Arizona Forestry in Focus

Spring 2023 Edition


Attention readers: Our newsletter has a new name!

Originally called “Urban Tree Talk”, the title of our newsletter has been updated to "Arizona Forestry In Focus" to better reflect the topics and articles that will be presented each quarter. Don’t worry, you will continue to see the same great information from our expanding Urban and Community Forestry and Forest Health programs! However, you will now also receive updates on Forest Stewardship, Forest Legacy, and our Healthy Forest Initiative. DFFM Forestry programs have been growing rapidly; we want to share all the great work our teams perform on a daily basis.

For those who haven't heard of DFFM’s Healthy Forest Initiative (HFI), this initiative focuses on the identification and removal of hazardous vegetation from ALL LANDS in Arizona for fire prevention, forest and watershed restoration, and critical infrastructure protection. We’ll be offering more than $15 million per year to the private forest industry and partners via grants. In addition, our forestry programs are going all-in with new technology such as our Forestry Information Tracking System (FITS) that will geo-spatially track and display all projects throughout the state from past, present, and future.

We want this newsletter to be your resource for forestry information at the state level. We aim to provide you with relevant updates on our projects, new publications and technologies from the field, alongside upcoming community events, grants, and professional opportunities. At DFFM, the future is bright and we’ve been presented with incredible opportunities to do more. We’re happy to share and excited for you to be a part of it!

John C. Richardson

Assistant State Forester, Forestry Programs

Urban and Community Forestry

Species Selection for Urban Forest Diversity

LoriAnne Barnett Warren, Urban Forestry Program Manager

One of the most frequent questions we get from homeowners, Homeowners Associations, and sometimes municipal staff is, “Can you make a recommendation about what species of tree to plant?” There is no easy answer to this question because there are so many fantastic trees to choose from, so many lists that keep changing, and many site conditions to consider.

For those managing an Urban Forest at a larger scale such as a cities, towns, or homeowners associations, other important considerations revolve around species diversity. This work includes: creating a tree palette and planting list for your area (many cities have Urban Forestry Master Plans with this information); identifying underutilized tree species to avoid creating a monoculture, or the cultivation of a single species in an area increasing the chances of a disease or pathogen wiping out the full crop; examining future climate predictions and trends; thinking of specific criteria for the space (eg is the tree invasive, does it produce unwanted litter, is it known to be unsuccessful in your area, is it susceptible to disease, is there a reliable irrigation source, and the amount of traffic the space gets); and finding an available source for purchasing the species you’ve chosen (Hilbert et al. 2020; Urban Tree Selection for Diversity). 

We recommend checking out the article Urban Tree Selection for Species Diversity to dive deeper into the subject. You can also check out the report on urban forest ecosystem vulnerability designed by the Climate Change Response Framework (via the USDA Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science). They have created a list of Tree Species vulnerabilities for the City of Phoenix.

Sometimes there are more questions than answers, and you might find yourself limited to a few species. Asking some questions upfront will help with the decision-making process and ensure your choices are good ones for the near future, setting up your urban tree for success for at least 30 or more years to come. 

Urban Forestry Resources from the USDA Forest Service and Partners

Urban Forest Management: A Primer to Strategic Planning for Municipal Governments
Healthy Trees Healthy Cities App
Video Series: Urban Tree Monitoring

2023 Urban and Community Forestry Award Winners

Each year, we ask the public to nominate individuals, businesses, government employees, and partnerships for exceptional urban and community forestry work performed in the previous calendar year. Congratulations to this year's winners, whose work in 2022 has improved Arizona's urban and community spaces in tree-mendous ways!

Learn more and see a full list of nominees on our Recognitions Programs Page!

Forest Health

Arizona's 2022 Health Conditions Report

Aly McAlexander, Forest Health Program Manager

Forests cover approximately 19 million acres in Arizona, comprised of the lower desert scrub and pinyon-juniper woodlands to the high elevation mixed conifer forests. Urban areas also include forests that are typically composed of a mix of native and introduced tree species that require various management techniques. With this diversity of forests comes a diverse group of insects and diseases, from native and non-native pine engraver beetles to introduced fungal pathogens such as white pine blister rust.

Each year, DFFM partners with the USDA Forest Service Forest Health Protection team to perform an Aerial Detection Survey (ADS), where millions of forest and woodland acres are surveyed from the air. To provide the data and information to land managers and the public, the DFFM Forest Health team creates an annual conditions report that discusses current landscape level forest and woodland health conditions.

Above: Photos from Aerial Detection Surveys

In 2022, over 15 million acres were flown to identify dead, dying, and declining trees. All the data and information is broken down by DFFM district. Click the button below for more information on Arizona’s current forest health conditions!

Click here for the AZ Forest Health Conditions Report 2022

A Note on Tall Pot Trees

Willie Sommers, Invasive Plant Program Coordinator and LoriAnne Barnett Warren, Urban Forestry Program Manager

"Tall pots” are plants grown in a tall, thin container - 30 inches long with a 6 inch diameter opening (pictured). Plants are commonly grown for up to a year in smooth-walled PVC to allow roots to fill out the tube. This method may be useful to nurseries charged with growing out stock for the Million Tree and high-volume reforestation efforts, which we are excited to see happening around our state.

Pictured above: Tall potted trees

Why tall pots? Tall pot trees allow native desert plants to grow a long tap root and have a higher root to shoot ratio, mimicking the growth pattern of desert or arid land trees. A screen is placed at the bottom of the container to allow drainage, but keep the soil in place. When it comes time for planting, the screen at the bottom is removed and the container is placed in an augered hole. Based on guidelines from the Maricopa County Flood Control District which established a native tree nursery in 2002, the steps for planting include filling the planting hole with water and allowing it to drain completely. More than 10,000 tall pot trees have been planted since the beginning of the Maricopa County tall pot tree nursery program with an estimated 80% survival rate. 

Benefits of planting trees grown in this manner are not needing to provide supplemental water and obtaining good survival rates. Other considerations, similar to planting other species, are the need to protect from herbivory damage using tools such as wire cages or liquid fence deer and rabbit repellent. Desert-adapted species that can be grown in tall pot containers are Desert Willow, Blue and Foothills Palo Verde, Honey, Velvet and Screwbean Mesquite, and Catclaw and Whitethorn Acacia. 

Have you had experience with tall pot trees? Have they been successful? Let us know!  

Invasive Plant Project Spotlight: Arundo Free Oak Creek

Arundo Free Oak Creek is a project initiated by Friends of the Verde River to remove giant reed (Arundo donax) along Oak Creek in the Cornville area. The overarching goal of the project is to improve riparian habitat structure and function by managing invasive plants that threaten the health of the Verde River. DFFM is helping support this work through Invasive Plant Grant funding; we hope you enjoy this Arizona Public Media article about their efforts to protect and enhance our waterways.

Read more about the project here!

Forest Stewardship: Northeast District Update

The Northeast District (A2S) has recently completed a range

of projects to improve forest health, restore vegetation communities, and reduce wildfire risk. A2S encompasses Apache, Navajo, and portions of Coconino and Greenlee County. Projects on private, state, and federal lands have created opportunities for collaboration with many different partners and other government agencies.

Read the full update

Webinars, Trainings, and Events

Arbor Day Around The State

It's Arbor Day season!

Communities around the state celebrate Arbor Day on different days of the year, but it is commonly celebrated on the last Friday of April. Check with your city or town to see when they plan to celebrate your community trees!

Yuma - March 23rd - Join the community at Valley Aquatic Center!

Mesa - April 15th - Check out the Living Green Village at Celebrate Mesa!

DFFM is hosting a hybrid event for the State Celebration on April 21st - more details soon!

Some southern Arizona communities celebrate Arbor Day in the fall to better align with the beginning of tree planting season in the desert. We love that AZ gets to celebrate Arbor Day all year long!

4/11 - Webinar - Stinknet Symposium

4/8 - Community Event - How to Choose a Nursery Tree - Chandler, AZ

4/14 - Workshop - Tree Identification Workshop - Tucson, AZ

4/19 - Webinar - The Evolution of an Urban Forestry Program

4/20 - Webinar Training - EDDMapS Summit 2023

5/8-11 - Conference - Western Chapter ISA Annual Conference and Trade Show - Olympic Valley, CA

5/20 - Community Event - ACTC Tree Climbing Festival & Championship - Snowflake, AZ

5/23-25 - Conference - Forest Operations: A Tool for Forest Management - Flagstaff, AZ

6/23 - Workshop - Pest Management for Trees - Phoenix, AZ

7/11-13 - Conference - Southwest Agroforestry Action Network (SWAAN) Annual Conference - In-person & Virtual - Littleton, CO

7/21 - Workshop - Spanish Tree Biology and Pruning - Yuma, AZ

Save the Date! Society of Municipal Arborists 2023 Annual Conference and Trade Show with the World Forum on Urban Forests - October 16-20 - Washington DC

Still with us? DFFM is hiring! View available positions at

Our Team

Thanks for reading!

The State of Arizona Urban and Community Forestry Program is made possible with assistance from the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program.

In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this

institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

John Richardson, Assistant State Forester - Forestry Programs

(602) 771-1420

Cori Dolan, Specialized Forestry Program Administrator

(520) 262-5519

Wolfgang Grunberg, GIS & Data Supervisor

(602) 399-1886

Willie Sommers, Invasive Plant Program Coordinator

(602) 319-6818

Jessi Szopinski, Invasive Plant Program Specialist


Aly McAlexander, Forest Health Program Manager

(602) 290-9644

Viri Quinonez

Forest Health Technician

(480) 349-7585

LoriAnne Barnett Warren, Urban and Community Forestry Program Manager

(602) 399-9447

Megan Lasley, Conservation Education Coordinator

(602) 206-9830 

Suggestions or comments? We want to hear from you! Contact Megan Lasley, Conservation Education Coordinator at

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