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We are gearing up for Georgia’s Arbor Day. Arbor Day is a day set aside for schools, civic clubs, and other organizations, as well as individuals, to reflect on the importance of trees in our state and across our nation. The first Georgia Arbor Day was proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1890. Click on the GFC events page to see what’s happening around the state.

Arbor Day in Georgia is observed each year on the third Friday in February. In 1941, the Georgia General Assembly set this date as the day of our state Arbor Day. National Arbor Day is in April, but it is too warm in April to plant trees in Georgia. Trees should be planted between November and mid-March in Georgia, so they will have a better chance of becoming established before the onset of summer heat.

This month ceremonies will be held across the state at courthouses, schools, and neighborhood parks by more than 130 Georgia cities and college campuses that are members of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA and Tree Campus USA programs. These tree planting and recognition programs help increase public awareness of the importance of trees and the myriad of benefits they provide. The programs seek to instill a greater respect and understanding for trees and the environment, inspire community pride, and create a living environment that will bring peace, joy, and security for generations to come.

The Tree City USA, Tree Campus USA and Tree Line USA materials have arrived in Georgia Forestry Commission offices across the state. Call Susan Granbery at 478-283-0705 if you need assistance with a drop-off or pick-up of materials before your Arbor Day celebration. Hats and lapel pins can now we purchased on the Arbor Day Foundation website, along with additional signage and other celebration materials. The Arbor Day Foundation sends a flag to year-1 recognized cities and every even year after that. See the image below.

Here are some event flyers we’ve received from local communities!

Happy Arbor Day!

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The Arbor Day Foundation Tree City USA program is using a new portal system this year. Below are helpful tips for completing your application to meet the standards of the Arbor Day Foundation.

  • All Tree City USA communities must reset their passwords to access their application. Click on “Find Your Community” and follow the instructions to login. If you have trouble logging in after following the instructions, please email treecity@arborday.org
  • The City Forestry Contact is a person in your community that answers questions about the Tree City USA program, not your Georgia Forestry Commission forester/ranger.
  • If you have more than five tree board members, please select five and enter the names and emails. Additional members’ information can be uploaded as an attachment. (We do not need individual email addresses and phone numbers for each tree board member, but you must enter something to advance to the next section.)
  • This year, you must upload or link your tree ordinance. Previous entries have not been saved in the new portal.
  • Georgia does not require the annual work plan.
  • Do not use commas, periods, or $-signs in the budget section.
  • Please make sure your Arbor Day Proclamation has the correct date and is signed by the mayor. It must be dated and signed within the 2019 calendar year. 
  • Before you download the Mayor Signature Form, all sections of the application must be complete.
  • If you submit your application and you are not prompted with a message that it has been submitted for review, please scroll to the top of your application to see what needs to be updated.
  • To apply for the Growth Award online, the community must first submit their Tree City USA application. Once they do, if they qualify to apply for the Growth Award they will be invited to start their application. At any time after they apply to as a Tree City USA they can log back into the portal and click on the link to start their Growth Award application.

Use this Helpful video for more information about the Tree City USA portal.

For questions, contact Bonny Adams, badams@gfc.state.ga.us, 478-751-3498 or Susan Granbery, sgranbery@gfc.state.ga.us, 478-283-0705.

These communities have been approved as of November 14, 2019: Albany, Ashburn, Athens-Clarke County, Berkeley Lake, Bethlehem, Buckhead, Calhoun, Cedartown, Conyers, Decatur, Duluth, Dunwoody, Flovilla, Gray, Griffin, Hahira, Kennesaw, Lavonia, Lilburn, Loganville, Macon, Newnan, Odum, Robins AFB, Screven, Statesboro, Thomaston, Toccoa, Valdosta, Vienna, Warner Robins, Woodland, Woodstock.

These communities are in progress as of November 14, 2019: Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Ball Ground, Bowersville, Bowman, Camak, Chamblee, Chattahoochee Hills, Jesup, Covington, Dublin, Fayetteville, Hartwell, Holly Springs, Ivey, Jekyll Island, Locust Grove, Lylerly, Madison, Mansfield, Monroe, Moultrie, Norwood, Oxford, Peachtree Corners, Porterdale, Rome, Sandersville, Sandy Springs, Savannah, Snellville, St. Marys, Summerville, Tallulah Falls, Thomasville, Thunderbolt, Tifton, Warrenton, Winterville.

The Georgia Forestry Commission is also reviewing Growth Award applications.

Tree Campus USA and Tree Line USA Portals

Tree Campus USA Portal: https://applications.arborday.org/community/campus

These campuses have been approved: Georgia Gwinnett College and College of Coastal Georgia. These campuses are in progress: Agnes Scott College, Albany Technical College.

Tree Line USA Portal: https://applications.arborday.org/community/utility for utility partners.

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NORTHEAST: (SUMMARY):

It looks like fall has finally made it to northeast GA and the southern Blue Ridge Mountains…at least in places. Color has kicked in at our expected locations and those are the higher elevations of NE GA. Brasstown Bald on the Towns/Union County boundary and Georgia’s highest point is currently in full transition, though most of the highest elevation colors are running more earthy tones with dusty reds, golds and bronze. However, on the shoulder of Brasstown and at other select locations within the region, bright reds and golds are easy to find. Also, color will likely be short lived at these highest points with some rain and wind in the forecast, so keep that in mind for your planning.

Currently we are seeing more color on the east side of the Blue Ridge chain though the changes that precede full color are occurring across the western side. This observation was made as we were putting our weekly report together and by this weekend we could be seeing some color changes, so if you are out exploring those areas, keep your eyes peeled!

This week the sourwoods along with some of the maples continue to provide us with the most vibrant color with both giving us some brilliant reds and the maples also adding to the yellows and orange shades.  And, the mighty hickory has really blossomed across the region providing excellent yellows and golds across many locations in the region. The blackgum and sumac continue to provide some very good reds and the birch are still producing strong yellows. The yellow poplars have for the most part completed their assignment of providing us with early yellows and gold. Oaks are getting in on the action with some reds and yellows, but expect to see more of them as we get on into November.

This year’s leaf show should continue to provide some good color over the next 10 days to two weeks, and we hope to see further action with the oaks providing some yellows, deep reds, and bronze even deeper into November.

SPECIES DETAILS:

Dogwood – continuing to see some dusty reds and burgundies but they have about done their due for the year.

Birch  – still providing some yellows ranging from lemon to gold.

Yellow-poplar – on the way out but there are still some waiting to begin the change.

Sourwood – continues provide some brilliant reds and burgundies this week.

Sumac – providing some very good and deep reds.

Maple – Some very good reds and orange currently in the maples but still a large contingent just starting to transition.

Oak – starting to see some of the oaks adding to both yellow and red but most have another week or so before fully turning.

Blackgum – Along with the sourwoods, blackgum continues to have some of the best reds at the moment.

Sassafras – Primarily in the understory and along shaded roadways the sassafras is producing some very good yellows and oranges.

Sweetgum – starting to see some sweetgum changing showing yellows though currently a minor component.  Hopefully we will see further development with yellows and purples.

Hickory – Big changes this week with many hickories providing strong yellows and gold.

Percent of color change from green to date: 

Variable across NE GA.  Highest elevations (above 3500’) approaching 100%. Overall between 10% (western side of the Blue Ridge) to 50% (eastern side of the Blue Ridge) with some pockets in the extreme NE section running 80+%. 

It looks like we are moving into our “peak” season this weekend understanding that we define “peak” as the period in which the most color can be found throughout the region. And, as such, as you travel through NE GA you will drive through areas that are in or very close to being full transition and then find a section that is less so. As the early transitioning locations start to move out of “peak” others are moving in. So, while we are entering this period of greatest color, know that all locations are not equal.

Even though we are seeing some much needed rain, our forests are still being impacted by the drought and that will continue. We are seeing more muted color at higher elevations but we are also seeing some vibrant color develop in many lower elevations so there is plenty of reason to hope that this will continue across the area over the next several weeks.

Given the extremely dry weather we continue to urge the public to be extremely careful if using equipment, grills, cookers and any other items capable of creating sparks in the outdoors.

Scenic drive:

A drive to Brasstown and the Richard Russell Scenic Highway are great choices for color this weekend. Try GA 180 Spur to Brasstown or GA 348 (Richard Russell Scenic Hwy).

GA 180 running from Suches to Vogel State Park continues to provide current color with more to come.

US 76 from Hiawassee to Clayton also continues to provide for some good color.

And, US 129 from Cleveland to Blairsville over Neel Gap should offer some color to see.

Northwest GA Specific (Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau):

Color change in the mountains is approaching its peak. Overlooks and valleys are becoming more colorful every day with spots of brown, yellow, and red. Maple, sourwood, and sumac are still showing the most vibrant colors of red; while few have already peaked and began fading to maroon and brown. Oaks are steadily turning brown while some add faint signs of yellow. Poplar and some maples account for most of the yellow; however, the hickories that aren’t completely brown, are turning yellow as well. Understory sassafras remains vibrant showing colors of red and orange. A majority of dogwoods have surpassed climax and continue to dull and shed leaves. Hardwoods in the higher elevations should reach their peak color change this weekend, while lower elevations should fall close behind. The forecast indicates periods of heavy rain followed by cooler temperatures.This should encourage color change, assuming the rain and wind doesn’t get too intense.

Percentage of color change from green to date:  45%

SCENIC DRIVE:

From I-75, take Hwy 136 to the top of Lookout Mountain.. Turn right onto Hwy 189 (or continue on 136 and turn right to go to Cloudland Canyon). Follow Hwy 189 to Sunset Rock, Point Park, or Rock City. Drop down into Chattanooga via Ochs Hwy /58.  Then take Hwy 193 back to Hwy 136.

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Birch and Maple – Richard Russell Scenic Highway

Northeast GA:

Though continued dry and unseasonably hot weather has us concerned about our fall season, Mother Nature is not throwing in the towel on a good color season. At least not yet. In the higher elevations, we continue to see the red maples developing some dusty reds, but this week they have added some brilliant red and orange. Sourwoods, normally one of the first to turn, have kicked in this week with pinks and bright reds. Dogwoods are showing some earthy reds across the region currently and may be among the hardest hit of our “color trees” by the dry weather and hot temps. The sweet birch, also known as black birch, was one of the first species to show color this year and continues to do so with well developed golden yellows. Also adding to the yellows across most elevations are the yellow poplars which have also shown some of the drought stress with a heavier than normal brown component – and – the leaves of the yellow poplar are starting to line the roads and roadways as the early turners are now falling. Additionally, sassafras is showing reds, yellows and shades of orange in the understories and along our mountain roadways. Throw in the blackgum, again at higher elevations, with some very well developed deep reds and some sumac with their deep reds and we are off to a pretty good start. Overall, we are still predominantly green but with the color that has started we are optimistic and crossing our fingers this color development continues.

Species action this week:

Dogwood – continuing to see some dusty reds and burgundies but still early

Birch  – more development in the yellows at higher elevations but again still early.

Yellow-poplar – seeing yellows with a higher than normal brown component. Early but should be color to still develop. However, more and more yellow poplar leaves are carpeting the roads and roadsides.

Sourwood – starting to see some good color development with reds, pinks and burgundies. More to come.

Sumac – early stages with some reds seen.

Maple – seeing some dusty reds but also starting to see some brilliant reds and orange at higher elevations.  Many maples just beginning to transition with the majority still green.

Blackgum – very deep reds developing in the higher elevations.

Sassafras – starting to see yellows and orange in the understory.

Estimated percentage of color change from green to date:  Highest elevations 5%-10%.  Below 3500 feet still less than 5%:

Despite the drought and record setting high temperatures, we are starting to see some reasonably good color develop in individual trees and some grouping of trees in the higher elevations, though varying shades of green are still dominating the color spectrum this week.  We do continue to see some pockets of trees browning up along dry ridges and some of these pockets are expanding. The forecast for the mountains beginning next week is finally calling for some respite in the high temps. Daytime highs in the 70’s and nighttime lows dropping into the 50’s hopefully will at least ease the stress that has been on plants and trees (and us humans too) and that the processes in place will continue and not get short-circuited. We are going with an optimistic outlook that this color development will continue and that peak may actually come a little earlier this year and back in line with what we have always considered “normal.” Going out on a limb and thinking peak in the upper elevations of Northeast GA may only be a couple of weeks away. Overall peak could be as early as the last week of October but stay tuned as the next week to ten days should give us a much better idea of how things will progress.

Impact of rain, wind, drought or frost on leaf color this week and/or this season:

As of last week’s reporting, the Drought Monitor shows a majority of Northeast GA being in Moderate or Severe Drought. Though parts of the region saw scattered showers over the weekend, we expect this week’s Drought Monitor map to continue showing increasing drought level, and this is obviously not good on many levels. With no rain in sight and with forecast temperatures remaining above normal we can expect some continued impacts on our canopies. We are currently seeing some pockets of trees browning up along ridges and side slopes and these can possibly be attributed to shallow soils perched on underlying rock resulting in shallow roots and faster drying of the soils in the root zones. The spots identified last week have grown in size this week.

Given the extremely dry weather, we continue to urge the public to be extremely careful if using equipment, grills, cookers, and any other items capable of creating sparks in the outdoors. Contact the Georgia Forestry Commission for a burn permit and up to date information on the weather and burning conditions before attempting any outdoor burning. And, if burning, please stay with your burn and have sufficient personnel, tools, and water on site to help ensure your burn does not escape.

Pinks of a Changing Sourwood – Richard Russell Scenic Highway

Scenic weekend drive for a good look at current fall color in Northeast GA:

As last week, still a week or more away from serious color developing, but early opportunities will develop at the higher elevations first making the Brasstown Bald area and the Richard Russell Scenic Hwy. best bets this next week or two.

GA 348 (Richard Russell Scenic Highway) in White and Union Counties, GA 180 running from Suches to Vogel State Park, GA 180 from Vogel to Jack’s Gap, and the GA 180 Spur to Brasstown Bald will provide the best opportunities this week. Just keep in mind that while bursts of color are possible around any turn, the greens still rule this week.

Red Maple on GA 180 West of Vogel State Park

Northwest GA Specific (Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau):

Poplar in the higher elevations are beginning to yellow. Sassafras is gradually turning from green to orange. Oak leaves are continuing to brown and starting to curl as they begin dropping their leaves.  A select few maples in the higher altitudes are shifting from green to red, but the majority of them have shifted from green to light green with spots of yellow. Dogwoods are showing similar characteristics with shades of light green and hints of yellow. The change has started; but there have not been any significant changes thus far. Sweetgum and hickory are fading to brown as they shed leaves without any vibrant colors changes. Overlooks and ridges are still predominantly green to light green with spots of brown. The weather remains hot and dry, delaying fall color change at least another week, and decreasing the probability of vibrant colors.

Scenic drive in Northwest GA:

Take Hwy 136 from I-75. Turn left on Hwy 157 on top of Lookout Mountain (Or continue on Hwy 157 to go to Cloudland Canyon). Turn left on Daughtery Gap Rd. to come out in front of Mountain Cove Farms. Turn right on Hog Jawl Rd. Turn right on Hwy 193 and follow back into Lafayette. Turn right on South Main Street. Turn left on Hwy 27 Bypass and follow to the next intersection to get back on Hwy 136.

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Check out our latest newsletter, Community Tree News.

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The Georgia Urban Forest Council (GUFC) will meet on May 22 at Zoo Atlanta for an educational program on “The Urban Forests of Utility Corridors.” Georgia EMCs and utility companies are invited!

Thousands of acres of power line rights-of-way offer opportunities to implement meaningful conservation activities. GUFC’s second quarterly educational program will be held on May 22, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Ford Room at Zoo Atlanta and is sponsored by the Georgia Power Company, Northwest Region.  We’ll hear from Georgia Power foresters and arborists about their recycled vegetation use for zoo animals as well as biology and species protection projects such as their butterfly project
and their mapping of gopher tortoise burrows in transmission corridors. A top priority at Georgia Power is to remain compliant with all applicable regulations, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and The Clean Water Act.

The program includes a panel discussion about cultivating relationships; cooperative efforts between municipalities, nonprofits, and utilities (Savannah case study); and dealing with conflict. We’ll also learn about the Energy Saving Trees program, participated in by utility companies and EMCs. Speakers: Mark Wachter, Kym Stephens, Bill Haws, and Jim Ozier of the Georgia Power Company and Robert Seamans, City of Statesboro. See agenda here

Tickets: $40 GUFC member, $55 non-member. Lunch is included. The non-member ticket includes a one-year complimentary individual membership in the Georgia Urban Forest Council.

A limited number of scholarships are available for utility vegetation managers and staff. Download application form here. Scholarship application deadline is May 10 or until class has filled. This scholarship funding is being provided by the Georgia Forestry Commission through a grant from the U.S. Forest Service.

The first 75 people to register receive a free ticket to tour the zoo! CEUs: ISA certified arborist: 3.75, Municipal Specialist: 3.75, BCMA – Management: 3.75. SAF Forestry credits have been applied for. A professional development certificate will be available for landscape architects and others.

Scholarships Available to Georgia Utility Company Staff to attend 2019 Trees & Utilities Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio September 10-12, 2019

Georgia Power is a Tree Line USA
  • Reimbursement of $1,000 toward registration, lodging and airfare for Georgia utility company representatives to attend the 2019 Trees & Utilities National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Conference presented by the Utility Arborist Association and the Arbor Day Foundation.
  • Conference dates are September 10-12, 2019.
  • Application deadline: June 30, 2019.
  • Scholarship amount reimburses for conference tuition, lodging, and airfare expenses up to $1,000.
  • Open to Georgia utility company staff.
  • Conference registration must be paid for in advance. If scholarship is awarded, tuition/lodging/airfare expenses will be reimbursed up to $1000 after GUFC receives copies of expense receipts.
  • Application can be downloaded here.
  • Applications should be e-mailed to marylynne@gufc.org (Mary Lynne Beckley, Executive Director, Georgia Urban Forest Council)
  • Applicants will be notified ASAP.
  • Questions? Call Mary Lynne Beckley at 470-210-5900.


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Throughout the state, we have celebrated Arbor Day in many different ways. Take a look at the official State of Georgia Arbor Day proclamation by Governor Brian Kemp and celebration photos from the past two weeks.

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