Each year the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program and Council sponsors the Vermont Tree Steward Awards as a way to recognize our state's urban and community forestry champions.
Hamilton: In recognition of a Tree Warden who has significantly advanced the goals of urban and community forestry through successful forestry practices, effective conservation planning, increased citizen engagement, and active public education. This award is in honor of Dr. Larry Hamilton, the former Tree Warden in Charlotte, and is limited to Tree Wardens.
Leader: An individual who, through services to their community or organization, has shown leadership and dedication in carrying out an urban or community forestry effort.
Unsung Hero: An individual and/or group who work(s) behind the scenes and consistently goes above and beyond to make a difference in their community's urban and community forest.
Volunteer Group/Community: An organization, team or ad/hoc group, or community who, through their efforts, have shown outstanding dedication and commitment in introducing or sustaining an urban & community forestry project within their community.
Arbor Day: UCF staff award.
The Vermont Tree Steward Awards are announced in April. Awardees will be honored at the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Conference of Thursday, May 23, 2024 and recognized on VT UCF's site, social media platforms, and a press release.
2023 Tree Steward Award Recipients
Hamilton: Steve Lotspeich, Waterbury
Hamilton Award: In recognition of a Tree Warden who has significantly advanced the goals of urban and community forestry through successful forestry practices, effective conservation planning, increased citizen engagement, and active public education. This award is in honor of Dr. Larry Hamilton, the former Tree Warden in Charlotte, and is limited to Tree Wardens.
Steve Lotspeich in March 2023, after a thirty-year career in the Town of Waterbury. During that time, Steve has served as Town’s Community Planner, Tree Warden, chair and co-chair of the Waterbury Tree Committee, as well as a host of other volunteer roles. Throughout his tenure, Steve has served formally and informationally as a champion and advocate for Waterbury’s trees, and a leader in their intentional cultivation and stewardship.
Steve has provided ongoing leadership for the community’s very active Tree Committee. In the past few years alone, the Tree Committee has:
- Conducted a roadside ash inventory
- Received grant funding for preparation of an Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Preparedness/Management Plan
- Received state ash tree management grant for proactive management and removal of unhealthy ash trees within the public right of way, which through a collaboration with community organizations, were used for firewood for community members
- Received a Caring for Canopy grant from the Vermont Dept. of Forests, Parks and Recreation for additional tree planting
- Received a Fruit and Nut Tree Grant from Vermont Garden Network for plantings in coordination with the Town’s community garden and recreation program
- Drafted a Tree Care Ordinance that will also serve as the town’s Shade Tree Preservation Plan for consideration by the Select Board.
Steve’s role in the municipal government enabled him to be a highly effective advocate, and liaise with Town staff and departments for major infrastructure and public works projects, annual budgeting, and more. Beyond staffing the Tree Committee, managing grants, and advocating for policy, Steve is an active and willing participant in ongoing stewardship efforts and plantings, and can often be seen running to a tree planting event prior to an evening committee meeting.
The Waterbury community, and especially Waterbury’s trees, have been enhanced because of Steve’s leadership and commitment. Thank you, Steve!
Leader: Peter Hausermann
Leader Award: An individual who, through services to their community or organization, has shown leadership and dedication in carrying out an urban or community forestry effort.
Peter Hausermann has been the groundskeeper since Wake Robin first open its doors 30 years ago and has managed the development and stewardship of our 136-acre campus with tremendous results. Peter has always seen the Wake Robin landscape through the lens of long term sustainability and has carefully managed our micro-system. He has maintained the beauty and the health of the campus while partnering with our residents and educating them on the philosophy behind the work he does. His believes that wildlife and forest health is a priority, and his focus is for both short-term and long-term management. He aims to create openings in the forest canopy to develop trees with different age classes – from seedlings to mature trees, which is important to support wildlife diversity. This thinking also enables our forest stands to compensate for extreme weather events and prevent insect infestation.
Peter works with Joe Nelson, our forester, to develop a long-range plan for managing the health of our forests and has implemented treatments to maintain that health into the future. This work includes balancing sunlight to the soil layer, managing soil temperature, and preventing root damage. He has been instrumental in combating thickets of invasive plants, specifically buckthorn and honeysuckle, without using pesticides and led us to inject our elm trees to prevent an ash borer infestation. He manages both the understory and overstory to regulate growth and has a 5 year plan for selectively harvesting mature trees. This year he is also partnering with our forester and Audubon Vermont to develop a habitat for the Golden Wing Warbler.
The residents love him and seek out his expertise. Peter clearly loves what he does and enjoys sharing his passion with the community. We are lucky to have him and appreciate the value he brings to our corner of Vermont.
Unsung Hero: Little Tree, Hartford
Unsung Hero Award: An individual and/or group who work(s) behind the scenes and consistently goes above and beyond to make a difference in their community's urban and community forest.
Little Tree of Hartford has been a Forest Pest First Detector since 2011. In the past 12, years Little Tree has stepped up time and again to help steward the health of Vermont’s forests - especially in terms of protecting them from invasive insects. Little Tree worked tirelessly with the Hartford Tree Board to help prepare the five villages of Hartford for the arrival of emerald ash borer (including a very detailed ash tree inventory and monitoring the purple trap that captured the first confirmed EAB in Windsor County). Little Tree loves sharing his knowledge of nature with others. He has enthusiastically staffed countless educational events, from the VT Flower Show in Essex, to Insect Day at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, to the Quechee Balloon Festival.
In the spirit of the true unsung hero, whenever a volunteer is needed, Little Tree comes forward to help. We are grateful for Little Tree's example of what it looks like to live one’s commitment to the sacredness of the natural world.
Volunteer Group Award: Old Stone House Museum & Historic Village Buildings & Grounds Committee
Volunteer Group/Community Award: An organization, team or ad/hoc group, or community who, through their efforts, have shown outstanding dedication and commitment in introducing or sustaining an urban & community forestry project within their community.
For 100 years the Old Stone House Museum & Historic Village has been the steward of a unique American story - that of African American educator Alexander Twilight, who served as the preeminent headmaster of the Orleans County Grammar School in Brownington, Vermont through the mid 1800's for almost 30 years. He was not just a headmaster. Mr. Twilight was many things: builder of the 4-story granite dormitory (now our museum) to house his students; the first African American person to graduate from a US college; the first person of color to be elected to serve in a state legislature (VT, 1836); and minister of the Brownington Congregational Church. His life was marked by excellence and standards, educating nearly 3,000 young men and women over the span of his career.
This special story, manifested now by the structures, events, programs and outreach of the museum's historic village, has some very important witnesses: the trees. Lining Old Stone House and the historic Hinman-Settler Roads, standing sentry by the front door of Athenian Hall (museum building), overarching the lawn of the Samuel Read Hall House, dropping apples in the fall - the ancient maples, oaks, apple, ash, butternut trees have seen so much history transpire. In old black and white pictures taken in the early 1900's, some of those same trees are photographed as just saplings. They have seen the advent of the car, the changes in landscapes and environment.
The museum's Buildings & Grounds Committee, under the leadership of its chairperson Jane Greenwood, has taken special consideration in the trees of the historic village over the last several years. In an effort to ensure the longevity of the tree stock on the 60-acre property, they have diligently planted trees to replace those dead or dying. The committee continues to study the tree species on the property through the lens of climate change and pest control. They have partnered with the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program to engage in a long term tree survey which will help them determine the species that should be replanted and where on the property plantings should be planned. As the keepers of historic trees, the committee is planning for diversity and aesthetic 100 years in the future, while always caring for the lives of the trees currently standing.
The committee brings a special point of view to their work. They realize that trees quietly mark the passage of time and are working always to protect the history of the future that only trees can embody.
2023 Committee Members: Jane Greenwood, Co-Chair; Sally Harvey, Co-Chair; Adelle Brunstad; Frank Carbonneau; Peggy Gibson; Bob Hunt; Peter Martin.
Learn more about the Buildings & Grounds Committee.
Arbor Day: Gary Salmon, in memoriam
Arbor Day: UCF staff award.
Gary Salmon was a true champion and leader of Vermont’s trees and forests and will be remembered as the “Shrewsbury Lorax” and “Vermont’s Arbor Day Hero” who spoke for the trees. Gary passed away in January 2023, and his service to the environment and community members is sorely missed.
For 36 years, Gary served as a forester with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Throughout his long career, Gary wore many hats including district State Lands Forester, Recreation Coordinator, and Urban and Community Forester; Municipal Forest Manager; and Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Advisory Council member. One of his many joys was working with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps building and maintaining trails and bridges on state land and providing environmental education to the crews. Gary was a champion of the Vermont Big Tree list and measured many species that remain on the list today.
Gary also served as the Shrewsbury Tree Warden and initiated projects that grabbed the interest of many in town. He authored educational and entertaining monthly tree articles for the Shrewsbury Times and the Mountain Times, adding pictures from his trove of photographs. He gathered volunteers to inventory ash trees to plan for emerald ash borer and led several walks to help residents identify trees and shrubs. Gary was instrumental in the effort to amend the Vermont tree warden statutes, which, after many years, was successful in 2020. Gary worked with town representatives on so many different projects where the protection of trees was crucial from decisions on utility line placement and road and culvert placement to planting native trees to stabilize a road reconstruction project.
Gary was Arbor Day – he was the biggest cheerleader for raising awareness and celebrating this tree holiday. For many years he led the state Arbor Day celebration by creating educational programming for schools that were delivered across the state. Each year he touched thousands of youth with entertaining and engaging presentations, lesson plans for teachers with a fun student workbook, and a poster contest that passed along the message that trees matter and the need to them. He worked tireless to secure tree seedling that were passed out to student and under his leadership 100,000’s of trees were planted in celebration of Arbor Day. While they all didn’t survive the kids backpacks, many did and are giving back today. But more importantly, he cultivated the appreciation of trees in so many Vermonters.
Gary was unfailing in his willingness to lend his hand to any tree related project. He was a mentor and role model to many of the conservation minded. We miss Gary's enthusiasm and love of both people and trees and are honored to present the 2023 Arbor Day Award in his memory.