Missoula County Coverage

Jun 11, 2013 7:28 PM by Russ Thomas - KPAX News

Arborists surveying Missoula trees

MISSOULA - There's a team of people roaming around Missoula neighborhoods, but don't be alarmed - they're just checking out trees.

The Missoula Urban Forestry Division is working on a tall task, literally and figuratively as they tackle a summer-long tree census.

Three certified arborists, along with volunteers, will be counting nearly 600 trees a day, noting the size, species, and overall health.

They want to identify which trees can be saved, pruned to prolong their lives, or replaced, in an effort to create a healthy cycle.

"We're trying to ensure that they have a healthy urban forest. We're trying to ensure that we do replant in places that need to be replanted, and we make sure the large trees that can stay are safe for people," explained Mary Poole, a certified arborist, in the Missoula Urban Forestry Division.

While this is not the first time the urban forestry division has taken a census, Poole, says technological advances will make this count much more accurate.

"A lot of our points are really old and inaccurate, the GPS technology that we have now versus even ten years ago is extremely different."

A new database is being created as the work is being done, which will allow the forestry department to more quickly and efficiently pinpoint locations that need more attention.

Poole says this will allow the reactive approach of the past to become proactive, creating a better management plan.

"We'll be able to go on the computer, find the data that we've already gotten on all of those trees, and really reduce our time going out and doing more inspections."

The project is expected to be finished by the end of September and in the end, arborists are expected to take a census of between 3,000 and 5,000 trees.

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