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Keesler Designated Tree City USA For 13th Time

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Not even Hurricane Katrina could keep Keesler from being named a Tree City USA for the 13th year in a row. 

The recognition is sponsored by The National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. The organizations provide direction, technical assistance and focus public attention on forestry programs in thousands of communities.  The base receives two symbols of the recognition - a Tree City USA banner and a plaque.
 
The extensive damage the hurricane of Aug. 29 caused to the base, including hundreds of trees, was no factor in the base receiving the award for 2005, according to George Daniel, Arbor Day Committee chairman.   Although the storm "did displace or destroy some of our trees," that had no effect on the recognition, he said. "We received the award based on meeting the four standards.

"The first one is, there must be a tree board or department," he said. "Someone must be responsible legally for the care and management of the community's trees. Ours is the environmental occupational safety and health committee. For a city, it would be chaired by a mayor. Our committee is chaired by Brig. Gen. Paul Capasso, 81st Training Wing commander."
Another standard requires the community to have a tree care ordinance. 

"The tree ordinance must delegate the establishment of a tree board or forestry department and give this body the responsibility for writing and implementing an annual community forestry work plan," Mr. Daniel explained. "We actually have all of our maintenance work done by contractors, so our plan for caring for trees is outlined in our contract." 

The third standard involves budgets. 

"There must be evidence that the community has established a community forestry program that is supported by an annual budget of at least $2 per capita," Mr. Daniel said. 

"Such a plan will address species diversity, planting needs, hazardous trees, insect and disease problems, and a pattern of regular care such as pruning and watering. When we receive our funding, we outline the total amount we need to take care of our plants. 

"The final standard involves an Arbor Day proclamation," he said. "It can be a tree planting event or an award ceremony that honors leading planters. Keesler's Arbor Day, April 20, and our proclamation, which was done earlier this year, took care of that requirement."