Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

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John Harvey
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Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

Post by John Harvey » Wed Jan 08, 2014 12:06 pm

This is something I've been thinking about a lot recently and I know its been discussed a lot on here. I've been in conversations with Scott Wade (PAbigtrees.com) and the web designer for Pennsylvania and Maryland's big tree websites about starting NJbigtrees.com and replacing the impotent state run site. My plans are to have the site live sometime this summer at the latest. The site would have the same format as PA and MD, populated with the information and photos I've amassed and refreshed with submissions by the public. My ultimate goal would be to have the same format in every state if possible with links to a national database that is easy to navigate. Dan, the web designer, has the same aspirations to the point where its become more of a goal instead of a for profit venture. As we all know there is almost zero funding for a project like this.
Having realized the two biggest obstacles to a national system are money and qualified volunteers, what are ways around this? Could we find advertisers? Could we get a government grant? I certainly think the amount of qualified and educated experts here would warrant that. I also think a yearly publication could be used to cover cost as well.
What about trained and qualified measurers? Maybe getting different schools to offer an internship for botany ect students to measure and verify submissions would be a way to go. I know I'm getting ahead of myself here but if we could get donors or advertisers maybe the cost (ie gas, equipment, ect) could be covered for the volunteers.
I think its been proven that all you really need for a successful, quality, site on the state level is one person with the time and passion to put into it. Guys like Bryan Carmean in Virginia, Brian French in Oregon, and Scott in Pennsylvania have shown this with their sites. There has been a lot of discussion on the measuring faults of certain organizations and how the NTS method is superior. I agree. Wouldn't it be easier to spread and enforce these guidelines if we NTS members ran the websites for the states and controlled and filtered the database?
If you haven't visited the established sites I'm referring to please do and let me know what you think about the format. Am I dreaming too big on this? Any thoughts?

www.PABigTrees.com

www.MDBigTrees.com
John D Harvey (JohnnyDJersey)

East Coast and West Coast Big Tree Hunter

"If you look closely at a tree you'll notice it's knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully." - Matt Fox

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bbeduhn
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Re: Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

Post by bbeduhn » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:04 am

Johnny,
Those two state websites are very well run. I like that most trees have pictures and good notes, many measured with the ENTS system. They're still plagued by double and multi-stemmed trees but the websites are what you're using as a benchmark, and they are easy to get around. I especially like that PA has a tallest trees list.

You are dreaming big but that's a necessity for this kind of project. In your shoes, I would work on New Jersey first and foremost. We have a Maxlist that needs some major updating. I think we need to focus on getting that updated as there is time involved but not money. I do hope that someting of an ENTS big tree site becomes a reality but with improvements in the AF sites, American Forests may fill the niche. There's still much work to be done on that end. The same rules must apply to each state however, and at this time some states aren't playing by the same rules or even participating at all.
Brian

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John Harvey
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Re: Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

Post by John Harvey » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:12 am

I agree that there are a lot of different standards being used and certain states don't have a list at all. With NJBigTrees.com I plan to have a separate category for multi-stemmed trees or at the very least have an * by the trees points if it is multi-stemmed. On a national level I think once AF cleans up its practices things will be better. Their big tree registry is enjoyable but I would like to see even more trees there. Perhaps the 5 largest known?
John D Harvey (JohnnyDJersey)

East Coast and West Coast Big Tree Hunter

"If you look closely at a tree you'll notice it's knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully." - Matt Fox

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edfrank
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Re: Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

Post by edfrank » Thu Jan 09, 2014 11:04 am

John,

I think there should be multiple trees listed for a species- all of the notable trees of a species that are the largest point wise - the tallest - the fattest - ones that come close - ones that are unusual in some notable way - historical trees - . I think it would paint a much richer and more interesting listing if trees beyond the very largest were included in the listings. The mutlitrunks should be listed, but as you say they should be a separate category.

I am all for some strict standards in determining what tree is the largest, but beyond that if you are going to have more than one tree listed, I think flexibility in what and how many trees you list would be better. list the trees that deserve to be listed rather than some arbitrary number of trees. For example the 4th or 5th largest of an uncommon species might be very small compared to others on the list - do they need to be included? If a tree is marginally smaller in total points than the fifth place tree, even though it might be larger in girth or height than other trees in the top five, should it arbitrarily be left off? I don't think so - Look at the zero-tolerance policies some school districts have imposed. Their implementation have led to some egregious injustices, I can see the same thing happening to the tree lists with a set limit required/maximum for trees listed.


Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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John Harvey
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Re: Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

Post by John Harvey » Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:24 pm

Ed,
Very good points. I think that above all, the point in a big tree website is to peak peoples interest, drawing attention to preservation while maintaining honest guidelines in determining what deserves recognition. There will always be some grey areas but 95% of it is common sense to me.
A split trunk black cherry 4 feet from the ground with triple 5' trunks is NOT the same as a 15' CBH single stem cherry tree. Treating the trees the same on a point scale would only in my opinion discourage the interest of the public in a big tree program because visually there is no comparison. It cheapens it. Having said this I agree that there are multi-stemmed trees that deserve recognition. I use the 32' CBH "Champion" Eastern Cottonwood in PA as an example. It is a multi-trunk with a large stem and a smaller stem yet it is still easily one of the ten most impressive trees I've ever seen east of the Mississippi. I also see the need for a category for interesting, unique, and strange trees.
My goal is to represent ENTS/WNTS methodology in the NJ site and I am open to suggestions.
John D Harvey (JohnnyDJersey)

East Coast and West Coast Big Tree Hunter

"If you look closely at a tree you'll notice it's knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully." - Matt Fox

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dbhguru
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Re: Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

Post by dbhguru » Thu Jan 09, 2014 2:47 pm

John,

Wow! You are thinking big. I'm interested in the thoughts of other state big tree coordinators who are also Ents. Don Bertolette in Alaska for sure. In terms of other players such as American Forests, we'll know more in a few months as things get sorted out on where exactly AF intends to go. Sheri Shannon, the present AF coordinator and the driving force behind the current measuring guidelines working group is moving on. Going back to school. We wish her well, but she is going to be a tough act to follow. She is a visionary.

Should AF want to be more involved in the database end, they could be a source of funds. Regardless, building a better website and database for NJ is a worthy first step. Best to learn from a modest undertaking first. You will have access to all our measuring technology and plenty of help in tailoring materials to fit a local program.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

tclikesbigtrees
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Re: Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

Post by tclikesbigtrees » Thu Feb 06, 2014 3:05 pm

With all the looking around that I do online for big trees, I think that my favorite sites are the MD and PA ones. I would love for there to be one for NJ and every other state just like those ones.

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M.W.Taylor
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Re: Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

Post by M.W.Taylor » Tue Feb 11, 2014 2:44 pm

American Forests clearly does not care about accurate tree measurement. The sooner you make American Forests Big Trees Registry obsolete, the better !

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dbhguru
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Re: Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

Post by dbhguru » Tue Feb 11, 2014 6:39 pm

Michael,

The observation you make about America Forests has unquestionably been true in the past. AF's record has not been admirable. The question is whether AF is genuinely attempting to change through the working groups that have been established to improve performance. The answer to that question will not be longing in the coming. If the guidelines that Don Bertolette and I are developing are accepted and put on the AF website to guide future measurement activities, then the Leopard will have changed its spots. If not then we'll have three sets of measuring guidelines that NTS can champion: (1) guidelines for the public, (2) guidelines for State certification, and (3) guidelines for a National Cadre.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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John Harvey
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Re: Is it time for a National Big Tree Database/website?

Post by John Harvey » Wed Feb 12, 2014 2:16 pm

I'm hopeful that AF will change their ways with the influence of Robert, Don, and others. We will see. That being said, what will happen when a third of the champion trees become null and void or wind up on a multi stemmed list? Seems like there will be a lot of work to do in verifying the real champions if things were to change, especially all at once.
John D Harvey (JohnnyDJersey)

East Coast and West Coast Big Tree Hunter

"If you look closely at a tree you'll notice it's knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully." - Matt Fox

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