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The conference includes the International Tree Climbing Championship.

More than 1,000 arborists coming to town for conference and competition

This week more than 1,000 arborists from around the country will take root in Milwaukee for the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Conference, Aug. 2-6 at the Wisconsin Center and Mount Mary University.

The conference -- hosted by the ISA and the Wisconsin Arborist Association -- typically attracts between 1,000 and 2,000 attendees and generates an estimated $5 million in spending for the host city.

This year's event will mark a homecoming for ISA Executive Director Jim Skiera, who is a Wisconsin native and the son of Bob Skiera, a pioneer of urban forestry in Milwaukee. The elder Skiera was the city's forester from 1973 to 1990.

But the conference isn't just for tree experts, who will listen to a keynote speaker and attend educational sessions. The public is welcome at the Arbor Fair on Saturday, Aug. 2, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Mount Mary.

There will be recreational tree climbing, children's activities, live music, exhibits on pruning, tree identification and disease prevention as well as free saplings.

We asked City of Milwaukee Urban Forestry District Manager Randy Krouse about the event, which includes the International Tree Climbing Championship. First, can you tell me a bit about the importance of the conference to arborists in Milwaukee? What will they get out of attending it?

Randy Krouse: Local arborists, urban foresters and other tree care professionals in both the public and private sector will have an opportunity to network with their professional peers from around the world and learn from each other. This conference helps these professionals keep up to date on the latest industry research and practices which they can use to develop and advance their careers in the Arboriculture field.

The information learned from this conference can in turn be used to educate the general public about the benefit of trees and promote the value of professional tree care to sustain healthy trees.

OMC: What are some of the biggest issues facing arborists in Milwaukee right now?

RK: Two big challenges facing arborists in Milwaukee are invasive species which threaten the urban forest and creating awareness about the benefit of trees in our community. Invasive species of pests, diseases and other plants have been and continue to threaten and kill trees within communities throughout the country, and Milwaukee is no exception.

A large majority of the American elm trees have died in the past due to Dutch Elm Disease and now the movement of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) moving into Milwaukee is threatening the lives of nearly 600,000 ash trees. The ISA conference gives urban foresters and arborists a chance to share their experiences with EAB and learn about various strategies being used to manage EAB and community ash tree populations.

OMC: Will the conference provide some opportunities to learn about and discuss those issues?

RK: Creating awareness about the benefits of trees and proper tree care to the general public is a constant, but important endeavour in our industry. People have varying perceptions of trees, some positive and some negative, usually based on their own experiences. Our job as tree care professionals is to cast trees in a positive light by highlighting the important benefits they provide, especially within the urban environment.

This educational process is an important step which helps our industry gain support and also gives homeowners and community leaders motivation and opportunity to care for and protect trees on their properties and within their community.

OMC: I hear there will be other things that will be of interest to non-arborists.

RK: There will be an Arbor Fair and the International Tree Climbing Championship on Aug. 2 at Mount Mary. This is a free event which will be fun and educational for the whole family. The Arbor Fair will have fun activities for kids including an opportunity to climb a tree with equipment that professional arborists use. There will be educational booths for all ages including opportunities to ask an arborist about tree questions, tree planting demonstrations, urban wood displays, etc.

In addition, the International Tree Climbing Championship will be happening, which gives people an opportunity to see the best tree-climbing arborists in the world compete for the title of world champion.

OMC: Do you typically attend these events when they're outside Milwaukee? Is this a pretty big deal in the world of arborists?

RK: Yes, I have attended ISA Conferences in the past. The ISA is one of the foremost professional organizations for arborists. Being a member of the ISA and attending their conferences gives arborists the knowledge, certifications and credentials necessary for providing quality tree care.

The conference is also a big deal because it gives a global presence within our industry all in one place and allows us to network, share ideas and socialize.


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