Texas has experienced increased homeownership in the last decade. Currently, more than 64% of all Texans own a home. This equates to approximately 14.6 million homes (total population = 22.9 million) and yards for which most have at least one tree. In fact, the average tree density within tree covered urban areas is approximately 204 trees per acre of tree cover. Homes in xeric urban environments are not excluded. Homeowners love their trees. Yet these trees are seldom properly maintained, and little thought is given to tree care and maintenance until catastrophic events occur and millions of dollars are loss as a result.
A large number of environmental stressors affect trees in Texas to some degree. Major weather events, perhaps the greatest stressors, have increased over the last decade due to changing climatic patterns. For example, seven category-three and above hurricanes occurred from 2001 through 2005 while only four category-three hurricanes occurred during the previous decade. Experts predict that this trend will continue for a number of years. It is reasonable then to anticipate frequent, hurricanes and severe storms during the next decade. Drought conditions have also taken their toll over the last seven years and will continue to do so. Ice storms also regularly cause major damage to Texas trees. Air pollution and other environmental factors, although not as perceptible, are significant. For example, Houston, Dallas, and Ft. Worth had 32, 26, and 23 ozone action days in 2006, respectively.
In order to prepare for these disasters, Texas AgriLife Extension Service needs to take a preemptive stand now and offer proper urban tree care outreach opportunities. Such opportunities will improve urban tree health, position urban trees to better withstand severe weather (hurricane, ice storms, drought), and minimize damage and loss of not only the beloved trees, but also surrounding structures (homes, vehicles, powerlines, etc.) Homeowners will also be better informed about the best practices to follow to minimize hazard and loss from damaged trees.
Funded by a grant awarded through the Renewable Resources Extension Act, the objectives of this kit are:
- Improve county Extension agents’, and other tree care specialists’, knowledge about urban tree care, damage prevention, and disaster recovery topics,
- Provide this group with a kit containing all necessary information to conduct outreach programs and to evaluate tree damage in their county/area,
- Instruct this group how to use the kit to conduct outreach programs and to evaluate tree damage in their county/area,
- Reach a larger percentage of agents and other tree care specialists through distance educational efforts than would be possible through a single workshop,
- Increase homeowner awareness of preventative maintenance and recovery, and ultimately reduce loss of trees and damage to surrounding structures.
- Make these modules available to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s Emergency Response initiative.