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Formed in 2010, this Division was initially born from the need for tree inventory and tree data management due to the Emerald Ash Borer. Soon after, it became evident to us that Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was an extremely useful platform for not only managing the urban forest, but also for a variety of services, up to and including managing our own fleet of Plant Health Care vehicles and service technicians.

We continue our success today using GIS for EAB management for communities, having assisted many municipal entities prioritize tree removals, using tree data to find Ash trees which may be treated and saved. We are also planning for the future by using GIS and field crews to match new tree plantings to their ideal sites so that we make a long term investment in our new tree plantings, and maximize tree diversity so that these communities minimize future risk of tree pest and pathogen outbreaks. This is called Reforestation Planning.

As we continue to increase our scope of services in the Natural Resources Management division, we have recently introduced our new Online Mapping Center, where our clients as well as our own staff can take advantage of GIS technology via smartphones, tablets, and web browsers. As our Natural Resource Management team continues to keep its eye on the future, we look forward to assisting you as your expert consultant in Mapping, Monitoring, and Managing your natural resources.

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       phil-NRM    gis-program

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We have led the industry over the past few years by offering the following services:

  • GIS-based mapping of all kinds
  • GIS based tree inventory
  • Reforestation Planning
  • Due diligence to meet tree / natural resource ordinances
  • Tree Protection Planning
  • Emerald Ash Borer management planning
  • Grant Seeking and Preparation
  • Fair Cash Value tree evaluations
  • Public Speaking and Education
  • Vegetative community surveys and mapping
  • Expert scientific witness
  • Native landscaping consultations
  • Wetland delineation services
  • Hazard tree evaluations
  • Plant Health Care consultation
  • Private land management consulting

Sample Project Experience

Village of Roselle / Roselle Park District Tree Inventory – March 2011-Present
Beginning in March of 2011, we performed the Tree Inventory all of the trees on Roselle's parkways, all trees within jurisdiction of the Park District, as well as all Village owned properties. A customized geodatabase framework was created in a GIS environment, and data was collected using handheld GPS units. Once data was collected and subject to geospatial analysis, we created a comprehensive EAB management report. This report was used, in a very short time frame, to create cost-benefit options, decide on the most viable option with the city council, contract an EAB treatment company and the removal of all infested trees, set up a marshaling yard where infested trees could be processed, and provide a comprehensive Reforestation Plan. In addition, a separate inventory report was created, in which the urban forest was analyzed, and a plan created that over a 20 year period would leave Roselle's urban forest much more resilient in the event of a future pest or pathogen outbreak. We were able to service the Village when it came to attending Village board meetings, providing testimony to the public, and providing advice whenever an issue arose. 3 years later, this has proven to be a tremendous success, and Roselle has been praised by many as a landmark successful EAB / Urban Forestry management effort. We continue to assist Roselle today in reforestation planning and monitoring of it's over 700 treated Ash trees.

Crete Parcel Tree Evaluation – July 2011
Having been contacted by a client who was facing an eminent domain case being brought by a local regulatory agency, we were contracted to perform an analysis of the fair cash value of the old growth Oak tree population on the client's 22 acre parcel. The parcel was going to be forcibly sold to the regulatory agency due to its high ecological value. We evaluated over 270 mature oak trees according to various ecological and arboricultural methodologies, and calculated the individual and total value of the mature Oak trees on his property. At a net calculated value of over $1.4 million, our client's legal team has praised our efforts continuously in helping them attempt to negotiate the value of the eminent domain settlement. In addition, we also performed a baseline vegetative study, and supplemented our report with an analysis of how ecologically valuable this land was. As a result of simple data collection and analysis, without bias or skew, we are hopeful that this endeavor will help the client get the just compensation that his parcel is deserving of.

Glenview Park District Tree / Memorial Feature Inventory – July 2011 – Present
Glenview Park District sits adjacent to some of the first and oldest infestations of Emerald Ash Borer found in Illinois. As one of the largest Park Districts in Lake County, they had many Ash trees, as well as old Elm trees, which required immediate inventory and management. We performed a survey of all Ash and Elm trees in the Park District, and prepared a Management Plan for the District's grounds and horticultural staff. Immediately following this, a full tree inventory was undertaken, which not only included all trees in all parks, but also included the District's full 18-hole golf course, as well as a 9-hole golf course. This data, which comprised nearly 10,000 trees, was analyzed in GIS and the results delivered to the park district in a Tree Inventory Report, which not only outlined which trees needed maintenance or required removal, but also recommended species to replant with in the aftermath of EAB to maximize species diversity. As of this writing, we provide ongoing tree data management services to Glenview Park District, and assist them in adaptively managing their tree population every year by adding new trees to the inventory, and reviewing the data. We have also begun a survey of all Memorial Features (Memorial Tree Placards, Memorial Benches) in all of the parks so that this information can be kept up to date as well.

City of Ottawa, IL Ash Tree Inventory – January 2012
Having successfully been awarded funding by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus for tree inventory, Ottawa contracted with us to complete an inventory of all Ash trees on its parkways and in village-owned properties. At the crux of the Illinois River, 2 Interstate Highways, and several major rail lines, Ottawa's position on the landscape made it a prime candidate for EAB infestation. Our crew worked through the winter to carefully assess all of the Ash trees, and also use remaining funds to begin a comprehensive inventory of all trees on City owned properties. The results were a customized geodatabase that the City was able to integrate into their existing GIS, so that they could effectively manage not only EAB, but also their urban forest in general. Fortunately, despite the many avenues for EAB to infiltrate this community, initial infestation levels were found to be very low, and Ottawa was able to propose a successful preemptive removal and Ash tree treatment program

Des Plaines Park District Tree / Memorial Feature Inventory – March 2012 – Present
After assisting the Des Plaines Park District in obtaining grant money for a full inventory of all trees , we performed the Tree Inventory. This would include the inventory of all trees in all parks, as well as the 9-hole golf course, all told nearly 4,000 trees. But this was also an inventory of all Memorial Trees as well. The District has a "Tree of Life" program, whereby newly planted trees can be dedicated to family members and friends, both lost and living, with a very attractive brass placard. Over the years, weather and other factors have taken a toll on not only these trees but their dedicative placards as well. While out assessing these trees for heath and management, we recorded the names on all Tree of Life trees, as well as photographing the placards and delivering them to Park District staff with final deliverables.

Clarendon Hills Park District – Tree Inventory and Value Assessments – July 2012
Clarendon Hills Park District was seeking not only to have its tree population GPS located and assessed in terms of heath, vigor, and EAB, but it also wanted to quantify the approximate Fair Cash Value of its trees. In order to accomplish this, we created a customized data collection file that enabled field staff to not only record every trees standard data, such as species, size, and management concerns, but also each trees quantitative contribution to the landscape. This extra data could be utilized, using standard equations based on tree size and contribution information, to calculate a dollar amount that each tree was worth. We then added these amounts up and adjusted data slightly to compensate for a stand-level assessment, and were able to return a single dollar figure for the Park District's entire tree population, in addition to the standard EAB Management Report and Tree Inventory Report. This allowed the Park District some leverage when dealing with contractors and citizens alike in order to emphasize the value of trees, and why they should be protected and cared for.

Village of Mokena – Tree inventory and Reforestation Effort – December 2012 - Present
The Village of Mokena Contracted with Graf NRM to perform a comprehensive street tree inventory of all trees on its parkways, on its Village owned properties, as well as the identification of all open planting spaces that currently existed on the parkways. After the inventory of nearly 12,500 trees and planting spaces was complete, it became evident that Mokena not only had an infestation of Emerald Ash Borer, but that as its overall tree population was of relatively low diversity, leaving it at risk of future pest and pathogen outbreaks. After delivering the EAB Management Report, Tree Inventory Report, and attending many Village Board meetings to discuss the issues, attentive policymakers and citizens banded together in order to prepare a readiness agenda, which was swiftly budgeted for and executed. A very proactive approach was taken, using a three-tiered effort: First, using GIS tree data, the Ash trees in the worst condition with the most severe levels of EAB infestation were identified, and the removal burden split between the Village's crews and a contractor. Second, nearly 300 trees were chosen for treatment and preservation, and a treatment contractor was procured. Finally, a reforestation effort was created and approved which would utilize our innovative Planting Site Assessment methods. This method involves using various GIS data layers, such as wetland and soils data, as well as eyes-on assessments of factors such as available grow space, light levels, and salt or nutrient loading in order to create a master list of what trees are to be planted in which exact locations. This represents a long-term investment in the tree plantings, and gives the greatest chance of success to each individual tree, minimizing tree mortality. We continue to assist Mokena in its tree removal and reforestation efforts.

City of Country Club Hills – Tree Inventory and EAB Emergency Response – July 2013
Like so many communities in today's economy, Country Club Hills did not have the kind of Forestry budget that they needed to cope with Emerald Ash Borer. As a result of tight budgets, and a hard-hitting drought in 2012, and a very high percentage pf Ash trees in its overall populations, many Ash trees had gone from bad to dead in an unpredictably short time period, leaving standing dead trees in a hazardous situation throughout the City. We aided Country Club Hills in procuring grant money to assist them with the inventory efforts, and not only took tree data as we normally do for a municipal inventory, but essentially performed "in-situ" triage assessments of the Ash population. This meant that out in the field, in real time, we determined the overall hazard level posed by the Ash tree in question, and scheduled it for immediate removal, removal within 1 year, or removal within 3 years. This method, along with constant communication with City staff, enabled the removal of the most hazardous tree from the parkways in a timely and organized fashion, and bought some much needed time to prepare for the next round of removals.

City of St Charles Reforestation Planning – March 2013 – Present
The City of St Charles was home to the first identified EAB infestation in the state of Illinois, back in 2006, and as such has had some of the most extensive damage to their Ash tree population much earlier than many similar communities. Now moving into the post-EAB era, St. Charles aspires to serve as a model community for how to responsibly reforest their parkways to avoid future heavy tree losses due to pest and pathogens. We used St Charles' existing tree inventory data to prepare a species breakdown that examined their existing tree diversity, both at the species and genus levels. What we discovered was that while diversity overall was high, there were a few species and genera that were being overplanted, and therefore in danger of future pest and pathogen issues. They had a long-term relationship with their nursery and planting contractor, so working with the contractor, we targeted new tree species with which to reforest, and de-emphasized some groups like Maples and Honey Locust. Using our Planting Site Assessment methodology, we assessed over 1,400 planting sites in 2013, and are working on another 700 as of this writing, in order to make sure these trees are planted according to their natural tolerances of things like shade, salt, grow space, and soil moisture, using both field survey and GIS data.

City of Wheaton Ash Tree Reassessment & EAB Management Plan Update – August 2013
The City of Wheaton had, and continues to have some of the largest and most majestic Ash trees in the western suburbs on its parkways. But with such a high proportion of Ash trees (some neighborhood parkways were dominated by 90% Ash trees), and a tree inventory which required some updating, up to date information was difficult to come by in order to get crews to the most infested and hazardous trees first, without sacrificing efficiency. Having performed a comprehensive "in-house" tree inventory over the past decade, Wheaton had quality tree data, but much of the Ash tree information had become out of date. In addition, like many communities, the severe drought of 2012 had caused a more rapid than expected decline of many Ash trees as well, leaving an unpredictable and large Ash tree population. Working closely with City of Wheaton GIS staff and Forestry staff, we were able to assimilate their existing tree data, add the necessary data collection fields, and assess the individual risk/hazard posed by each of their 5,500 Ash trees. This information was promptly delivered back to the City, and their removal contractors were able to strategically remove the most hazardous Ash trees in a targeted effort by the end of the year.

Big Rock Development – Big Rock, IL – August 2013
Graf NRM was contacted by a prospective client who was looking to partially develop a 14-acre parcel of land which he had recently purchased. Surrounded by agricultural fields, half of this land was a manicured residential campus complete with 2 homes, and the other half was an Oak Woodland which had been ecologically restored by the previous owner. The new owner sought to develop the existing homes and create a Plant Health Care and pruning regiment for the trees in the manicured areas, but also wanted to enhance and protect the native woodland. Our field staff provided a comprehensive tree inventory of all trees on the 14 acre site, mapped out the various vegetation communities (Oak Woodland, Floodplain Forest, Wetlands, etc), and assessed the Ecological and Plant Health Care needs of the tree and shrub population. A detailed report and digital map set was prepared for the client which outlined a long-term vegetation management and development plan which sought to balance the development of the manicured areas, while also tending to the needs of the natural areas

Village of Glendale Heights Tree Inventory – August 2013 – Present
After successfully assisting the Village of Glendale Heights procure a $20,000 grant for tree inventory, we began an inventory of all parkway trees, Park District trees, and trees in Village-owned properties, as well as a Village-owned 18 hole golf course. Once again, due to adverse conditions over the past several years, the Ash tree population had experienced rapid decline. After the inventory of nearly 10,000 trees and planting spaces was complete, reports were delivered to Village staff, and tree removal began instantly, using the GIS data and field verification to target the most hazardous tree first. As of right now, we are assisting Village staff in planning for the next round of removals, as well as beginning to lay the groundwork for a reforestation effort.

Other Tree Inventories and Projects Include

  • West Chicago Park District Tree Inventory (2009,2014)
  • St Charles Park District Tree Inventory (2014)
  • Village of Machesney Park Tree Inventory (2013)
  • Addison Park District Tree Inventory (2013)
  • Dundee Township Park District Tree Inventory and Tree Protection Plans (2013)
  • Elk Grove Park District Tree Inventory (2013)
  • West Chicago Park District Wind storm Tree Loss Mapping and Analysis (2012)
  • Deerfield Park District Ash Tree Inventory (2012)
  • Geneva School District Ash Management Mapping (2012)
  • Glen Ellyn Park District Grant Writing and Tree Inventory (2012)
  • Park Ridge Park District Tree Inventory and Zoning Variance Assistance (2012)
  • Streamwood Park District Grant Writing, Tree Inventory, and Maintenance Planning (2012)
  • Lutheran Life Homes Tree Mapping, Transplant, and Protection Plan Project (2011)
  • Round Lake Area Park District Tree Inventory and Pruning Education (2011)
  • Medinah Park District Tree Inventory and Ash Preservation (2011)
  • Mission Hills Retirement Community Ash Preservation Planning (2011)
  • Innisfree Subdivision Tree Survey and Ash Management Planning (2010)
  • St Andrews Golf Course (West Chicago) Ash Tree Survey (2010)
  • City of West Chicago Tree Inventory and Ash Treatment Program (2010)

Accomplishments

  • Speakers at joint EAB symposium: "EAB Readiness: Is Your Community Prepared" (2010)
  • Speakers at Illinois Parks and Recreation Association annual conference, 2 sessions (2011):
    1. "EAB management with GIS"
    2. "Hazard Tree Evaluation"
  • Workshop Speakers at American Public Works Association (APWA) conference (2011)
  • Speakers at Illinois Arborists Association Trade Show: "Use of GIS in Urban Forestry" (2012)
  • Recognized for Excellence in EAB Preparedness by Metropolitan Mayors Caucus (2012)
  • Speakers at Roselle Sustainability Saturday (2012)
  • Speakers at Bollingbrook Park District Earth Day Celebration (2013)
  • Speakers at ESRI International User Conference, San Diego CA: "GIS and Urban Forestry" (2013)
  • Speakers at Illinois Arborist Association Trade Show: "Ecology and Urban Forestry" (2013)
  • Speakers at Northeast Municipal Foresters Conference (2013)
  • Instructors for Illinois Arborists Association Advanced Training Courses (2014):
    "Species Requirements"
    "Planting Methods and Selection"
  • Speakers at Northwest Municipal Foresters Conference (2014)
  • Over $100,000 worth of Grants procured for urban forestry projects including:
    Tree Inventory
    Tree Planting
    Urban Wood Utilization

Affiliations

  • International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)
  • Illinois Arborist Association (IAA)
  • American Public Works Association (APWA)
  • Illinois Parks and Recreation Association (IPRA)
  • Midwest Institute of Park Executives (MIPE)
  • Illinois GIS Association (ILGISA)
  • Illinois Association of Environmental Professionals (IAEP)

Staff Certifications Include:

  • ISA Municipal Specialist (1)
  • ISA Certified Arborist (5)
  • ESRI Certified GIS User (1)
  • IDA Certified Pesticide Applicator (6)
  • IDA Certified Pesticide Operator (4)

Staff College-Level Degrees Include:

  • Environmental Science
  • Mathematics
  • Geography
  • Biology
  • Earth Science

Business Relationships Include:

  • Sidwell Co
  • Banner Sales
  • Family Tree Care
  • Emerald Tree Care
  • Wasco Nursery
  • Pedersen Co.
  • Manhard Consulting
  • Bollinger Environmental
  • Moonscape Landscape Illumination

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What's New

GRAF TREE CARE MOVES INTO NEW FACILITY
Last year, we purchased an empty 5,200 square foot building in Batavia, IL. After the design phase and architectural drawings were completed for our custom buildout, the interior construction began. We decided to use this opportunity to showcase urban wood utilization. Recycled wood planks were used to create our desks, cabinets, shelves, window sills, and a conference room table; all from trees that were removed by our crews and milled right here is Batavia. Click here to read full article.

ZAC KING – ISA BOARD CERTIFIED MASTER ARBORIST
In November, our Plant Health Care Coordinator, Zac King, reached the highest professional level of Certification the International Society of Arboriculture has. This certification is based on years of practical work experience, along with intense independent study. Zac has worked hard in the field in our daily operations, attended conferences and seminars, and studied on his own in order to attain this prestigious certification. Congratulations Zac!.

EVENTS AND PUBLIC APPEARANCES
Here are a few places you can come to see us over the next few winter months:

  • January 19-20: State Park District Conference -Downtown at the Hilton, Chicago, IL. Phil Graf and Steve Lane will be presenting groundbreaking 3D Tree Mapping and Canopy Analysis.
  • January 24-26: Indiana Arborist Association Annual Conference - Indianapolis, IN. This time Municipal Consulting Forester Jim Semelka will be with Phil and Steve set up in the exhibit hall to showcase more urban forestry services and technologies.
  • February 28-29: Great Lakes Park Training at Pokagon State Park – Angola, IN. Phil will be in attendance to network and talk to fellow trainees about urban forestry.
  • March 14-15: Minnesota Shade Tree Short Course - Bethel University, Arden Hills, MN. Steve will be presenting on using GIS for Reforestation Planning after the Emerald Ash Borer.
 
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1485 Louis Bork Dr. Unit #113 | Batavia, IL 60510 | Phone: 630/762-2400 | Fax: 630/578-1304