The New Helen Sternberg Cutler Urban Forestry Scholarship at SUNY ESF

By Lewis M. Cutler, MS Forest Botany and Ecology, SUNY ESF, 1975

There’s now an urban forestry scholarship for students at SUNY ESF. I’ve created the Helen Sternberg Cutler Memorial Scholarship in urban forestry in my mother’s memory.

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Helen Sternberg Cutler

The urban landscape needs a lot of help to make cities more livable. With the demise of the American elm, climate change, and the spread of the emerald ash borer, I saw a need to encourage more ESF students of become professionals in urban forestry. What better way to further our family interests in urban forestry than to fund a scholarship.

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Paul DiPietro: Get to Know Him!

Paul Di Pietro by Michelle SuttonPaul DiPietro is owner and president of Visual Landscapes, through which he specializes in design, preservation, enhancement, and professional plant health care for site management. Paul is a CNLP NYSNLA (Certified Nursery & Landscape Professional – New York State Nursery & Landscape Association). He lives in Elmira, New York with his wife, Lindy.

Paul DiPietro: My interest in urban forestry and landscape horticulture stems from a childhood appreciation for the environment and outdoors that my family and friends helped impart to me. During my childhood years I lived in both urban (Albany) and rural (Colonie) areas, so I had the best of both worlds. We had access to urban and state parks, museums, ponds, lakes, etc., and we made frequent visits to these areas to explore and have fun.

I could walk out my back door to a wooded area that was my playground and laboratory to play, explore, and be creative. There was a rich variety of plant species, animals, creeks, ponds, and meadows. Just a great environment to have fun as a kid! My friends and I never got bored with this adventure and freedom.

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Heidi Peterson on ReLeaf 2015

Heidi Peterson
Heidi Peterson

Did you know that scholarships toward registration for the annual ReLeaf conference are available through DEC for qualified applicants? Heidi Peterson received one this year. Heidi is Administrative Assistant,  Commercial Pesticide Applicator, and Commercial Landscaping Operations Chief for Tree Services of WNY, LLC.  She lives in North Tonawanda.

Heidi says: “When I applied for the scholarship for the 2015 NYS Urban ReLeaf Conference through the DEC, I had hoped to attend and use the opportunity to gain relevant and up-to-date information on concerns and practices; also to make new professional relationships with others interested and actively participating in the arboriculture field.

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SUNY ESF was fertile ground for Tree ID during our ReLeaf Conference. Here: shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria).

The SUNY ESF campus was the perfect setting for the conference, offering an inside look at green infrastructure, biological practices towards preservation of species such as the American chestnut, and providing many species of trees for observation and comparison during the Tree ID workshop. I found it especially beneficial to hear speakers from other areas such as New York City and how they are implementing their own urban landscaping methods to increase the benefits as well as survival of trees in their communities.

Not only did the conference provide the tours, workshops, and information, it also provided a friendly, interactive setting to become familiar with others across New York State who were more than happy to share their own experiences and information and curious to hear and comment on my own as well.

Beyond all of the wonderful topics, to me, the most valuable thing I took home from the conference was inspiration to continue to expand my knowledge and practices so that I, too, may take a larger role in making our world a better place through arboriculture.”

More Faces of ReLeaf

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Outgoing Council Board Member Rebecca Hargrave is Assistant Professor in the Environmental Sciences Department of SUNY Morrisville.
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SUNY ESF President Emeritus Dr. Neil Murphy took the time to give ReLeafers the fascinating backstory of the LEED Platinum Certified Gateway Center.
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Carterville Cattle Company Co-owner Alix Krueger serves on the planning board of the Town of Amboy.

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Oswego’s Mary Vanouse on ReLeaf 2015

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Mary Vanouse (right) with her daughter, Allison, under a monstrous beech tree in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Watertown, MA.

I have recently retired from the Community Development Office in the City of Oswego and have volunteered with the Oswego Tree Stewards since its beginnings in 2009 when the group committed itself to making Oswego a Tree City USA. Since that time the Oswego Tree Stewards have diligently tackled tree pruning, planting hundreds of trees, and providing general tree care for the community. Every year we celebrate Arbor Day and have come to enjoy a good core group of dedicated volunteers.

For the first two years we began pruning trees in the City parks and since then have methodically been addressing street trees on a weekly basis for the past four years. In 2014 the City of Oswego completed its second tree inventory (Davey Tree Experts had completed Oswego’s first tree inventory in the 1930s), so it was fun to compare the old and new snapshots of the makeup of Oswego’s urban forest.

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Oswego Tree Stewards during a “Saturday on the Streets” gathering, with Phil MacArthur taking the opportunity to point out signs of a dying tree (there was fungus growing from the side of the trunk).

This year I thoroughly enjoyed the 23rd Annual Re Leaf Conference. One high point for me was the in-depth tour of the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project that was eloquently presented by SUNY ESF Professors William Powell and Chuck Maynard and their research associates, Linda, Allison, and Tyler. Their passion for this project is contagious. I hope that many will join them in planting many thousands of “mother” chestnuts to multiply the blight resistance throughout the eastern seaboard.

I attended the Opportunities and Solutions for Green Infrastructure workshop on Friday, which was full of remarkable stories of how Onondaga County bucked the system of “gray infrastructure” after the residents protested building more wastewater plants and the newly elected Joanne Mahoney sought another solution to the runoff into Onondaga Lake. Now after many years of the “Save the Rain” campaign and a variety of partnerships with groups like Onondaga Earth Corps, Onondaga County has become a model for green infrastructure for a healthier environment. The presentation on the Gowanus Canal by Christine Petro was also a great “turnaround” story, demonstrating the benefit of citizen engagement in bringing back environmentally challenged neighborhoods.

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SUNY ESF Professor Don Leopold

The top of my list was a lightning-speed Tree ID tour presented by Professor Don Leopold of SUNY ESF. As soon as he met the group outside the Gateway Center he immediately began to talk about the varieties of trees that surrounded us. White oak, bur oak, Norway maple with milky sap, native paw paw, and the list goes on. Leopold rose to the occasion, climbing a stone wall to point out an example of invasive European buckthorn.

Large rain drops punctuated the approach to the huge dawn redwood in Oakwood Cemetery growing along the border with SUNY ESF, but the 40 members of the tour continued as Leopold explained that this is one of the oldest dawn redwoods in North America, sent to ESF in the 1950s.

Leopold pointed out a number of specimen trees at the cemetery, from sugar maple to northern cedar to London plane and bur oak. He provided a good brisk walk and a huge variety of tree identifications over the course of the afternoon, ending with distinguishing between the American and European varieties of larch, noting his preference that the American variety be planted on the ESF campus.

I would recommend the ReLeaf conference to anyone interested in improving their understanding of trees and the care of our urban forests.  —Mary Vanouse

Onondaga Lake Restoration Tour at ReLeaf 2015

Wetland tourCouncil VP Brian Skinner took these photos of the Onondaga Lake Ecosystem Restoration tour during the ReLeaf 2015 conference. The bus took ReLeafers on a field trip that included an initial stop at the Onondaga Lake Visitor’s Center near the NYS Fairgrounds for an overview of Honeywell’s remediation and restoration efforts at Onondaga Lake.

About 2.2 million cubic yards of material was removed from Onondaga Lake and pumped to a consolidation area at former industrial property off of Airport Road for drying and Wetland tour signsafe isolation long term. About 2.5 billion gallons of water was treated. Approximately 450 acres of the lake will be capped to provide a new habitat layer, prevent erosion, and isolate remaining contaminants. More than 1.1 million plants, trees, and shrubs are being planted and more than 50 acres of wetlands enhanced.

From there the bus took a short drive to the Geddes Brook/Nine Mile Creek restoration area. Restoration at the approximately 17-acre Geddes Brook wetlands complex and portions of Nine Mile Creek include many interesting design features for wetland and stream restoration. About 50,000 plantings were made in the area, 11,000 of which are trees. To date, more than 100 species of fish, mammals, and birds have been observed in the restored wetland areas.

wetland tour iiThe American Society of Civil Engineers, Syracuse Section recently recognized the Geddes Brook and Nine Mile Creek project with the 2015 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award.

The tour was led by Craig Milburn, Managing Partner at Brown & Sanford Consultants and Mark Arrigo, Parsons Habitat Expert.

More ReLeaf in Pictures

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CCE Onondaga Forestry Program Educator and SUNY ESF landscape architecture alumna Kim Zhang enjoyed the Gateway rooftop garden at dusk.
Council Treasurer Lori Brockelbank (center) of Wendel Companies attended ReLeaf with two students from Jamestown Community College where she teaches: Tessa Vincent (left) and Cindy Raecher (right). Cindy is serving on the Council board as a student ambassador.
Council Treasurer Lori Brockelbank (center) of Wendel Companies attended ReLeaf with two students from Jamestown Community College where she teaches: Tessa Vincent (left) and Cindy Raecher (right). Cindy is serving on the Council board as a student ambassador.
Fran Lawlor did a fantastic job as conference organizer this year, working in conjunction with the dynamic Region 7 team.
Horticulturist and educator Fran Lawlor did a fantastic job as conference organizer this year, working in conjunction with the dynamic Region 7 team.

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A ReLeaf to Remember: Part I

IMG_9330Meeting the men and women who are restoring the American chestnut, exploring the Alvar plant community on the new green roof, connecting with the Onondaga Earth Corps … there were so many highlights for the 185 attendees of the 2015 ReLeaf Conference at SUNY ESF. A special shout-out to the Region 7 folks who worked hard to put on the best program and presenters:

Kristina Ferrare, Steve Harris
Fran Lawlor, Jessi Lyons
Chris Manchester, Doug Morrison
Greg Owens, Brian “the Brain” Skinner, Pat Tobin, and Kate Woodle

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Mealtime conversations were the best! SUNY ESF graduate student Leanna Kirschen (left) works with Syracuse City Forester Steve Harris, and Tony Suave (right) works with the Onondaga Earth Corps.
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Exploring the Gateway Center green roof with beloved ESF Professor Dr. Don Leopold.

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Reflections from our New Council President David Moore

David MooreAt the 2015 ReLeaf Conference at SUNY ESF, it was fitting that ESF grad David Moore should be elected our new president. You can learn more about David from his profile last year on the blog. Here is David’s acceptance speech. 

Thank you for the opportunity to serve our state’s urban forestry council as president. It is my intention to uphold, and propel into the future, the values and efforts of those who came before me. Humbled by my peers and predecessors who share my mission and have fought hard to establish the principles and reputation of our young industry, I am grateful for your support.

You have taught me by example a pay-it-forward mentality that is rare in most industries. Early in my career I was nurtured by strangers who recognized that I shared a common mission with them. They took no issue with the fact that they would receive no material reward for helping me be successful in my urban forestry career. They helped me find the technical resources and guidance to do my job solely because we live on the same planet and are working towards benefiting the same environment. This ethic of selfless dedication is what draws me to our council and propels me through hard times in my everyday work.

How fortunate are we to have found each other as professionals and partners. In this life, there is no individual effort that can surpass the potential and actual accomplishments of a cooperative group. Imagine if the Lorax in the Dr. Seuss book could have teamed up with a team of other Lorax? How would the story have ended? That is the question we must ask ourselves as we consider the pursuits and collaborative potential of our urban forestry council.

We are at a pivotal point in history that makes our council’s work exceptionally relevant and necessary. Our state and nation are undergoing a swell in urban population growth–our partners at the U.S. Forest Service who have quantified current trends and projected future trends can verify this. Every town and city that has existing infrastructure is due for a swell over the next 30 years. Our state’s largest city, which accounts for 45% of our state’s population, is projected to grow by a million more people between 2007 and 2030.

The generation of foresters who came before me laid the groundwork in establishing urban forestry as a strategy for city planning and not just city beautification. Through tireless research and demonstrative efforts, they have validated tree planting, management, and maintenance as necessary measures for making town and city life functional and desirable.

Similarly to how networks of influential and dedicated conservationists, foresters, and policy makers helped develop public policy that protected the Adirondack Park, we now have the opportunity to provide advocacy for protecting the value of forests where the average New Yorker experiences them in everyday life–in the towns, villages, and cities where we live.

We have every right to feel optimistic about our progress and our potential. In New York City, the past ten years have provided us legislation that protects biodiversity in parkland and natural areas, that protects street trees at their full replacement value, and that mandates a street tree be planted every 25 feet along the frontage of any new real estate development. These laws represent a shift in cultural perception of the value of trees in our lives and a justification of our efforts. We aren’t just planting trees anymore, we are establishing green infrastructure by installing air filters, street cooling features, and storm water filters. The justifications for our efforts continue to be quantified in new and exciting ways as technology and research evolve with the times.

Knowing the importance and potential that progressive, technically informed tree planting and management will have on our state in the face of urbanization, can we afford to not help each other succeed? The benefit we bring each other through support, camaraderie, and networking is ten-fold the cost of the time it takes. Our strength is in our diversity of experience and in numbers. Our call to action is the need to establish livable, desirable, sustainable communities in the face of urbanization. It won’t take rocket science, but it will take tree science. It’s a technical field, but also a quite natural one.

With these words, I wish to unite us by our common interests and intentions of creating a better world for future generations through urban forestry. Together as a diverse group, seeing our differences as our strengths and our commonalities as our life blood, we are equipped to carry on our state’s tradition of environmental greatness through the 21st century.

Celebrating the Game-Changing Farm Bill of 1990

As we gear up for our NY ReLeaf Conference this week, it’s fitting to learn the essential history of the 1990 Farm Bill, to which all who care about urban and community forestry are indebted. This entry was written by Andy Hillman with help from Mary Kramarchyk and Nancy Wolf.

Farm Bill 25 yearsThis year we celebrate a milestone in urban and community forestry. It is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1990 Farm Bill. It is no exaggeration to say that in 1990 urban and community forestry entered a new era in the United States. The national commitment to urban forestry on the part of the federal government was a component of the 1990 Farm Bill that fundamentally changed the nation’s approach to managing urban and community forestry.

This seminal legislation started New York State down the path that has led to the existence of NY ReLeaf and the New York State Urban Forestry Council. In 1991, increased funding for urban forestry led to new rules from the USDA Forest Service for its urban forestry work. All 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, islands of the Pacific, and the District of Columbia were required to create an urban forestry program under the leadership of state foresters, to hire a volunteer coordinator who would coordinate the state’s program with local professionals and volunteers, and to establish an urban forestry council as an advisory group for the program.

The volunteer coordinator and the state council were expected to set up the statewide program in coordination with the state USFS agency. This cooperative plan would establish the capacity to promote volunteer activities related to planting, maintaining, or protecting urban forest resources and for broad-based educational projects. New York State created the program to its fullest extent and has become recognized as one of the leaders in urban forestry in the nation.

A national urban forestry research plan was also called for in the 1990 Farm Bill. The research into urban forests, human health, and environmental quality that is carried out by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station in Syracuse is a direct result of this mandate in the 1990 Farm Bill. Today, we benefit from Dr. David Nowak’s research involving environmental or ecosystem services from the urban forest thanks to this watershed legislation.

Furthermore, owing to this legislation, this annual ReLeaf Conference has generated activities performed by over 7,000 volunteers living in 767 communities in New York being served by urban forestry enthusiasts.The 2015 New York ReLeaf Conference, with the theme of Environmental Science and Urban Forestry, serves as evidence of success of what began in the 1990 Farm Bill twenty five years ago.