A Fayetteville Urban Forestry volunteer implemented a creative solution to combat Bradford Pear trees in the city: offer residents a bounty to cut down the invasive species.
Residents who send a picture of the felled trees to the Urban Forestry department until April 27 can get a free tree that is native to the city, said Will Dockery, a volunteer on the Urban Forestry Advisory Board. Native alternatives to Bradford Pear trees include yellowwood, flowering dogwood and fringe tree.
Bradford Pears are white-flowered trees native to Asia that produce foul-smelling blooms each spring, according to an educational packet released by the city. Despite their striking appearance, these trees can choke out the root systems of other trees and plants.
These trees are one of 18 invasive species that Fayetteville officials must not plant as part of city development projects, according to the Fayetteville Code of Ordinances.
This does not affect private property like homes and businesses, and there are too many Bradford Pears planted in the city for Fayetteville officials to take down anyways, Fayetteville Urban Forester John Scott said.
Dockery envisioned the idea as a positive parallel to bounty systems used in Ontario in the 1800s and early 1900s that nearly drove wolves to extinction in the region, he said.
Less than 10 people have submitted pictures of themselves with felled trees as of 2 p.m. April 2, but the department expects more people to participate before the end of the month because of the way the program gained in popularity on social media, Scott said.
The department has 100 trees available to give away but might have to get more, Scott said.
Dockery is confident the department will give away all 100 trees they have by the end of April and expects most people to submit their pictures on the 27th, he said.
The program quickly took off on social media and in the news, with organizations like USA Today and Southern Living publishing stories about the initiative, Dockery said. Dockery expected the plan to be popular with Fayetteville residents but not spread past the city.
“I was definitely shocked that it went as viral as it did,” Dockery said.
Dockery has talked to urban foresters from Fairfax County, Virginia, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, who contacted Urban Forestry officials asking to implement the plan in their cities, he said.
Dockery thinks that removing invasive species is an important part of the the department’s job and has contributed to Fayetteville earning awards for its forestry, he said.
The Arbor Day Foundation has named Fayetteville a Tree City USA member for 24 years in a row, according to a press release March 20.
To be recognized as a Tree City USA member, a city must have a department that manages trees in the city, an ordinance protecting trees, a forestry program with a budget of at least $2 per capita and must recognize Arbor Day in a city ceremony, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.
Dockery would also like to see the UofA become a Tree Campus USA member alongside schools like Arkansas Tech University and the UA Monticello, he said.
To become a Tree Campus USA member, UA officials and students must establish a Campus Tree Advisory Committee, make a tree care plan and provide a budget for the plan, have an Arbor Day ceremony and take part in a service learning project involving campus trees, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.