HILL AIR FORCE BASE — For the 23rd year in a row, Hill Air Force Base has been named a Tree City USA for its commitment in keeping the base green with trees.
The base and other Utah cities and organizations were recognized at a Tree City USA luncheon in Provo on April 12.
Hill achieved Tree City USA recognition by meeting the Arbor Day Foundation’s requirements for managing its urban forest.
“Residents (and employees) of Hill AFB should be proud to live in a community that makes the planting and care of trees a priority,” said Arbor Day Foundation President Dan Lambe in a letter to Col. Ronald E. Jolley, Sr., 75th Air Base Wing commander, congratulating the base on earning recognition as a 2015 Tree City USA.
“As a result of your commitment to effective urban forest management, you already know that trees are vital to the public infrastructure of cities and towns throughout the country, providing numerous environmental, social and economic benefits,” Lambe said. “In fact, trees are the one piece of community infrastructure that actually increases in value over time.”
On its 6,600-plus acres, Hill AFB has more than 13,000 trees of more than 100 different species, valued at approximately $17 million. The 75th Civil Engineer Group’s Environmental Branch set up a database several years ago to track and manage the base’s trees to include them in GeoBase, a mapping system that includes information about the base’s structures, streets, etc.
“This allows base planners, engineers and facility managers the ability to quickly find out information about trees that might be impacted by future projects,” said Russ Lawrence, the base’s natural resources program manager.
A complete inventory of the trees is going on now and will be completed later this year.
“Many of our trees are old, having lined the streets with shade and beauty since World War II,” Lawrence said. “Trees are being monitored for health and usefulness every year, but a complete inventory has been needed for a few years now.”
According to Hill’s tree database:
• The base’s oldest tree — a 95-year-old Siberian Elm — has a diameter of more than 50 inches and is located on the north side of the base in the Maintenance Activity Management System -II (MAMS II) area.
• The largest diameter tree — a rare Japanese Pagoda, (the most valuable tree on Hill at more than $42,000) — has a diameter of more than 60 inches and is located north of the parking lot on Sixth Street and Southgate Drive.
• The base’s tallest tree is a Box Elder, which is more than 90 feet tall and is also located in the MAMS II area.
But just having trees is not what earned Hill AFB a Tree City USA designation. One of the standards is having a community tree ordinance.
If a tree on Hill AFB dies or is diseased or needs to be removed for other reasons, the base’s tree replacement policy is consulted. Hill’s policy requires two trees (1 inch in diameter or more) to replace a tree that is 10 inches in diameter or less. Trees that are larger than 10 inches in diameter will require an additional tree be planted for every additional 10 inches in tree diameter.
Seventy trees in the old housing area were removed recently because they were attracting thousands of local and migratory birds. With birds roosting in this location, it left aircraft vulnerable to bird strikes during critical flight times such as takeoffs and landings. Security and other enhancements at the South Gate also required some tree removal. The base added more than 140 trees to replace those removed.
If a new building goes up on the base, the landscaping around it must also include trees, increasing the base’s overall inventory of trees.
Lawrence said water conservation is a continuing concern for the base and its trees.
“Taking care of our trees is part of our mission,” he said.