Since 2014, TOC has been working on revitalizing its Exceptional Tree Initiativefor the statewide law it helped to create in 1975 that protects these valuable tree specimens. Part of this program has seen the development of TOC’s “Exceptional Tree Map”which is constantly being updated as new trees are added and removed from each county’s registry across the state. However, over the last couple of years, there has been a net loss of Exceptional Trees (ET) across the state as many of these individuals are reaching the end of their natural lifespan and are beginning to fail.
To reverse this loss, TOC’s Programs Director, Myles Ritchie began working much more closely with Arborist Advisory Committees from counties with active ET programs to try and curb this alarming trend. Myles has been appointed to the Oahu Arborist Advisory Committee and is an active liaison working with committees in each county and property owners to increase the number of ET nominations submitted with the overall goal of seeing new ETs added to each county’s respective register. This work has paid off as new ETs have been accepted in addition to more under further consideration. While the new status of these trees will not be made official until they are approved by respective county councils when the annual ordinance change occurs, on Oahu alone, there are at least four new trees and one grove that should be receiving this distinction in the coming weeks.
While the nomination of new ETs is crucial to the program’s success across the state, education regarding these trees is also a vital component as well. The two most common questions asked when presenting or talking about ETs are: How old is the tree and what were the criteria used in determining its selection for inclusion into the ET registry? While age is always difficult to pinpoint, the use of historical documents always assists with this process as does using the original nominating documents to find the reason for a tree’s exceptional status. In order to do just this, Myles has just finished digitizing all of the original Oahu ET nomination documents (this has never been done before) and will be creating a database that will answer both of these questions related to age and selection criteria. In the coming months, this data will be added to the Exceptional Tree Map so that the general public will finally have answers to two of the most commonly asked questions related to these trees.
While all of this is welcomed news, the need to continually send in new nomination forms remains of the utmost importance, in addition to beginning to lay the foundation for a Next Generation Exceptional Tree program that will replace those that are near the end of their lifespan.
Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.