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Bradley Daseler, urban forester from the City of Las Vegas. (Chitose Suzuki / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bradley Daseler
City of Las Vegas’ urban forester on his local roots, getting trees to thrive and survive in the desert
This story first appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of rjmagazine, a quarterly published inside the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Meet the man who cares for Las Vegas’ 45K trees

Next to being an Avenger, Bradley Daseler has one of the coolest job titles around.

Meet the city of Las Vegas’ urban forester, the man who oversees the more than 45,000 trees that the municipality owns and maintains.

Catch him on a rare wet day in Southern Nevada and it’s 911 time for a poor palm, the victim of a nervous SUV driver. “A rainy day here can be a very bad day for a tree,” says the Las Vegas native, who has been on the job for five years.

When it comes to trees, Daseler is the guy who decides which species to try, where to plant them and how to keep them healthy amid desert heat, high winds and swerving motorists.

What goes into being an urban forester?

I handle everything around the trees in the city from the planting to the pruning to the removals. I’m always looking for new places to plant trees around Vegas.

Does it surprise people that there are so many vibrant and gorgeous trees in the desert?

People who don’t live here always say, “Oh, there is green stuff in the desert?” It’s really an oasis idea here in that trees are where we put them. We create our own green spaces. We create our nature in this desert city.

What are the unique challenges for tree survival here?

Our environment is interesting because of the extremes. We get very hot, so you need trees that tolerate the high temps. We also occasionally drop into freezing temps, so that becomes a challenge when selecting trees. Water is another factor. We need to dictate where the water is for each tree, and as we know, there isn’t an unlimited supply of water.

Vegas has a diverse population from other cities. Can you bring your favorite tree from back home in, say, Chicago or Buffalo to Southern Nevada? How do you choose a tree species for a spot?

Not always. Let’s take cherry blossom trees. Will they work here? Probably not because of the heat. But there are so many species that do well here, and I’m not just talking about palm trees, which I don’t even really classify as trees. They’re more ornamental plants, but there is definitely a place for them. … We don’t like to over-invest in just one tree species because we don’t know about the future. What if you get a pest, for instance? We plant different species and make educated guesses about the future of the environment.

What is the biggest mistake homeowners make when planting trees in their yards?

Sometimes when people plant trees, they won’t anticipate the full size of the tree. If you have this small container with a young tree in it, you might put drip emitters for that size tree, but you don’t think about it being 30 to 40 feet fall someday. The challenge is to provide the water the tree needs for a lifetime. Also, always take your tree out of the container or the roots will take the shape of the container. Don’t be afraid to trim the roots. And don’t overwater, because you’re basically suffocating the tree if it sits in water. Make sure your tree has drainage.

While working with trees, ever run into any interesting critters?

I’ve been lucky. People talk about palm trees hosting critters, but in all my time climbing trees, I haven’t seen anything scary. I have run into a few owls in those trees. That’s the coolest thing ever. I haven’t been scared out of a tree yet. ◆

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