Community Engagement and Preparedness (CEP) Program

The CEP Program

What exactly is the Community Engagement and Preparedness (CEP) program?

It started as a University of Minnesota, Department of Forest Resources and the University of Minnesota Extension project designed to help communities in greater Minnesota prepare for the arrival of the emerald ash borer, which affects the health of native ash trees (Fraxinus) throughout Minnesota. As shown in the chart to the right, ash trees make up roughly 15% of trees in Minnesota (MN DNR Community Tree Survey). To read more about EAB, click here.

Top Tree Genera in Minnesota Communities

The University of Minnesota, Department of Forest Resources, the University of Minnesota Extension, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Area cooperated on an emerald ash borer (EAB) Rapid Response grant that is a cooperative effort with fourteen "model" communities in Greater Minnesota. These communities represent different population categories (700-110,000) and five eco-regions (southeast, southwest, northwest, north central, northeast).  Each community conducted stratified surveys or inventories of private, public and commercial tree populations. This phase of the project concluded in August 2013 and the initial communities are being used as models to help additional Minnesota communities better understand the impact of their urban forests.

More About the Program

The Community Engagement and Preparedness (CEP) Program:

Combined with the higher populations of ash, these communities are often distant from educational and support resources or technical assistance.  In the past, these resources and sources of assistance were provided by the University of Minnesota Extension Service, County Extension offices, and Minnesota Certified Tree Inspectors.  Due to declining municipal, state and University budgets, this assistance to communities has been drastically compromised.

The University of Minnesota Extension Service was awarded funding for a community preparedness and reforestation project, 2009-2013.  The awarded proposal was divided into three parts: one part for expanding the First Detector training program and two parts for evaluating potential impacts and developing recovery tactics.  The latter two parts focus on an in-depth analysis of fifteen regional communities to determine the potential impacts of EAB infestations, the loss of ash trees and the cost/benefits of reforestation plans.  Included in the impact analysis is the establishment and training of community volunteer groups to conduct stratified tree inventories of said communities, including public, private and commercial properties.

In addition to the enhanced information distribution network and capacity, the concept of regional "shared resource centers" will be pursued and developed. Community or regional cooperatives do have the potential to collectively recover expenses by processing and marketing or using wood products. In addition to utilizing wood residue generated by ash losses, regional shared resource centers could address other loss/recovery issues, such as standardized removal costs, treatment costs, and reforestation alternatives. However, what is unknown is where the regional centers should be located, if there will be regional differences in resources and how they could best serve Greater Minnesota.

Project Design: 

The first stage of the technology transfer plan will be to create a compendium of tree resources that communities can use to prepare for, manage and recover from EAB infestations. The compendium will be developed in concert with the First Detector Program, Tree Inspector Program, Minnesota Master Gardener Program and other Minnesota state agencies involved with the regulation and management of forest health. The compendium will be loaded onto a compact disc (CD) that will contain information that currently exists, including "Recommended Trees for Minnesota," "Tree Owners Manual," "A Master Plan for Street Tree Design," and other appropriate publications that address policies, management plans and reforestation plans for communities facing EAB infestations. The guiding principle for assembling the regional compendia will be to develop a preparedness and recovery primer for communities, both municipal and residential properties.
The accumulation of regionally-appropriate information and technology will be conducted.  Materials from the various Minnesota state agencies and the U.S. Forest Service will be reviewed and considered for inclusion. Upon collection of the materials, said collections will be reviewed and evaluated by representatives of the regional communities and urban forest health specialists.

The final stage of the community preparedness primer will include information resulting from the proposed regional shared resource centers, namely, lists of approved, local tree care companies, cooperating contract-growing nurseries, regional composting centers, and regionally-located portable sawmill contractors. Unique to this resource will be references that are both regional, confirmed and pragmatic. For instance, rather than only recommending suitable replacement trees for communities in regions such as the southeast region, species will be accompanied by sources for purchasing said plant materials. And despite the fact that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has compiled an extensive list of compost facilities, they are primarily located in the metropolitan area of southeast Minnesota. The proposed compendium will include a more extensive list of facilities in the southeast region, as well as the other regions. After this stage is completed, 1000 regional CDs will be produced and distributed to all communities, project partners and others on demand.

The second stage of the information transfer plan focuses on training paraprofessionals to deliver accurate and consistent community preparedness messages to communities. This phase emphasizes community engagement, using local resources to deliver information and serve as regional points of contact for all state agencies - the University, Extension Service, Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources. A standard Power Point presentation will be developed in concert with all agency partners in forest and natural resources health. Regional outreach delivery teams will be trained to deliver the messages of EAB origin, biology, identification of the insect signs and symptoms, management of the insect and the Fraxinus host population, and treatment options. The presentation can be used either by community staff or trained volunteers, such as Tree Care Advisors to accurately and consistently inform members of communities in Greater Minnesota.
The determination of the practicality and development of regional shared resources centers will follow the protocol of regional focus group sessions to determine need, content, and locations.  In concert with this stage, research will be conducted on the location of regional contractors (tree care companies, portable wood utilization contractors, distribution markets). Regional focus group sessions will follow the protocol developed by the project managers for a previous statewide evaluation of tree inspector training preferences. Evaluations of said focus groups (5 regional) will be conducted and compiled. At the conclusion of the focus groups, "blueprints" will be developed for regional shared resource centers.

Final products will include the Community Preparedness Resource CD (1000), the community Power Point presentation (6 per region, located at partner offices) with supporting hardware (LCD projectors or notebooks), the establishment of regional, volunteer outreach teams, and a blueprint for developing regional shared resource centers.

Project Evaluation:   

Evaluation of the products and goals will be conducted via community surveys and accomplished objectives, as well as the completed products.  

End of the year surveys to communities within the various regions will determine the number of communities that have engaged their constituents by forming volunteer outreach teams.  Surveys will also determine how frequently the primer materials have been used by municipalities and local agency outreach offices (e.g., extension offices).

Evaluation will include the extent of distribution for the primer CD, and the number of contacts the volunteer outreach team made during the period of funding (i.e., number of presentations). 


CEP Tree Inventory Manual


CEP Community Fact Sheets

Following the community surveys and/or inventories, the University of Minnesota's Community Preparedness Project team developed a fact sheet for each city. These include an executive summary, project description, community tree data summaries, and helpful resources specific to each community. All PDF Fact Sheets are available below: