A Quarterly Newsletter; Summer 2023 Edition

Greetings! In this newsletter you'll find articles written by our team that share relevant news, resources, and projects, along with other exciting happenings around the state. We encourage you to reach out if you're interested in learning more! - DFFM Specialized Forestry Team

Urban and Community Forestry

A Community-Led Approach to Urban Tree Inventories

Madeline Burton, Urban Forestry Specialist

An urban tree inventory is the gathering of accurate information on the density, distribution, diversity and health of the trees within a defined geographic area. They are typically conducted by professional tree service companies and include data on tree location, height, trunk caliper (thickness), and tree health. Tree inventory findings lay the foundation for developing sound urban forest management plans and an understanding of canopy cover - however, they can be cost-prohibitive. The scope of these inventories is often limited to public properties and right-of-ways, which only comprise about 20% of urban areas. Developing a comprehensive understanding of the urban forest when the remaining 80% isn’t represented poses a challenge for urban foresters and city officials alike.

Pictured: AZ community members appreciating a tree while taking measurements!

Community-led tree inventories emerged to complement existing professional inventories and can provide an alternative to costly efforts. Leveraging community allows a larger geographical area to be sampled, essential for monitoring newly-planted trees and filling in data gaps. While there are a few weaknesses in community-led reporting such as data bias and recruitment, engaging volunteers in community forestry promotes environmental awareness and fosters a sense of place.

Digital records on trees for decision makers is a powerful resource. Inventory initiatives do not need to be spearheaded by a city to address specific needs. These initiatives can be as simple as visiting your backyard and using a platform like iNaturalist to publish data, or as complex as organizing a team to work with local municipalities or tree-based nonprofits. For more information on how to do the latter, check out DFFMs Urban Tree Monitoring Resources and the Tree Inventory Instruction Guide, and reach out if you need help getting started.

Read more: https://dffm.az.gov/azutm/resources

Urban & Community Forestry in the News

Arizona Urban Forestry program receives $6 million to increase tree canopy


AZ Schools Set to Receive Trees Through State Budget Appropriation

Public News Service

Podcast alert!

 Internet of Nature - Season 5 The Future of Urban Forestry

Images from Arbor Day 2023

Congratulations to our Tree Cities!

In April, we celebrated Arbor Day with our Tree City USA communities, Tree Campus higher education campuses, and Tree Line utility providers.

Arizona currently has 30 Tree Cities, 5 Tree Campuses, and 2 Tree Lines!

These national Arbor Day Foundation programs provide standards for maintaining and growing community tree cover, and an avenue to celebrate and spread awareness of the benefits of trees. Interested in learning more about the program? Reach out to learn more!

Forest Health

Mediterranean Pine Engraver - Arizona Online Monitoring Dashboard and Next Steps

Mitchell Lannan, Forest Health Specialist

The Mediterranean Pine Engraver (MPE) is a non-native bark beetle that recently made its way to the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. First found in Phoenix in 2018, MPE has become a serious threat to urban pines. MPE attacks stressed trees by boring holes into the bark and feeding on the outer layers of the tree. The galleries created by MPE limit the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients, ultimately killing the tree. A four-year monitoring project for this pest concluded in 2022, with over 355,000 MPE captured in Phoenix and Tucson. Information on where MPE has been found in Arizona can be located on the MPE Monitoring Dashboard.

Photo of an adult male Mediterranean Pine Engraver

Click here to view the DFFM Forest Health MPE Monitoring Dashboard

Looking Forward

In 2023, DFFM will be conducting a host tree assessment along with a push-pull management project, both aimed to expand our knowledge of MPE. The host tree assessment will involve working with local contractors in Phoenix and Tucson to collect bark beetles from recently cut pine trees. This assessment will help us to determine which bark beetle species, including MPE, are attacking Arizona’s ornamental pines. Contractors interested in participating in this assessment should contact mlannan@dffm.az.gov.  

Photo of a lure and trap used for Mediterranean Pine Engraver

Additionally, DFFM will be implementing a push-pull strategy in parks around Phoenix, with the hope of reducing MPE populations in these localized areas. This strategy will test the ability of verbenone, a known bark beetle deterrent, to “push” MPE out of an area. Nearby, traps with lures will be placed to “pull” the MPE into that area. 

Invasive Plant Project Spotlight: Ecoculture Lower Salt River Restoration Project

Willie Sommers, Invasive Plant Program Coordinator and Jessica Szopinski, Invasive Plant Program Specialist

In 2018, the Cactus Fire ripped along Bush highway through the river bottom in the Tonto National Forest damaging over 800 acres of riparian habitat. Following this landscape-altering event, a long-term restoration initiative called the Lower Salt River Restoration Project was established to rebuild this important ecosystem. Partners of this collaborative group include Ecoculture, the National Forest Foundation, Northern Arizona University, the Tonto National Forest, and the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

The goal of this group is to increase biodiversity, improve water quality, and decrease the risk of fire by reducing invasive plant species and planting thousands of native trees throughout a 14-mile stretch of the Lower Salt River. Over the past 2 years, 169 acres of salt cedar, 100 acres of stinknet, and 320 acres of buffelgrass and fountain grass were treated from Stewart Mountain Dam downstream to Granite Reef Dam. To date, an impressive 16,200 native trees- including Gooddings willow, coyote willow, and mesquite- were planted within the site and the group is on track to plant an additional 19,000 by the end of their second grant term next summer in 2024. This project is an excellent example of the kind of work being supported by the DFFM’s Invasive Plant Grant Program. 

To learn more about Ecoculture visit them at https://ecoculture.us or follow them on Facebook @ecoculture. For more information about the IPG program, please see the attached flyer. 

Photo pre-treatment for salt cedar

Photo of post-treatment of salt cedar

**OPENS JUNE 16th**

2023 Invasive Plant Grant Program

Theme: Grasses and Grasslands

The DFFM Invasive Plant Grant Program supports cooperative management of invasive plants that threaten and are capable of transforming native plant communities in forests, woodlands, and rangeland throughout Arizona. The grant program focuses on prevention, control, and eradication of nonnative, invasive plants. Check out the flyer below for more information - applications are due by July 28th, 2023!

Click here to view the 2023 Invasive Plant Grant Flyer

Invasive Plants in the News


A weed is swallowing the Sonoran Desert

High Country News


Green Valley residents joining the fight against buffelgrass

Green Valley News


Efforts to remove invasive giant reed in Arizona rivers and lake continues with Department of Forestry grants

Cronkite News

Forest Stewardship: Southeast District (A3S)

What does Forestry look like in Southern Arizona?

Megan King, Forestry Technician

Forestry in southeastern Arizona involves the management of a broad range of ecosystems: from the Sonoran and Chihuahuan desert, to mixed conifer forests in the Sky Islands. However, a majority of state lands consist of semi-desert grasslands and desert scrub ecosystems and rarely include forested areas. Forestry treatments in these systems generally involve managing brush and grass fuel loads near strategic fire suppression points and mitigating the spread of invasive species like buffelgrass and tamarisk. Treatments are designed to manage the encroachment of both native and invasive species that have fundamentally altered the role of fire across our grassland and desert scrub ecosystems. Our goal of managing these species is to alter fire behavior to make fires more manageable, and to protect our local communities and state assets at risk.

Pictured in the top photo is buffelgrass on a project in Santa Rita Experimental Range, Sahuarita, AZ. Below is a photo of Sonoran Desert views in North Tucson.

Webinars, Training and Events

June 14th - Webinar - Urban Forest Connections: Connecting Hispanic Communities to Improving Urban Forest Health

June 17th - Walking Tour - Mesquite Walkabout with the Urban Tree Farm - Peoria & Tempe, AZ

June 23rd - Workshop - Pest Management for Trees - Phoenix, AZ

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

July 18-20th - Workshop -  29th Annual Southwestern Noxious, Invasive Plant Short Course - Farmington, NM

July 21st - Workshop - Spanish Tree Biology and Pruning - Yuma, AZ

August 18th - Conference - Southwest Horticulture Annual Day of Education (SHADE) Conference - Glendale, AZ

August 25th - Workshop - Tree Biology, Pruning, and Pest Threats - Clarkdale, AZ

September 14th - Conference - Annual Arizona Community Tree Council Conference & Pest Management Workshop - Camp Verde, 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

Exciting Volunteer Opportunity for Certified Tree Climbers!

The Forest Service is currently looking for interested certified tree climbers for a volunteer opportunity to collect cones for reforestation efforts on Arizona’s burned forest land! Please see the details below and reach out as instructed if interested: 


Who: Certified Tree Climbers-certification must be current and proof provided to the Forest Service

What: Cone collection from species such as Douglas fir, western white pine, and ponderosa pine

When: Cone collection will take place between August 28th - September 16th, 2023

Time Commitment: Two days within the above timeframe - you don’t need to be available for the full amount of time, you can participate whenever you are available. 

Where: Black Mesa Ranger District (office address: 2748 AZ-260, Overgaard, AZ)


The collections will be entirely organized by the Forest Service, who will locate and GPS the trees. Volunteers will meet up with FS and collect cones as a group. Please contact Rachael Seale, Silviculture Forester at the Forest Service if interested in this opportunity! Email: rachael.seale@usda.gov, phone: 928-535-7373.

Grant Opportunities

Invasive Plant Grant Program - Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management

Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program - Department of Transportation

Forestry Tip: Natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions are explicitly eligible under this program, such as native vegetation, shade trees, and stormwater bioswales.

Water Conservation Grand Fund - Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona

Forestry Tip: Connect your urban forestry project to water use education and conservation, installation of drought-tolerant landscaping and turf removal, and/or rainwater harvesting.

Grant Assistance Resource Alert!

Did you know? Local First Arizona's Arizona Economic Recovery Center offers free grant writing, project management, strategic planning support and more to qualified Arizona cities, towns, counties, tribal communities, and nonprofits to win competitive federal, state, and foundation grants.

Click here for their informational flyer or visit their website to learn more!

Meet the newest members of our team!

Jessi Szopinski, Invasive Plant Program Specialist

Hi, my name is Jessi and I am the Invasive Plant Program Specialist! I have a Bachelor's of Science degree in Biology from Northern Arizona University with an emphasis in botany and ecology. I enjoy gardening, hiking, and backpacking and live in Buckeye with my husband of ten years and 2 kids, Soleil and Estelle.

Mitchell Lannan, Forest Health Specialist

Hello, my name is Mitchell and I am the new Forest Health Specialist! I grew up in southern Wisconsin and have degrees in Wildlife Ecology and Management and Entomology from the University of Wisconsin. I have experience working as a plant pest and disease specialist in nursery, sod, and Christmas tree farms, and have worked as an IPM specialist in fruit crop production. Here at DFFM I am based out of Phoenix, and will be working on aerial detection surveys, insect and disease monitoring and management, public outreach and assistance, and grant support.  

Maddie Burton, Urban Forestry Specialist

Hi, my name is Maddie and I am the new Urban Forestry Specialist! I have a degree in Natural Resource Management from Mississippi State University and I am an ISA Certified Arborist. Before starting with DFFM, I was the Urban Forester for the City of Tyler, Texas where I managed municipal trees and community forestry programming. I’m excited for the opportunity to work with the communities of Arizona to bring awareness to the importance of our urban forest.

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.)

Suggestions or comments? We want to hear from you! Contact Megan Lasley, Forestry Outreach Coordinator at mlasley@dffm.az.gov

DFFM Contact Information

John Richardson, Assistant State Forester - Forestry Programs


(602) 771-1420

Cori Dolan, Specialized Forestry Program Administrator


(520) 262-5519

LoriAnne Barnett Warren, Urban and Community Forestry Program Manager


(602) 399-9447

Madeline Burton, Urban Forestry Specialist



Willie Sommers, Invasive Plant Program Coordinator


(602) 319-6818

Jessi Szopinski, Invasive Plant Program Specialist 



Aly McAlexander, Forest Health Program Manager


(602) 290-9644

Mitchell Lannan, Forest Health Specialist



Viri Quinonez

Forest Health Technician


(480) 349-7585

Wolfgang Grunberg, GIS & Data Supervisor


(602) 399-1886

Megan Lasley, Forestry Outreach Coordinator


(602) 206-9830 

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