Invest in a green, leafy future

Sandra ClarkOur Town Neighbors

If you are considering a charitable gift before year’s end (5 days from now) you could do worse than the Cortese Urban Forestry Scholarship Endowment at the University of Tennessee School of Natural Resources (formerly the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries).

Established by tree guy Jim Cortese in 2016, the fund has grown to over $46,000 and earnings have provided scholarships of more than $8,000 to students studying urban forestry. The scholarship, Jim says, has helped to lower tuition costs and relieve educational debt for these students, some of whom might not be able to complete their degrees without financial assistance.

Jim Cortese (file photo)

We’ll tell you how to contribute later on, but first meet or renew acquaintance with Jim Cortese. He just turned 70 (12/21/23) and has spent 50 years in the tree industry. But he didn’t spend those years chopping off limbs and cutting down trees just to go home at night to do something he really enjoyed. Jim has made a life of loving trees, learning and even litigating about trees.

Visiting Cuba

When President Obama made it easier for United States citizens to visit Cuba, Jim and fellow arborist Bill Long lined up a trip. Read Jim’s report (starts on page 60): TCI-Magazine-July-2017-Digimag-web

Reporter Dyrinda Tyson, writing for The Oklahoman, said the men found tree care frozen in time. Not wanting to ride through town on a tour bus, Jim and Bill found a local man who served as driver, guide and interpreter for their five-day adventure.

The goal: to see what kinds of trees were there and to get a feel for the country’s tree industry. “The industry is pretty much nonexistent,” said Long. “Tool use seemed very basic and primitive when compared to the United States,” said Cortese. “The machete was the major tool used for tree pruning.”

Jim has consulted with cities, golf courses and universities across the south. He was co-founder of the Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum (2000). He was responsible for the Eastern Red Cedar being adopted as the Tennessee state evergreen tree (2012).

He is proudest of helping change state law to give value to an alee of trees along a drive (Blair Wood vs. Tony Wolfenbarger). This case lost initially but won on appeal. Now the ISA trunk formula method is allowed in appraisals for state lawsuits, in addition to the timber valuation of trees (2012).

Quick facts
  • University of Tennessee, 1973-76, bachelor’s degree in forest resource management
  • U.S. Forest Service, Six Rivers National Forest, summer 1974; Gallatin National Forest, summer 1976
  • Cortese Tree Specialists Inc., Knoxville, 1977-2013, president
  • Tree Injection Products Co. Inc., 1977-present, president
  • 403 Consulting Reports & Appraisals, 1979-present
  • Expert Witness, 53 depositions and/or court cases, 1979-present.
  • Dogwood Arts House & Garden, recognition as 35-year supporter, 2013
  • International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) board certified master arborist, 2005
  • ISA certified arborist, 1994
Scholarship endowment

Cortese wants to raise the endowment to $60,000, and he’s asking those who care about urban forestry to help.

“Urban tree care has improved because of the competitive, yet friendly environment fostered within the industry by my good friends, like you, and me over the years,” Jim wrote.

To contribute to the endowment, make a gift online at . If you have questions, contact Lisa Ford with the UT Foundation and the UT Institute of Agriculture at or 865-974-7439. Reach Jim Cortese at

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today Inc.


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