Preparing for natural disasters affecting community forest

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Many Virginia localities have experienced significant infrastructure damage this hurricane season. Downed or damaged trees in our community forest – the trees in our neighborhoods and where we live, work and play, are an important and very visible part of that infrastructure. Oct. 23-25 the Virginia Department of Forestry, in partnership with USDA Forest Service and the Virginia Department of Transportation, is conducting Urban Forest Strike Team (UFST) Task Specialist training at Virginia Tech for rapid tree risk assessment and FEMA debris estimates.

The training gives participants, all of whom are certified arborists, hands-on experience identifying the risk that storm-damaged trees pose to people and property on publicly managed land (i.e., road rights-of -way, parks, public buildings, etc.).

UFST are self-contained teams of professionally trained certified arborists from state forestry agencies, other state and municipal agencies, and the USDA Forest Service that are specifically trained to assess risk on storm-damaged trees.

These teams are deployed to assist communities with assessment of storm-damaged trees with the goal to retain as many viable trees as possible and to identify and map trees that meet FEMA criteria for risk. With the data from the UFST reports communities will be prepared to apply for assistance financial from FEMA in mitigating the damage from the hurricane, tornado, ice storm or other the natural disaster.

All UFST specialists have had extensive specialized training in assessing damage from natural disasters and providing evaluations of the trees to determine their needs for pruning and or removal as a result of the disaster.