CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There’s a census going on at the state capitol this week. They’re not counting people. They’re counting trees. The Division of Forestry is working with the capitol groundskeeper.
“They’re looking for a full inventory, every single tree,” explained Urban Forester Liz Basham with the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
From saplings all the way to the oldest trees on the grounds, Basham and her team are taking measurements, tree types and the amount of damage visible from the ground. They’ll map and graph even the slightest details to give groundskeepers the most accurate picture of the health of this urban forest.
“We’re going to help them with a management plan, prioritizing pruning, removals, plantings, identifying planting areas,” explained Basham.
It is no small job. There are hundreds of trees on the capitol grounds from White Pine to Dogwood, Crabapple to the most abundant tree, the Pin Oak. In fact, the Pin Oak are the main concern because they grow so large and many are aging. The trees have to be looked at very closely.
“When trees are in the woods, it’s not a big deal if they fall apart. It’s the natural order of things. Nobody is around, nobody is going to get hurt,” said Basham. “In an urban environment, people have to live among the trees so we have to make sure they’re safe.”
In some cases there are large, dead limbs on trees. Those could pose a serious risk. Basham stressed by getting a full inventory, the groundskeepers can make a priority list.
The trees on the capitol grounds aren’t just there to look pretty. Basham said it’s important trees do what they do best.
“We want to make sure they’re delivering their full ecosystem benefits to us as urban residents such as purifying our air, controlling our storm water runoff, providing shade for parking lots, mitigating heat islands,” explained Basham.
The last tree inventory at the capitol took place more than a decade ago.