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Urban forestry important to Oklahoma's vitality

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You might have heard of tree huggers, but urban forester Mark Bays embraces them in more ways than one.

Bays has been an arborist, forester and tree care provider for more than 15 years. 

"I hug a lot of trees," admitted Bays, state urban forestry coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. "But, I also understand the need for forest management, which includes tree removal. "It's my life, it's my love. "¦ It's everything I do."

BENEFITS
Urban forestry is the care and management of trees in urban settings in order to improve the urban environment. Urban foresters believe that trees are an important part of the urban environment, providing, among other things:
" improved air quality,
" energy conservation,
" economic benefits and
" a natural habitat for plants and animals.

"When I started," Bays said, "only a few communities had their own urban foresters."

Now, he said, almost every city in Oklahoma has an urban forester who manages development in that community to make sure that trees are planted and preserved.

"Our leaders are understanding that trees are a critical part of what makes Oklahoma unique," he said. "Good things are happening." "Lisa Janssen

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