Sophia Rodbell & Her Post-MFI Reflection

Sophia Rodbell (left) with fellow 2020 MFI grad Jean Zimmerman (center) and MFI Teaching Cadre Member and Council Past President Andy Hillman, enjoying the early spring weather in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

NYSUFC Board Member Sophia Rodbell recently graduated from the 2020 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI), funded in part by a scholarship from the Council. It was held in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Can you tell us about your job background and education?
Sophia Rodbell: I started working at Davey Resource Group Inc. (DRG) after graduating from Roanoke College in 2014. I started as an inventory arborist, moved to urban forester, took on more responsibility as a site manager, and then became a project manager when I joined our NYC team to manage the urban forestry component of our office. Prior to moving to NYC I was on the road 365 days a year, working up and down the East Coast, all across the Midwest, as far south as Texas and as far west as California. DRG gave me the chance to see all parts of the United States—as long as they had trees, I was there.

I am currently a DRG Project Manager; I work with a team of five to ten arborists in different places in their careers. This is the same work I previously did, but on a regional scale. We help mid-Atlantic clients—from Northern Virginia to Central New York—with their urban forests. We also have the opportunity to send staff across the country to assist other regional offices; it is awesome seeing them have the same experience I received.

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In Difficult Times, Turn to Nature: Natural Areas Conservancy Wisdom

From NYC’s Natural Areas Conservancy comes this note from Director Sarah Charlop-Powers and her team. We thought it would be of interest to all those who are looking for comfort in natural areas and parks across New York State. 

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir

From all of us at the Natural Areas Conservancy –

We are reaching out to our community of friends and supporters — knowing that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our daily lives in ways we could not have imagined.

The resilience of this city is truly incredible, and we are especially thankful for our friends and colleagues in public service who are working hard to provide citywide services during this difficult time. This includes the staff of NYC Parks who are keeping our parks open for all New Yorkers.

As we all continue to adjust to this new normal, we want to share a few updates on how our staff at the Natural Areas Conservancy are responding.

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Arborist & Author Jean Zimmerman on Her MFI Experience

Arborist and author Jean Zimmerman. Photo by Maud Reavill

Council Member and SavATree Arborist Jean Zimmerman recently attended the 2020 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) with partial assistance from a Council scholarship. With this MFI class, more than 750 urban forestry and affiliated professionals have completed the weeklong leadership training. Jean’s account of her experience is literary in nature because in addition to being an arborist, she is a published author.

Sugar white sands. Crashing waves. The occasional parabolic arc of a dolphin off shore. We gathered along Alabama’s famously gorgeous Gulf Coast, sixty-five pilgrims from all over the country and abroad. We had come to sharpen our leadership skills at the Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI), a long-running (since 2006) continuing education symposium that is celebrated as one of the best in the world. I remember arriving at the Gulf Shores Hilton, being unsure of whether I could fit in.

My fellow MFIers came from varied backgrounds. Some were urban foresters at municipalities of varying size, from New York City to Denton, Texas. Others hailed from not-for-profits, such as TreePhilly in Philadelphia. One participant, a champion tree-climber, represented the happiest place in the world, Disneyland. Another traveled from Sweden. There were representatives of PlanIT Geo and Davey Tree. I came to Gulf Shores from SavATree, the third largest tree care company in the United States, where I work as a commercial and consulting arborist.

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David Moore in ESF Magazine; Christina McLaughlin in Conservationist

An article about SUNY-ESF alum and Council Past President David Moore appeared in the Winter 2020 edition of ESF Magazine, a publication for alumni and friends of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Called “Alumnus Honored as ‘Trailblazer’ Promotes Benefits of Urban Forestry,” the interview conducted by Judy Gelman Myers starts with David’s educational background in forestry and public policy, presents basic concepts of urban forestry, and ends with David urging people to see working in government as an opportunity and an honor.

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Syracuse Releases Urban Forest Master Plan

In February, the City of Syracuse Forestry Division released a draft Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP), which provides a roadmap to a healthy, safe, and expanding tree canopy for the City. The Plan contains definable and measurable 5-year and 20-year goals.

One major goal is to plant 70,000 new trees in 20 years. To meet that goal, the City will recruit owners of public and private property, including cemeteries, apartments, schools, churches and single-family homes, to plant most of those trees. “A critical part of the initiative is to build on and expand partnerships to implement what is proposed in the Plan,” says Syracuse City Arborist and NYSUFC Vice President Steve Harris.

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Getting to Know DEC’s Dan Gaidasz

Dan (far left) teaching kids in the Capital Region about tree planting on Arbor Day 2019. 

Dan Gaidasz is the NYSDEC Urban and Community Forestry Program Technical Coordinator.

Where did you grew up? Were you interested in nature from an early age?
Dan Gaidasz: I grew up in the Genesee Valley between Mount Morris and Geneseo. From a very young age, I have been interested in the outdoors. I grew up on a small farm and it was very rare to find me indoors unless I got myself in hot water with one of my siblings. Besides being surrounded by farmland and forests, I was also blessed having Letchworth State Park as my “back yard,” where I spent a lot of time exploring. In 6th grade, my school had several professionals come in and talk about their jobs; that’s when I was introduced to forestry. I couldn’t believe you could get paid being outdoors, walking the woods, and playing with heavy equipment. I knew then that I wanted to be a forester.

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Liverpool NY 2nd Annual Arbor Day Celebration

As part of the Village of Liverpool’s 2019 Arbor Day celebration, elementary students wrote and performed skits about trees.

Thank you to the Village of Liverpool and Deputy Mayor Christina Fadden (Fitch) for forwarding this terrific account and photos of their 2019 celebration, funded by a NYSUFC grant. Fadden says, “The grant funds were a great encouragement, and we also now stand on the cusp of finally being designated a Tree City USA. Thank you to the NYS Urban Forestry Council for your support of our efforts and program.”

Location of the Village of Liverpool, in Onondaga County, greater Syracuse.

On Friday May 3rd, 2019, the Village of Liverpool celebrated its 2nd Annual Arbor Day Celebration at Liverpool Elementary School. At 9:00 a.m., an assembly of approximately 280 students, teachers and staff gathered in the school cafeteria. Village of Liverpool Tree Advisory Committee members Lisa Ballantyne, Yvette Hewitt, Diane Recor and Adam Woodburn joined Mayor of the Village of Liverpool Gary White, DEC Senior Forester Matthew Swayze, and Officer Sean Pierce in attendance.

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Partnerships, Fruit Trees, and Land Restoration in the Peruvian Amazon, with James Kaechele

In his capacity as Arborist for the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, James Kaechele demonstrated how to properly plant a limón sutil tree (Citrus aurantifolia) to a community in the Peruvian Amazon.

All Photos Courtesy James Kaechele & Fruit Tree Planting Foundation

What skills does an urban forester use when planting trees on disturbed land along an Amazon River tributary? “All of them,” says New York Tree Trust Director and Council Executive Committee Member James Kaechele. In early December, 2019, Kaechele, also a consulting arborist for the Pittsburgh-based international charity Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF), went with a team of staff and volunteers to the Loreta Region of Peru to plant 6,000 fruit trees in five Amazon River communities.

“As urban foresters, our job is equal parts plants and people,” Kaechele says. “We’re uniquely positioned to coordinate both the arboricultural and human aspects of a project like this. The land-use questions are the same; the site assessment process is the same; tree planting techniques are the same; you have to address any concerns people have—for example, the worry that some have about whether a tree will fall on their house—it’s the same skills that I use in the work I do with street trees and residents in NYC.” Furthermore, the land along the Amazon River is often severely degraded and in need of restoration, just like in the tree beds, parks, and natural areas of NYC—just degraded for different reasons.

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