Monday 17th September community members met Chiang Mai Governor Pannada Diskul and colleges at the Chiang Mai Provincial Hall for a 90 minute discussion on how to conserve and care for trees on government properties and promote understanding of biodiversity as a vital issue.

In response to the proposed announcement below, the Governor announced he would set up a committee to receive advice from the public and instructed his staff to work closely with community members knowledgable about conservation management and biodiversity.  For more details and comments please read DokmaiDogma.

One of the responsibilities of all of us who head administrative units in the public service is to look after the maintenance of government lands around our offices and elsewhere.

In doing so I feel it is wise of us to take heed of the following ancient saying, an old Native American or some think it is a. Pennsylvania Dutch saying: “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”.

When we borrow anything we are responsible for returning it in good condition. Our government work is very like this, we hold a position in a place for a short time and we can say we borrow it and so the lesson is clear.

We are fortunate that many government workplaces have trees, sometimes large and old, around them which bring us shelter from the hot sun and pleasure from the songs of the birds. So it is our responsibility to care for trees.

Care for trees means firstly caring for the sources of their nutrition which comes from their roots and foliage.

The roots can often be quite extensive and actions such as spreading clay to raise the level of the land, cutting trenches near a tree and parking heavy vehicles or other activities which compress the soil around the roots need to be avoided. Similarly construction of fencing or concrete buildings close to trees should be avoided and for fencing often a simple wire fence, combined with ornamental climbers or shrubs will be cheaper and just as effective as a sturdy structure which will suffer cracks and damage. Roots provide sustainance for the tree in terms of water and nutrients from the soil, so keeping water permeable areas around the tree and allowing falling leaves to compost naturally around trees are also important considerations.

The foliage of the trees uses the energy of sunlight to convert water from the roots and carbon dioxide from the air into carbohydrates for the tree to grow. So from a trees perspective every leaf  and the branch that supports it is an asset. When the tree no longer benefits from a leaf or branch it will shed naturally. The lesson for us is to let the tree manage its own growth unless there is a problem for us which may require some pruning of branches. Often people prune trees for fruit as in the case of Lumyai or Mango and this is appropriate for the orchardist but generally not so around our offices where shade is highly valued. We may need to cut off dead branches for public safety and if powerlines are nearby remove some lateral branches, but avoiding cutting of the upward growing stem but mostly we should avoid cutting lateral branches as this will slow the tree’s growth and provide more light for weed growth.

I would remind all staff that in matters affecting the environment the constitution obliges us to both inform the community of any proposed actions and to consider community views in coming to an informed decision.

To ensure we meet this obligation I propose to establish a Provincial Advisory Committee of officers and interested members of the community to prepare advice for my office and guideline documents for use by all work units. These guidelines should cover rules for community partnership. for tree care and for propagation and selection of appropriate trees for planting.

For lands outside natural forested areas I propose we consider the words of the attached Chiang Mai Urban Forest Declaration as a starting point.

I also require that each work unit responsible for management of grounds establish its own committee of staff and community  to consider management of trees and the environment, to inform the committee of the contents of this letter and of advice from the Provincial Advisory Committee and to meet on a regular basis to be determined.

A young tree “Fat & Healthy” the upruned lower branches Speed tree growth, Shade out weeds competing for nutrients & water, Aid water retention in the soil.

This Anogeissis acuminata, the same age & species as on the left has had its lower branches pruned which Slows growth of the tree, Encourages weed growth and Dries out the soil – Things to be avoided.