SMA Liaison David Jahn Iowa

David Jahn

State Coordinators: 

Emma Hanigan, Urban Forestry Coordinator

(515) 249-1732

Iowa Sixth-grader Plants Idea of Putting in More Trees

Sixth-grader Isabelle Van Es worked with the middle school principal, superintendent and Ground Effects to get a plan approved to plant trees on the school’s campus. The plan is to plant several trees near the SIOUX CENTER, IA—A Sioux Center Middle School student is working to restore beauty on campus after construction.

Sixth-grader Isabelle Van Es began turning the wheels on a project to plant new trees around the school earlier this year after 14 trees were cut down to make room for construction of a larger parking lot and driveway.

Van Es conceived the idea during the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program last spring.

“This is a prime example of what we want kids to do — take learning outside of the building,” said middle school Principal Julie Schley.

Sioux Center Middle School is an Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) school, which means its curriculum encourages real-world applications beyond the classroom.

At first, Van Es was going to send a letter to the school board, but after she spoke with district superintendent Pat O’Donnell, she decided to stand in front of the board and make her proposal.

“The first time I talked to the board I got part of the plan approved,” Van Es said. “Next, I had to get a budget.”

Van Es spent her summer working with O’Donnell and Schley to create the $2,800 budget.

She consulted with Justin Schuiteman, owner of landscape design company Ground Effects in Sioux Center, to find out what the project would entail and how much it would cost.

Van Es also spoke with Sioux County naturalist Sunday Ford to determine what tree species would be best for the school.

“We didn’t want trees that produce too much sap or have too much falling from them that would make lawn care harder,” Van Es said.

The species they decided on are the Acer Autumn Blaze Maple, Greenspire Linden, Hackberry, Heritage English Oak and Northern Red Oak. There will be 10 trees purchased in total at a proposed cost of $2,349.90.

“Planting a variety of trees is great because if tree disease or beetle comes, it will only wipe out one species of tree, not all of them,” Ford said.

They are trying to set a date when the trees can be planted. Tim Foreman, part owner and garden center manager of Ground Effects, said they hope to plant this fall, but 1-3 inches of frozen ground would push planting to the spring.

“What is more exciting to us as educators is to see a very intelligent young lady plan, present, prepare and implement such a project,” O’Donnell said. “People were very excited that the tree replacement plan was going to proceed.”

At 12 years old, Van Es is unsure what the future may hold, but she does have a variety of environmentally-minded interests.

“I’ve always been interested in the outdoors and environmental science,” she said. “I also like marine biology.”

DNR Staff Updates:

DNR report: Report by Emma Hanigan; Jeff Goerndt, State Forester, is away at Stephens State Forest Field Day.

                  Landscape Scale Restoration grant proposals have been submitted.

  1. Block by block. EAB and urban wood utilization components. Support from Alliant Energy and IUTC. If approved, this would be our topic and speaker basis for the luncheon in 2019!
  2. SW Iowa Backyard woods grant. Remove invasive species, create management plans. Council Bluffs, Red Oak, Shenandoah as partners. 5-15 acres would get plans by district forester. Trees Forever involved.
  3. Pollinators. Similar to previous grant, but for SW Iowa instead of SE. Promote trees selected for pollinators, planting initiatives.
  4. Birds in the Cedar River corridor. Creating good bird habitat. Partnering with Trees Forever’s Bird Friendly initiative.
  5. Outreach grant to target people not already attending field days--backwoods, women, absentee land owners, etc.

Next 5 year plan for energy companies indicates they are considering cuts to funding for tree programs (all efficiency programs are looking at cuts). This will affect Tree City grants, DNR and TF programs, etc. Emma is working to set meetings about why. Tree programs are popular and seem to have a positive feel. These cuts could take effect in 2019. Todd R. says meeting could help. Might also have consequences for Tree Line and Tree City goals. Todd R. explained why energy companies give money (legally can only keep certain percentage of profits, so additional money goes into power sources, credits, other projects like efficiencies and infrastructure).

Old business: DNR Forestry is still at the same place as last meeting. Budget from the federal government just slightly lower, but Senate has not yet submitted their budget.

New business:

Luncheon: Several luncheon topics and speakers were discussed, including the suggestions emailed to all on October 13. There was also a suggestion of presenting green infrastructure topics. “Beyond Pollinators” was decided to be the most interesting theme and there was lots of energy about expanding on the theme of last year’s luncheon. Nominee paperwork will be started soon, so be on the lookout for that so you can nominate award-worthy people!!

Joint MN-WI tree council meeting: Emma will email more updates (we ran out of time!), but basically, Emma attended and there is interest in having a MidWest tree council meeting (in person or conference call) with more states to compare structures, ideas, that sort of thing!

Discussion about Bruce Trautman: looking for comments regarding the past three months and The Transition. Mike B. sent a reply earlier and had a lot of great points, of course! Leslie mentioned that there may be a task force or commission set up after the NEIFAC meeting to lead this issue. 

People you should know: 

US Forest Service:               Jill Johnson            (651) 649-5253

Iowa State University:         Tom Harrington    (515) 294-0582

                                            Jeff Iles                  (515) 294-3718

                                            Jesse Randall         (515) 294-3221

                                            Mark Shour           (515) 294-5963

Iowa DNR                           Paul Tauke             (515) 725-8450

                                            Emma Hanigan      (515) 249-1732  

                                            Tivon Feeley         (515) 725-8453

Iowa Agriculture                  Robin Pruisner     (515) 725-1470

                                           Mike Kintner         (515) 745-1470   

 Coming events in State:

The Forestry Bureau is currently tracking and working against 5 key pests that threaten Iowa's woodlands. These 5 pests (emerald ash borer, bur oak blight, thousand cankers disease in walnut, Asian longhorned beetle, and the gypsy moth) will cause an estimated loss of approximately $70 million dollars a year for the next 20 years (that's $1.4 billion) and even worse, cost next to 20 billion dollars in tree removals. This decision will impact the quality of life in Iowa for generations to come.

62nd Annual ISU - Shade Tree Short Course & INLA Tradeshow

February 20-22, 2018

Scheman Building, Ames, IA

National events of interest:

SMA New Member Incentive: Get one year of the SMA magazine City Trees FREE on a trial basis.  Please join your peers in this international community of practice.  Click here to sign up!

2017 Society of Municipal Arborists International Urban Forestry Conference

November 13-14 2017 - Tulsa, OK

Partners in Community Forestry Conference

November 15-16, 2017      Tulsa, OK

2017 American Society of Consulting Arborists Annual Conference

November 29 – December 2, 2017 – Stevenson, WA  

Links of Interest

Iowa DNR Grants        

IA State Forestry Nursery

ISU Forestry Extension

Trees Forever             


I am a proud member of the Society of Municipal Arborists and the Iowa Urban Tree Council. I received the 2015 Trees Forever ‘Advocacy Award’ for dedication to Des Moines TreeKeepers (citizen volunteer and advocacy program) and for empowering others to speak for our trees. I’ve spent 12 years in professional urban forestry as a City Forester, 6 in Pittsburgh, PA, and 6 in Des Moines, IA. Prior to that I spent 15 years managing municipal and county landscapes in SW Florida. I am an ISA Municipal Specialist, with a TRAQ credential. I am a Registered Consulting Arborist (RCA #425) with the American Society of Consulting Arborists.