I’m feeling the need to discuss a topic with my fellow and lady Ents that’s been on my mind for a long time. It is about strategies for winning converts to our methods of measuring trees. I’ve had a number of useful telephone conversations with Don Bertolette and Will Blozan on this topic. It isn’t as though the subject of strategizing has only recently surfaced.
In recent months I along with fellow Ents have lobbied American Forests and equivalent state-level programs, Laser technology Inc. the Society of American Forests and associated state groups, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and indirectly, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, individuals, and helped organize tree-measuring workshops. I’m forever explaining our methods to the groups on interpretive walks, and in lectures presented to nature groups. I strongly support Dr. Don Bragg in his efforts to win wider acceptance for our methods in the U.S. Forest Service. Of course, I use the NTS BBS has a tool to win converts because anything posted on tree measuring may eventually find its way to the eyes of an individual with a receptive mind. The problem is that some of these strategies are very time consuming, and carry relatively low probabilities of success, but the payback could be high.
Some of the above routes are nobrainers. For example, working with and through the U.S. Forest Service has great potential because of Don Bragg. I think our efforts supporting Don is time that can’t be better spent. I hope the rest of you agree. Don has his hands full, but he has the credentials to make headway.
It remains to be seen if our efforts to form a partnership with American Forests will pay off, but as of now, this avenue holds great promise. Two webinars this summer could be the start of something big. Then there are the state programs. However, in terms of my participation, lobbying the state champion tree program coordinators is something best left to others including Don Bertolette, Scott Wade, Bob Van Pelt, Turner Sharp, Michael Taylor , Will Blozan, etc.. The same can be said of lobbying the arborist and recreational tree climbers. Communicating with them is best left to the Ents who are also tree climbers. I see my role here as playing a behind-the-scenes role. But all the above are logical routes to pursue.
Now to the “non-nobrainers”. Heretofore I’ve believed that reaching the forestry community, at large, should carry a high priority. After all, in the eyes of the public, foresters are most commonly associated with tree measuring and forest mensuration is about measuring trees. Additionally, American Forests and the state champion tree programs have lots of tree measurers who are foresters. How does one reach the forestry community, at large?
Although I may be off base, I’m not optimistic about lobbying the professional forestry agencies, be they private or public. Nor do I see much daylight in pursuing the academic foresters. My impression is that these people are convinced that they know all they need to know about measuring trees and have no need of input from outside organizations and people. Still, despite the pessimism, I’m pursuing members of these groups. For example, I haven’t given up on Massachusetts DCR's Bureau of Forestry.
Nor do I see much headway to be made with nature organizations/groups. Their interests lie in broader issues. I expect that tree measuring seems much too narrow and relatively unimportant to pursue. I can understand their thinking, but it leaves them vulnerable when they need to measure trees for whatever purpose.
Is there reason to pursue the forestry agencies and forestry academics even if they continue to be unreceptive? The answer is simple. They present themselves to the public as the experts in tree-measuring. As an example, Joan Maloof tells me that in Maryland, a tree making it onto the state’s champion tree register has to be certified by a state forester. I think there are other states with similar rules. This is a strong statement by the profession as to who it thinks is qualified to certify trees. So do we actively lobby these groups despite our prior lack of success, or go our own way with each party ignoring the existence of the other? What steps should we be taking?
This isn’t a simple matter, and the path can become convoluted. I’ve had multiple occasions to be in the forest with PhD level forestry academics where trees were being measured. In all cases involving the academics (ones not in NTS), they deferred to me to do the measuring and unquestioningly accepted my measurements. Yet, I doubt that any went back and told their students that: hey, if you want a tree measured accurately, go get old Bob’s help. What had they been teaching their students to do? What they are willing to acknowledge privately might be embarrassing to them publicly. This said, I always appreciate their private vote of confidence and don’t want to lose their tacit support. So, I tread lightly. The door isn’t entirely closed, but there is no path to public acceptance that isn’t labor intensive - none that I have found.
One group that I have mixed feeling about pursuing are the old-line foresters who have led distinguished careers and are respected by their peers, but who have not yet bought into our methods. Here I speak of individuals separate from their group identities. Don Bertolette and I have discussed such individuals. Don sees value in reaching out to them. When I talk directly with Don, I am persuaded to his point of view. Afterwards, though, I develop misgivings. The reason is that it is a course with an unknown payback. After acceptance of our methods, are these old-timers going to dash out into the field and measure trees on behalf of our cause, or just acknowledge that there is a new measurement technique out there that can be used? I suppose I’m asking myself who is going to be proactive on our behalf versus simply refrain from throwing stones at us?
At this time, I’m content to leave the individuals to others such as Don, and back him up if called upon. What complicates this route for me is hearing invalid arguments made by the individuals who express doubts about our methods. Don is much better at threading the needle than I am or my buddy Will Blozan is. Will employs a bigger hammer than I do. Best to keep us out of the debate.
There are other groups that we might think of actively lobbying, e.g. landscape architects. But as the list grows, the need to target certain groups at the expense of others and think in terms of the biggest bang for the buck becomes critical. Tree measuring is our bread and butter. If we are to be taken seriously by others who measure trees, we have to find ways to reach the ones with a genuine desire to get it right. Beyond what has been outlined above, I’m out of ideas.
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder and Executive Director
Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest