Tree People: Bridget Tolle

The field of arboriculture includes many career pathways, from nursery management to urban forestry to tree climbing. Heartland Tree Alliance is fortunate to have many friends (“Tree People”) in the field. We recently chatted with one of our friends, Bridget Tolle, Urban Forestry Specialist for Prairie Village, Kansas about her experiences and insight in the industry.

Finding a passion for trees

Bridget while interning with McHenry County Conservation District in northern Illinois.

In 2012, Bridget started her green industry career as a Field Station Intern with McHenry County Conservation District. There, she learned to identify trees and use a chainsaw to remove invasive species. “From that point on, I realized what I really wanted to do in life; work outdoors and with trees, Bridget shared. After, she worked as a utility forester for four years before being hired by Prairie Village.

“Tree care is very rewarding work. I love knowing that I’m making positive environmental, economical, emotional, and ecological impacts in our community by working towards a healthy urban forest.” – Bridget

Life as an Urban Forestry Specialist

Bridget manages everything related to trees and the right-of-way for Prairie Village, plus:

“There is no monotony here,” Bridget said about her responsibilities as Urban Forestry Specialist.
  • Tree health inspections, trimming, removals, treatment and planting
  • Communicating with homeowners
  • Coordinating storm damage and emergency work
  • Maintaining an inventory of street and park trees
  • Reviewing construction plans and sites for tree protection
  • Serving as City liaison for the Tree Board
  • Helping coordinate annual tree-related events
  • Snow removal in winter
  • Assisting grounds grew with projects such as planting native gardens

Challenges of tree care

“Tree care can be dangerous work whether you’re up in the trees, or on the ground. Another challenge that comes to mind is spreading the word about the importance of planting a diversity of tree species. For example, we don’t want a monoculture of sugar maples lining our streets, potentially resulting in another problem like Dutch Elm or EAB.” – Bridget

The importance of tree diversity

We echo Bridget’s emphasis on the importance of tree diversity. Although people often value symmetry and the lure of a maple’s fall color, it is more important that we plant a variety of species, or polycultures. Many tree-lined streets are now treeless because they were all the same species, susceptible to the same insect or disease. Now we have the Asian long-horned beetle in the United States too, which preferred species is the maple.

In addition to pest protection, tree diversity has more benefits including diverse food sources, flowering and other visual interest at different times of the year, and hosting a variety of microbes which can improve our immune systems.

“For any women looking to get into tree care, I say go for it! Don’t let any old time gender roles or other people’s bias get in the way of your dreams.”

Bridget Tolle

Want to learn how to be an arborist? Check out Heartland Tree Alliance’s KC Tree Corps pre-apprenticeship program. Now accepting applications for our fall program. Offering 10 weeks of paid training, five certifications and an introduction to arboriculture. Partnering with local experts like Bridget.