire gauge.
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage up to 3.3 percent.
Gene Dempsey, Parks Supervisor - City Forester
954.828.5785 --- 954.828.5799 fax

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Half of all wetlands destroyed since 1900

Wetlands are a source of drinking water and provide protection against floods, but they have been damaged by unsustainable water use and pollution.
By Agence France-Presse
An alarming 50 percent of the world's wetlands have been destroyed in the last 100 years, threatening human welfare at a time of increasing water scarcity, a new report said.
Wetlands serve as a source of drinking water and provide protection against floods and storms, yet they have been decimated to make space for housing, factories and farms or damaged by unsustainable water use and pollution.
"In just over 100 years we have managed to destroy 50 percent of the world's wetlands," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program.
"It is a startling figure," he said at a UN conference in Hyderabad.
The report, compiled by an ongoing research project entitled TEEB, or The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, said coastal wetland losses in some regions, including Asia, have been happening at a rate of 1.6 percent per year.
"Taking mangroves as an example, 20 percent of total coverage has been lost since 1980, with recent rates of loss of up to one percent per year," said the report released Tuesday.
"We need wetlands because our existence, our food and our water is at stake," said Ritesh Kumar of the environmental group Wetlands International.
Wetlands are known to cover about 5 million square miles of the Earth's surface, and are a natural sink for Earth-warming carbon dioxide, act as fish nurseries and are important tourist attractions.
In the United States alone, wetlands are estimated to provide $23 billion worth of storm protection every year, the report said.
The report was released at a conference of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, where environment ministers will hold three days of talks from Wednesday to try and raise funds to stop the decline of Earth's natural resources.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Clean Water Act turns 40!

Clean Water Act celebrates 40 years of water conservation
By Catie Leary   Thu, Oct 18 2012

Photo: Kelly Fike/USFWS/Flickr

The legacy of clean water
On Oct. 18, 1972, the United States passed the landmark Clean Water Act. Crafted with the goal of ensuring that all U.S. waters — including these coastal wetlands seen at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Mass. — are "fishable and swimmable," the ambitious act has seen its fair share of successes and shortcomings in the past 40 years.

Before the CWA passed, only a third of all water in the country was safe for swimming and fishing. With rivers catching on fire and a massive die-off of fish populations due to pollution, environmental activists and average citizens alike pressured the government to pass what is touted as one of the most successful environmental laws in the country's history.
Following its enactment, the CWA made major gains in cleaning up U.S. water by cracking down on industrial polluters and wastewater treatment plants. In addition to ensuring the safety and cleanliness of our water sources, the CWA heralded the redevelopment of waterfront property and boosted the energy of the growing environmental movement.

Regardless of its general success in cracking down industrial polluters, the CWA is still a major work in progress. The ambitious goal to bring the amount of polluted water down to 0 percent by 1985 has yet to be achieved — only 65 percent of all U.S. water is currently fit to swim and fish in today. In addition, the 40-year-old act is behind on the times in many ways, which enables tricky legal loopholes and ambiguities that could not have been predicted in the '70s.
Despite these shortcomings, there's no denying the invaluable progress the law has achieved in safeguarding one of the most vital resources on the planet.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Funny

The Other Coast by Adrian Raeside

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tree Thursday - Mangroves


Mangroves are one of Florida's true natives. They thrive in salty environments because they are able to obtain freshwater from saltwater. Some secrete excess salt through their leaves, others block absorption of salt at their roots.

Florida's estimated 469,000 acres of mangrove forests contribute to the overall health of the state's southern coastal zone. This ecosystem traps and cycles various organic materials, chemical elements, and important nutrients. Mangrove roots act not only as physical traps but provide attachment surfaces for various marine organisms. Many of these attached organisms filter water through their bodies and, in turn, trap and cycle nutrients.

The relationship between mangroves and their associated marine life cannot be overemphasized. Mangroves provide protected nursery areas for fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish. They also provide food for a multitude of marine species such as snook, snapper, tarpon, jack, sheepshead, red drum, oyster, and shrimp. Florida's important recreational and commercial fisheries will drastically decline without healthy mangrove forests.
Many animals find shelter either in the roots or branches of mangroves. Mangrove branches are rookeries, or nesting areas, for beautiful coastal birds such as brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills.

Worldwide, more than 50 species of mangroves exist. Of the three species found in Florida, the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is probably the most well-known. It typically grows along the water's edge. The red mangrove is easily identified by its tangled, reddish roots called "prop-roots". These roots have earned mangroves the title, "walking trees". This mangrove, in particular, appears to be standing or walking on the surface of the water.

The black mangrove, (Avicennia germinans) usually occupies slightly higher elevations upland from the red mangrove. The black mangrove can be identified by numerous finger-like projections, called pneumatophores, that protrude from the soil around the tree's trunk.
The white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) usually occupies the highest elevations farther upland than either the red or black mangroves. Unlike its red or black counterparts, the white mangrove has no visible aerial root systems. The easiest way to identify the white mangrove is by the leaves. They are elliptical, light yellow green and have two distinguishing glands at the base of the leaf blade where the stem starts.
All three of these species utilize a remarkable method of propagation. Seeds sprout while still on the trees and drop into the soft bottom around the base of the trees or are transported by currents and tides to other suitable locations.

Unless otherwise noted, photos are from George English Park in Fort Lauderdale.

White Mangrove with seeds             Prop roots of Red Mangrove                             Red Mangroves

Propagules of Red Mangroves               Black Mangrove with “pencil” pneumatophores (from web)

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Environmentalism is about our relationship with and to our world.

"As I tell my students at the University of Kansas School of Journalism, environmentalism is about our relationship with and to our world. And as we all know, the best relationships are the ones we work on. We are our eco-system. Everything we use—from energy to food to the stuff of our everyday lives—has an impact. "Going green" doesn't just mean buying more products. A good starting point is to buy different stuff (zero VOC paint, non-toxic cleaning products, reusable bags and bottles...) but, ultimately, we can't shop our way to sustainability. Reduce is the first edict of environmentalism, with Re-use and Recycle following close behind. It is our relationships—to the planet, to our stuff, to our communities—that contain the most potential for widespread change."

Simran Sethi, Environmental Journalist and Associate Professor of Journalism at Kansas University

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Caulk Now!

I know in South Florida we don’t have to worry too much about the winter’s chill, but we can still lose a lot of air conditioning through cracks around windows and doors. 

Caulk Now, Before Winter's Chill
Simple caulking and weatherstripping is a home improvement that pays off.

By Brian Clark Howard

Simple leaks can sap home energy efficiency by 5% to 30% a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That means it pays to seal up gaps with caulking and weatherstripping.
Take a close look at places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys, where pipes or wires exit and along the foundation. Use the incense test: carefully (avoiding drapes and other flammables) move a lit stick along walls; where the smoke wavers, you have air sneaking in. And heating or cooling sneaking out.
In another method, have someone on the outside blow a hair dryer around each window while you hold a lighted candle inside. If the candle flickers or goes out, you need to caulk or weather strip around the frame.
Low-income households can qualify for an average of $6,500 worth of weatherization improvements to their homes through government programs administered by each state. Find out about your state's program by contacting local energy agencies.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Monday, October 15, 2012

What is a Walking School Bus?

Author or Source: Naturally Savvy

How can you reduce your ecological footprint and get in shape at the same time? Join a ‘walking school bus’! Essentially a carpool on legs, walking to school with others has many benefits, and for some kids, it’s the only exercise they get.

As schools tighten their budgets and eliminate various physical activities and after-school programs, kids must find other ways to stay active.

In a study of adolescents, all of the students who walked both to and from school met the recommended levels of 60 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on weekdays. A Houston, Texas study found that children who participated in a Walking School Bus group increased their weekly rate of active commuting by 38 percent over a five-week period. This is exciting news for Houston residents, where the obesity rate is 26.1 percent.

Participating in a walking group is also a fun and interactive way to teach kids pedestrian safety – not to mention that it helps decrease the number of cars on the road!

To start a walking school bus in your neighborhood, invite classmates who live nearby to walk with your child. Organize daily chaperones with their parents, and consider speaking to your child’s school and local law enforcement for support (such as a crossing guard). Find even more ideas at

References (in order that they appear):

Alexander, Leslie M.; Inchley, Jo; Currie, Candace (2005), "The Broader Impact of Walking to School Among Adolescents: Seven Day Accelerometry Based Study", British Medical Journal 331: 1061–1062.
Mendoza, J.A.; Watson, K.; Baranowski, T.; Nicklas, T.A.; Uscanga, D.K.; Hanfling, M.J., "The walking school bus and children’s physical activity: A pilot cluster randomized control trial", Pediatrics 128 (3): 537–544.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Funny

The Other Coast by Adrian Raeside

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Think before you print!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tree Thursday - Lignumvitae

Guaiacum sanctum

Lignumvitae, which means ‘Tree of Life’,  is an extremely slow-growing broadleaf evergreen which ultimately reaches 30 to 40 feet in height and casts light shade, but few people have seen plants of this size because it is not grown in the trade. Most are seen 8 to 12 feet tall with a beautiful array of multiple trunks and a rounded canopy much like that of a mature Crape-Myrtle. The one to two-inch-long, leathery, dark green leaves are joined at many times throughout the year by the production of large clusters of deep blue flowers.  These flowers are followed by small, heart-shaped, yellow berries, appearing on the tree at the same time as the blue flowers.

Underneath the smooth, beige/grey bark of Lignumvitae is some of the heaviest of all wood, sinking under its weight instead of floating in water. This dense wood was once popular for use in the manufacture of bowling balls and has also been used for propeller shafts on steamships, gears and for mallets. The picturesque crooked, typically multiple trunk, evergreen leaves, and beautiful flowers, and fruit would all combine to make Lignumvitae a popular choice for use as a container, patio, or specimen planting. 

Since the lignumvitae grows so slow it is rarely available at nurseries and the ones that are extremely expensive. 

Height: 8 to 12 feet
Spread: 8 to 12 feet
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: high

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Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

You can make a difference!

A Win for Wild Tigers in Sumatra
Released: October 9, 2012

Earlier this year, you helped us by asking retailers to remove Paseo toilet paper from their grocery store shelves because it was known to be made from fiber supplied by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a company causing devastating rain forest destruction in Sumatra.

We have great news: Paseo has been discontinued and soon will no longer be found on store shelves across the U.S.!

More recently, Dollar General, one of the largest buyers of private label tissue in the U.S., also confirmed to WWF that it has made a commitment to stop sourcing both paper towels and tissue from Sumatra's forests for its private label brands, recognizing that they can have a positive impact in saving this critical tiger, elephant and orangutan habitat through their purchasing decisions.

There is more to do, and WWF continues work to protect the lush rain forests of Sumatra that suffer from what may be the world's fastest rate of deforestation.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

5 Tips For Preserving Common Birds

Simple Tips to Help the Birds in Your Backyard
By Dan Shapley

The Audubon Society has released a list of 20 common birds that have suffered drastic declines in the past 40 years. Here are five tips you can use in your neck of the woods, to help keep birds from disappearing:
1.      Plant native, flowering plants to attract the three B's of a healthy yard: birds, bees and butterflies.
2.      Forgo the lawn mower and let part or all of your land go wild with wildflowers and grasses.
3.      Provide water, shelter and nesting sites with natural or commercial bird baths, wood piles, natural holes in tree trunks and other cavities for nesting.
4.      Provide a variety of quality seeds for birds, and clean your birdfeeder regularly to avoid spreading disease.
5.      Don't use pesticides. They can directly affect birds, as well as kill weeds that produce seeds or insects -- both of which are food sources for foods.

For more tips, see this excellent online Audubon guide

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Monday, October 8, 2012

How Clean is your reusable bag?

How to Keep Your Reusable Bags Clean and Safe
Reusable shopping bags are great. I love them and I'm constantly picking up another one here and there—if I forget to bring a bag with me, my punishment is the cost of a new one, so they've sort of multiplied. But you know a green product is catching on when the plastics industry is fighting back in what must be an effort to drum up business.
A recently released report highlights health concerns related to reusable bags. The bags tested had been used but appeared to be clean. The good news is they didn't find any salmonella or E. coli bacteria on the bags. The bad news is they did find significant amounts of coliforms (a group of bacteria), mold and yeast. Not surprisingly, the older bags had higher concentrations of these bacteria and fungi.
The report was funded by the Environment and Plastics Industry Council—a committee of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association?but the testing was conducted by two independent laboratories. Greenwashing? Perhaps. But while I would normally be skeptical of an industry-funded report, I can see how this sort of makes sense.
Think about it. People are putting meats, unwashed foods and all sorts of items in these bags, so logic will tell you they can get unsanitary pretty quickly. But don't toss aside your reusable bags just yet. Naturally Savvy has three tips to keep you healthy and happy without reverting back to the plastic bag.

Top Tips to Keep Your Reusable Bags Clean

Bring Bins My family has two bins we use for shopping. They're great for heavier items, such as milk and canned and bottled goods. We also use one of the bins for all of our produce. This keeps our reusable bags from getting wet
Separate the Meat and Fish Designate specific bags for meats and fish. Wash these bags regularly—preferably after each shopping trip—to get rid of bacteria. If your bag is fabric, toss it in the washing machine with jeans, and if it's a plastic material, let it soak in a basin filled with soapy water and either the juice of half a lemon or about a quarter cup of vinegar.
Proper Storage When you get home from the store, don't just stuff the bags into a closet or a small, confined space. Let your bags air out so any moisture evaporates. A great solution is to hang a small clothesline in your laundry room or garage to pin up the bags when you're not using them. And on those warm summer days, why not rinse the bags out and hang them outside to dry?
Cara Smusiak writes on behalf of Naturally about how to live a more natural, organic and green lifestyle.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Funny

The Other Coast by Adrian Raeside

I always know that the person wants a tree removed when the conversation starts out “I love trees”.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tree Thursday - Mahogany

Swietenia mahagoni

Mahogany can reach 75 feet in height with a 50-foot-spread but is more often seen at 40 to 50 feet tall and wide. A native of south Florida, Mahogany will grow in full sun or partial shade on a wide range of soil types, and is quite resistant to salt spray. Plants will respond with rapid growth to rich, well-drained soil and regular fertilizing.  While the Mahogany is a wonderful tree, it does have a couple characteristics that can cause problems when used as street or parking lot tree.  First, the Mahogany is semi-evergreen and for a two week period in the spring, the tree will shed all its leaves and flush out new ones.  This can cause a considerable mess.  Second, the seed pods are about the size of a baseball and are hard.  When these fall off the tree before they open, they can cause damage to cars below.  There are also several insects that can cause problems to the tree.  That being said, the Mahogany does make a wonderful park tree. 

This and several other species of Mahogany are used in the lumber industry for fine cabinets and furniture due to the color, straight grain and durability of the wood.  Most of the old growth mahogany trees in the Keys were logged around the late 1800s, early 1900s.  I’ve heard that the Mahogany trees would tower over the canopy forest.  In a State Park on Key Largo, I have stood on an old stump that was at least 10 feet across.  Unfortunately all those trees are gone and the ones we grow today will never acquire that size. 

Growth Rate – Fast
Drought Tolerance – High
Salt Tolerance - High


Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Think before you print!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Halloween Parties

How to Throw a Spooky Eco-Fab Halloween Party

By Sara NovakColumbia, SC, USA | Oct 21 2008
 Halloween: it's an excuse to be someone else for an evening, and who doesn't want to do that once in a while. Hiding behind that ever impressive costume allows people to really cut loose, so it's a great reason to throw a party. This year make your Halloween get together a greener shindig by serving your guests only the best.
  1. Serve high quality sweets. Try and serve a variety of organic chocolates Skip the wasteful bags and mini candies. Those bags produce more waste than you can even imagine. Instead, fill bowls with organic and homemade sweet treats.
  2. Skip on the processed junk food Make cookies with high quality ingredients like local eggs, raw sugar, nuts, and organic chocolate rather than picking up highly processed cookies made of refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
  3. Make it spooky with soy candles. Skip on the petroleum based candles and add glow with high quality, eco-friendly soy candles.
  4. Skip the plastic decorations and go natural. Use tons of local gourds and pumpkins to spruce your place up rather than tacky plastic pumpkins and orange streamers. Reuse old sheets and stuff with old newspaper to make ghosts. Make it rustic rather than cheesy. (Yes, it's okay to use decorations that you have stored over the years...just don't buy new ones.)
  5. Skip the paper invite and send a ghostly Evite.
  6. Serve seasonal treats like apple pies, pumpkin risotto, and pumpkin ravioli. Make a side with tons of seasonal roasted root veggies like turnips, parsnips, and sweet potatoes.
Gene Dempsey, Parks Supervisor - City Forester
954.828.5785 --- 954.828.5799 fax

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Halloween is coming up.  Here are some ideas to make your Halloween festivities a little greener...

 From DEP's website: 

Have a Green Halloween

Halloween can be scary - but it needn't be scary for the earth. Here are some tips on how to keep environmental hobgoblins away :
  • Use pillow cases or cloth bags instead of paper bags for collecting candy.
  • Buy candy that uses the least amount of packaging.
  • Check the labels on Halloween-related items and buy ones that use recycled content.
  • If you plan a Halloween party, buy or use reusable utensils, plates, napkins, and tablecloths, or buy disposable items that have recycled content.
  • After the festivities are over, start a compost pile with your old jack-o-lantern. If you do not have space, check with your town officials or local garbage collectors about whether there is a community compost pile in your area.
  • As you clean up after the holiday, don't throw away your Halloween decorations. Use them again next year to save money as well as landfill space.
  • Urge children to dispose of their candy wrappers in their bags or in trash cans rather than on the street.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Plant a Tree, Pocket $57,000

We often underestimate the value — to the environment and to our pocketbooks — of trees. Spring is a great time to plant a new tree.
By Dan Shapley

"The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, 'In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'"
— John F. Kennedy
Planting trees is one of the most basic of environmental acts. It embraces the beauty of nature, helps clean the environment from the moment of planting forward, and sets one's mind on the well-being of future generations.
It also happens to be a smart economic decision. Studies show that trees increase property values and can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs if placed carefully. They also help to reduce air pollution, improve soil and water quality and shield living areas from noisy neighbors — whether those neighbors are people, school playgrounds or highways. The evidence:
  • Strategically planted, trees can reduce home energy use by as much as 30%. The Arbor Day Foundation recommends planting deciduous trees on the east and west sides of your home to provide shade in the summer, but allow sunlight through in the winter. Plant evergreen trees to the north and northwest to shield your home from cold winter winds without blocking winter sunlight.
  • Trees raise property values for the entire neighborhood; a 2010 Forest Service study estimated that "a neighborhood tree growing along the public right-of-way added an average of $12,828 to the combined value of all houses within 100 feet."
  • In 1985 dollars, the Forest Service estimated the value of an individual tree at $273 annually — well over $57,000 over its lifetime. The estimate includes the value of climate control, soil erosion and stormwater management, wildlife shelter and air pollution reduction.
Early spring and late fall, when the climate is moderate and trees are dormant, tend to be the easiest times to successfully plant trees. Look for offers of free and low-cost seedlings from local soil and water conservation districts, municipalities and environmental groups. Those little trees will take years to reach maturity, but that's part of the satisfaction; you can watch your investment — in natural beauty and dollars — grow.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Think before you print!