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He's the guardian of Buffalo's trees

As a municipal arborist for Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Shane F.M. Daley looks after the 12,000 trees growing on Buffalo's 1,200 acres of Olmsted parkland.

Daley grew up in Java loving the outdoors. He climbed trees, built tree forts with his brothers and zip-lined over tree tops. At Paul Smith's College in the Adirondacks, he studied ecology and the environment.

Daley, who is 29, started at the Conservancy five months before the October 2006 surprise storm. His dream is to restore the tree population to what existed in 1960 -- before Dutch elm disease -- when there were 40,000 trees.

Celebrate your favorite tree on Arbor Day Friday.

>People Talk: Why do we have a preponderance of maple and ash trees?

Shane F.M. Daley: Ash is kind of a pioneer species. It comes in when old pastures are left to grow back, regenerate and become a forest again. One of the first species to come in is ash, because it has winged seeds -- samara -- that travel on the wind. Ash trees are under attack by an invasive insect, the emerald ash borer.

>PT: How much damage could the ash borer cause?

SD: Remember the October Storm and how bad that was? That killed less than 2 percent of the trees in Olmsted parks. Ash trees make up 10 percent of park trees, but in natural areas in the suburbs and even in city backyards -- it could be 40 to 100 percent ash.

>PT: What makes the borer so lethal?

SD: It bores in between the bark and the wood, into the cambium -- the thin tissue responsible for growth -- and it zigzags back and forth and disrupts the nutrient flow. They spend two or three years in the tree doing damage before they chew their way out -- leaving a D-shaped exit hole -- and fly away. They're the size of Lincoln's head on a penny, and they're around from the middle of May to the middle of September.

>PT: Can a tree survive after someone carves their initials in it?

SD: Yea, but it's not nice. It's not something to be proud of. It damages the bark, and the cambium.

>PT: What tree is most likely to cause injury?

SD: Probably a silver maple. They grow too fast and have poor branching structure. It's the No. 1 tree to injure people with broken branches that fall. It's also a very popular tree, and that's another reason why it's No. 1. That's why the city is no longer planting any silver maple on the streets.

>PT: How does planting trees reduce your power bills?

SD: In the summer they provide shade. In the winter if you plant a row of evergreens along the western side of your house, you will lessen the prevailing winds. Trees decrease the amount of water entering storm sewers. When we have rain, the combined sewer system can't hold all the rainwater, so the sewers are opened and raw sewage goes into the lake.

Trees look great and provide a calming effect to the street. There are studies that say people will drive slower when there's a street with trees on it.

That's what Olmsted really believed: that the ill effects of urbanization could be minimized by getting people into the parks.

>PT: I take it you are not afraid of heights.

SD: No, but obviously it can get scary up in the bucket truck when you're straight up 60 feet. I even get scared just being up there when you're away from the branches and the wind is blowing because it's kind of an old truck. But if you're in the tree next to the branches, it's very relaxing.

>PT: How do you pamper a tree?

SD: You want to make sure the soil that surrounds it is in good condition because that's where a tree gets its nutrition. The roots can extend way past a tree's canopy, but the critical roots are around the trunk. You need to keep them intact if you're ever doing any construction.

>PT: What is your greatest challenge as an arborist?

SD: New York State has the highest species richness [count of species] of invasives in the country. We're an old state and a big importer of exotic plants.

>PT: What is a lesser known native tree?

SD: A tulip tree, one of the tallest trees in the Northeast. They have a pretty cool looking leaf, and in the springtime they flower -- a really neat orangeish flower -- but it's hard to see because the flowers are far up in the air. They're down in Zoar Valley, and there are some in Delaware Park that you can look at, right by the zoo entrance on Colvin.

>PT: What's the weirdest thing you've done to a tree?

SD: I tapped a sugar maple and let the sap flow into a trough that the squirrels could drink out of in hopes they would stop chewing away at the bark. Squirrels love the sweet sap so I tried to make it easier for them to get at so they didn't have to damage the tree.

I'm not sure how effective it was and I realized that I was kind of trying to be a squirrel master and that's pretty weird. It was worth a try though.