Garrison’s urban forest management program seeks to save trees

The Army keeps track of hundreds of thousands of Soldiers, and millions of tons of supplies and equipment. Did you know it keeps track of trees?

Almost 9,000 trees across U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s 995 urban acres — individual trees in housing areas, lining the streets and those next to buildings — are marked with numbered metal tags and cataloged in a database detailing the specifics of each: species, approximate height, girth and age, condition and location.

“It allows us to better manage and maintain them,” said Robert Gromer, an environmental protection specialist with the Directorate of Public Works’ Environmental Division.

The tree inventory, a component of the garrison’s urban tree management program, allows DPW to maintain the health and appearance of the trees, monitor them for safety risks, and identify planting sites.

Trees are susceptible to storm and mechanical damage, insects and diseases, all of which can cause the decline in the health of a tree to a point where it becomes a safety hazard, Gromer said.

To prevent this, each tagged tree is systematically inspected during the summer, with its roots, trunk and crown examined for signs of decay and weakness, parasites, severed roots and other damage.

Based on the tree’s condition, trimming, pruning or removal may be scheduled during the dormant season in January and February.

The removal of trees can be a contentious issue, but there are circumstances when it is necessary, Gromer said.

In 2012, approximately 100 trees were cut down because of their significant potential to injure people or damage property. Seventy trees were also planted to replace those cut down for safety reasons.

But before a tree is cut down, the Environmental Division and the German Federal Forest Office — trees on garrison property belong to the German government, not the U.S. Army — must concur.

“Removal is the last alternative,” Gromer said.

In construction areas, trees are preserved whenever possible. An existing tree could be transplanted to another location, if it is a good candidate.

The species, condition, size, age, and other factors must be evaluated. “Most times the trees are too tall,”  he added.

But if removal is the only alternative, normally the trees will be replaced. “We are always working hard to protect the trees and the environment,” Gromer said.

Notable trees

Oldest: The oldest trees on garrison  property are located on Patch Barracks, between Florida Strasse and Texas Strasse, near Steuben and Weicht Village Family Housing. These oak trees, Trees 963, 1227 and 972, are estimated to have been planted in 1650.

Tallest: The tallest trees are found in the Panzer Housing Area. Trees 210 (next to Building 3307), and 216 and 223 (behind Building 3164) are beech trees with an estimated height of 100 feet.

Widest: Tree 527, found along Arkansas Strasse, behind Building 2301 on Patch Barracks, is an oak tree with an estimated trunk diameter of about 59 inches.