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Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council Annual Awards

2022 awards

The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council presents annual awards to outstanding individuals, organizations, communities and tribes that further urban forestry in Wisconsin. The awards are announced each year at the annual Wisconsin Urban Forestry Conference and presented to winners in their local communities.

Next Gen

A series of three images, each showing children outdoors at the Mequon Nature Preserve.

Award winner: Mequon Nature Reserve Environmental Education Programs

Our first winner of our newest award is the Mequon Nature Preserve’s Environmental Education Programs. These programs are key to the Preserve’s ecological success, providing students of varied backgrounds, ages, and abilities immersive, engaging, and practical lessons in ecology and methods of applying this knowledge in their own backyards. Beyond tailoring field trips to the K4 through grade 12 curriculum, the educational team strives to foster environmental empathy and motivate these novices to collaboratively help advance MNP’s 150-year Master Plan of restoring the land. MNP also partners with local schools, universities, and organizations for specialized educational experiences pertaining to active land restoration and green-industry promotion. And during the pandemic, the education team produced educational videos, detailed virtual field trips, land restoration project updates, and digital craft-and-storytimes to continue to foster environmental stewardship. In the wake of a post-pandemic world, with a renewed appreciation for green spaces, the team has combined the digital and in-person educational programming to promulgate the ease, efficacy, and necessity of planting trees and forestry overall. The resulting feedback has inspired an increase in requests to plant trees from volunteers and donors alike, confirming the effectiveness of the programming on forestry and restoration pursuits. The educator’s response to the pandemic restrictions shows the exemplary care they dedicate to inspiring and educating the next generation of environmental advocates.

Project Partnership

A series of three images. The first shows a group of people standing around a newly planted tree. The second shows a girl next to a newly planted tree. The third shows a group of children lowering an evergreen sapling into the ground.

Award winner: Johnson's Nursery Community Tree Planting Program

This year our Project Partnership award goes to Johnson’s Nursery for their Community Tree Planting Program. Johnson’s Nursery grows a diverse plant inventory on over 600 acres in Southeastern Wisconsin and is celebrating over 60 years of shaping the green industry in the Midwest. Their Community Tree Planting program engages people of all ages in the planting of native trees at schools, nature centers, and community spaces, including the Forest Exploration Center. Together, adults and children get their hands dirty actively planting with helpful coaching by Johnson’s Nursery expert staff. Interactive plant signage created as an educational tool and written by Johnson’s Nursery horticulturists, are easily accessible by each plant. Program participants and future visitors learn to appreciate local eco-type, native trees and their impact on our community, ecosystem, and environment. The project is recognized for developing effective partnerships with schools, businesses, nature centers, and individuals to enhance the area’s urban canopy. This project has demonstrated how working together brings enormous advantages for both the urban forest and the people living among it. The Awards Committee recognizes the vital contributions from Johnson’s Nursery employee Robert Dummert who initiated and leads this noteworthy outreach program for Johnson’s Nursery.

Innovations in Urban Forestry: Two Award Winners

Arborists in reflective vests and helmets standing in a group in an urban forest.

Award winner: Elton Rodgers

Elton Rogers is recognized for his individual efforts in developing a unique educational experience for people entering the world of arboriculture through the arborist apprenticeship program. As the arboriculture instructor at MATC-Mequon, Elton he has been instrumental in the growth of the Arborist Apprenticeship program in the Milwaukee area by planning and developing an exceptional work force training program that brings awareness of our industry to a new and diverse audience that traditionally has not been represented in our industry. While planning and teaching in both the apprenticeship and the work force training programs, Elton still finds time to teach his regular traditional arboriculture classes at MATC.

Elton would like to acknowledge the following for their support:
There are a myriad of partners and stakeholders that have been crucial in helping to advance the Arboriculture Badge, Arborist Pre-apprenticeship, and Arborist Apprenticeship programs here at MATC and across the state.

  • Joe Dietz, Delisa White, Laurie Weiss, and Mike Wendt. These current and past instructors at MATC have set the benchmark for green industry instruction at the technical college level here in Wisconsin. They have unselfishly shared invaluable resources and knowledge with me since the moment I was hired.
  • Cassie Brayton. Cassie is the Educational Assistant within the Horticulture Department and has helped with many classes, including working as a part-time instructor for the Arborist Pre-apprenticeship.
  • Becky Alsup (Dean) and David Polk (Apprenticeship Director). The administration at MATC has been extremely supportive of the programs, committing time and resources to set the programs up for success.
  • Sponsors and Apprentices. There are too many to name, but the employer sponsors who have sacrificed production for the sake of education, especially during COVID, with numerous cancellations and rescheduling have been critical to the program’s success. A special thanks to August Hoppe and Randy Krouse of the apprenticeship advisory committee who have been instrumental partners within the pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. And I want to thank all the apprentices who have committed hours upon hours to learn new techniques, skills, and knowledge in order to better themselves as arborists and coworkers.

Innovations in Urban Forestry: Two Award Winners

A group of people standing around a newly planted tree in an urban neighborhood.

Award winner: Cedarburg Green

Cedarburg Green, a non-profit organization formed for neighbors to support urban forestry in Cedarburg, receives this recognition for their extensive efforts to increase the community’s tree canopy. The group responded to the city’s 2020 tree replacement budget of $0 by declaring 2020 the “FOCUS ON TREES” year in the city and implementing a multifaceted public awareness and tree planting campaign that included fund raising, tree sales, grant writing, educational activities for all ages, and media attention. This organization serves as an example to other communities on how they can create effective programs through partnerships and collaborations to the benefit of their citizens. With a willingness to be creative, Cedarburg Green has demonstrated the power of community to create beautiful, sustainable, and healthy landscapes and included these key partners: the Cedarburg Forestry Department and Cedarburg City Forester Kevin Westphal; the Cedarburg Parks and Forestry Board; the Cedarburg Public Works Department; Mikko Hilvo, Cedarburg’s City Administrator; the Cedarburg Public Library and Friends of the Cedarburg Library; Glenn Herold, and all the many Cedarburg Green volunteers.


A logging truck in winter, full of newly cut timber.

Award winner: Andy Sims

Andy Sims, Assistant Director of Operations for Parks, Recreation and Forestry in the City of Wausau and Marathon County, receives this award for his leadership in community urban forest management. He showed excellent leadership when he connected Wausau’s urban ash management program with Urban Evolutions of Appleton. The ash management plan involved treating, removing, and replacing ash trees in the boulevard, parks, and other city owned property, but Andy took it one step further. Andy connected with the Wisconsin DNR who helped him contact Urban Evolutions of Appleton, a company using new and reclaimed materials to design furniture, fences, flooring, doors, wall panels, and more for retail, residential, hospitality, and commercial projects. A contract was negotiated enabling Wausau’s ash logs to be removed from area parks and sold to Urban Evolutions; proceeds from the log sales were used to plant new trees. Andy is currently developing a partnership with the Wausau School District to utilize the removed wood with the school district’s sawmill to give area students an opportunity to learn about the sawing, drying, and utilizing process.

Past recipients

Award recipients from previous years

Award categories

The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council presents annual awards to outstanding individuals, organizations, communities, and tribes that further urban forestry in Wisconsin. The awards are announced each year at the annual Wisconsin Urban Forestry Conference and presented to winners in their community.

There are five categories of awards:

  1. Next Gen recognizes an organization or individual working to inspire and educate the next generation of citizens engaged with their urban forests through projects, activities, and a variety of additional contributions. These inspiring adults will support the future growth and development of the field by encouraging these youth to become the next generation of urban forestry professionals and its supporters. Eligible programs engage youth through age 18.
  2. Project Partnership recognizes outstanding projects that utilize partnerships as a means of providing services or benefits to the urban forest.
  3. Lifetime Achievement recognizes outstanding contributions to urban forestry in Wisconsin demonstrated throughout a lifetime career.
  4. Innovations in Urban Forestry recognizes a community, individual, association or organization exhibiting outstanding innovations in the development or enhancement of an urban forestry project or program. This award recognizes the creativity, commitment, and success of urban forestry efforts.
  5. Leadership recognizes an individual or elected official at the county or local level of government who has made an outstanding recent contribution to urban forestry in Wisconsin. This could be a mayor, alderman, county executive, or citizen, who has gone above and beyond in their support. Wisconsin State Legislators who have made outstanding contributions to urban forestry will also be considered after they have completed their terms of office.

Nomination process

Nominations for 2023 awards must be submitted by Oct. 31, 2022 and include:

  • Suggested award category.
  • Name(s), address(es) and phone number(s) of the individual/organization, group or project being nominated.
  • Project name, if applicable.
  • Name(s), address(es) and phone numbers(s) of persons to be contacted regarding the nomination.
  • A description of the merits of the nominee or the achievements of the project or partnership. Include the goals/objectives of the project and detail the outcome or impact the action had on the community. Why do you believe this nominee is deserving of the award? Feel free to attach any supporting documents (news clippings, photos, letters, etc.) that strengthen the nomination.

Please keep nominations to a maximum of two pages (not including attachments).

Nominations should be sent to Kirsten Biefeld. For additional information, please contact a Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council member or regional urban forestry coordinator.