Jeff Kehoe on the Urban Forest Strike Team Training

Consulting Forester Jeff Kehoe
Consulting Forester Jeff Kehoe

NYSUFC Board Member Jeff Kehoe is an ISA Certified Arborist and consulting forester based out of Schenectady, NY. He has a lifelong appreciation for trees, and advanced degrees in forest management and urban planning.

Jeff participated in recent Urban Forest Strike Team (UFST) training in Syracuse organized by NYS DEC Urban Forestry Program Coordinator Mary Kramarchyk. 

Jeff Kehoe:

When I first heard about the USFT training I felt it would be an exciting way to learn more about risk tree assessment and add to my urban forestry toolkit. Also, it was a great opportunity to meet accomplished tree professionals from all over the eastern United States. The Craftsman Inn, inspired and furnished by Stickley, was a cozy setting for arborists and urban foresters to share their stories. Despite the rain, we geared up and assessed trees in and around Green Lakes State Park and Fayetteville, NY.

Every tree is unique and each observer has a different perspective on how and why a tree may fail. Strike Team responders use a streamlined evaluation process which closely follows recent ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ) standards. One of the training highlights for me was using the TRAQ program as the backbone for data collection and target/risk assessment. This advanced training uses complex language to objectively describe a potential natural occurrence. We focused on the defect in the tree which is most likely to fail within one year, the likelihood of the failure impacting a target, and the consequences of failure if it actually occurs.

It is surprising how specific and expensive dealing with trees can be, and disaster preparedness cannot be stressed enough. The cost and scale of damages can overwhelm regional resources and local budgets in a matter of minutes. Assessments made by Strike Team arborists can save healthy trees destined for the grinder or lead to improvement of a tree’s structure after emergency measures leave stub cuts or tears. Strike Team leaders stationed on-site will process field data to help control spending for FEMA, as well as the affected communities.

I applaud the USFT program, trainers, and attendees for their dedication to ensure safety for people and trees. Overall, it was an excellent experience, although having to use these newfound skills will be bittersweet.

Barb Neal on the Urban Forest Strike Team Training

Barb Neal (right) with UFST training team-mate, NYSDEC Forester Garrett Koplun
Barb Neal (right) with UFST training teammate, NYSDEC Forester Garrett Koplun

Urban Forest Strike Teams (UFSTs) are a means for city foresters, state foresters, commercial arborists, and others to quickly come to the aid of a region whose urban forest has been impacted by a natural disaster. UFSTs conduct assessments that help communities plan needed recovery work and document to FEMA the amount of damage and cost of clean-up. You can read all about the UFSTs on this past blog post.

Organized by our state DEC UF coordinator Mary Kramarchyk, a UFST training for professionals from the Northeast area of the US Forest Service took place in Syracuse on Sept 30-Oct 1.  

Tioga County Cornell Cooperative Extension Horticulture Educator Barb Neal took the training along with many other Council members. She has an extensive background as a consulting arborist.  

Barb Neal:

It sounded interesting to me and worthwhile, especially after seeing the damage from Superstorm Sandy and how much need there was for the UFST then. My executive director, Andy Fagan was on board and supportive of the UFST training to enable me and others to help out our local NY communities in the future.

It’s always good to meet other arborists and foresters in New York, and the training was a very good a blend of class presentations and going out in the field to practice both risk assessment  and using the equipment: GPS Trimble and data logger. In the field, things that seemed simple were actually a little more nuanced than you would think. For instance, we kept having to think about the documentation requirements for FEMA and how we would record appropriately to fulfill those requirements.

Sometimes we would talk for ten or fifteen minutes about one tree in light of FEMA requirements. In the real world, you don’t have time to do that, but it was really valuable to slow down and work through that during the training. We all had to separate in our minds what FEMA requires from you vs. what you as an urban forest manager might do.

Barb Neal
Barb Neal

It was very well run and also very interesting hearing some of the war stories, like from the forester from Springfield, MA, whose city got hit with three storms in one year including an ice storm and a tornado that ripped a 40-mile swath of destruction from Springfield to Sturbridge. He was a big believer in the UFST after they came and worked for his jurisdiction.

My big takeaway was that municipalities have to be prepared with storm management plans in place prior to a storm event. The more you prepare, the faster the response will be and the more likely you will get reimbursed by FEMA. Also the better your existing documentation is, the more likely FEMA will pay something toward the removals of trees that were standing hazards at the time of the storm. Or if you have good documentation about how you currently manage your street trees, FEMA will reimburse for structural pruning as long as that’s documented as a normal part of your work. I will be advising the urban foresters in my area to get organized with all these things in mind.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the training to other arborists and urban foresters. It’s one of those things where hopefully we don’t ever get deployed or only very rarely, but the more people we have that we can call in, the more responsive we can be after a federal emergency. The training was fun, too.

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.

 

Betty Shimo Looks Back

Betty Shimo served as Executive Secretary of the NYSUFC from 2005-2015 and she helped plan and coordinate and also facilitated 11 ReLeaf Conferences held all over the state.

RELEAF 130Betty first got connected to the Council when she was hired to facilitate the ReLeaf Conference in Utica in 2003. In 2004, she was contracted by the Council to conduct a statewide urban forestry needs survey for the Council.  This survey was beneficial in helping DEC increase their yearly grant total from the state EPF funding line from $150,000 to $500,000.

Betty says, “My time with the Council has been one of the best experiences of my life—not just in terms of work, but because of all I learned and the friends I made along the way. They will be in my heart always. The position was challenging for me in a good way, and the experience of being part of that group for 12+ years was warm and wonderful.”  

Read more…

NYC ReLeaf’s COUNT TREES Workshop, Part I

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver gave the keynote address.
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver gave the keynote address.

With the exception of Sumana Serchan’s reflections, this two-part post was written by NYS DEC Division of Lands and Forests Outreach Coordinator Nina Medakovich. Part I brings us workshop highlights. Part II delves into the power of letter-writing advocacy and includes an advocacy template letter written by Nina. Thank you, Nina and Sumana.   

NYC ReLeaf’s Spring workshop “COUNT TREES: Why Do a Tree Census?” was held on March 6th at Brooklyn Borough Hall to highlight the value of collecting and analyzing data on urban trees. With the NYC Parks Department preparing to undertake the decennial Street Tree Census this summer, NYC ReLeaf considered it a timely and relevant topic.

The workshop aimed to convey why collecting data on urban trees is so crucial to survival and growth of the urban forest, investigate federal research on urban forests, reflect on the success of and lessons learned by NYRP’s Tree Giveaway program, equip volunteers with tree advocacy skills, and introduce the 2015 Street Tree Census.

NYC Releaf workshop
Settling in for the workshop. Photo Courtesy Million Trees NYC

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NYC’s Matt Stephens Goes to Washington DC for Arborist Exchange

Casey Trees (1)
NYC Parks and Casey Tree staff intermingling ♦ Photo Courtesy Casey Trees

Last fall, both NYC Parks and the not-for-profit, DC-based organization Casey Trees successfully applied for an arborist exchange through the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). This resulted in the first public/private pairing for the program (previously, all participants were from municipalities).

The goal of the exchange is simple: to enable urban foresters to share expertise, management practices, and technology through an on-site and immersive experience. To that end, Director of Tree Planting for NYC Parks and Recreation Matt Stephens was welcomed for a few days into the Casey Trees family. Matt wrote this report originally for City Trees, the magazine of the SMA.   

During my exchange I visited the Casey Trees Farm, participated in tree planting events, and met with staff to discuss the day-to-day management and the long-term vision of the organization. I was also able to witness firsthand Casey’s innovative tree-growing practices at their farm as well as past tree plantings completed throughout Washington DC.

With everyone I talked to, rode along with, or learned from, I noticed one commonality: passion. Passion to inspire the young, to maximize tree survival, to increase canopy—but perhaps most importantly, true passion for the people and trees of Washington DC. This city is lucky to have Casey Trees, and I can attest that Casey Trees is an expert and trustworthy steward for the urban forest.

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Nina Bassuk Part I: The Early Days of Our Council

RELEAF 252Previously we featured super dynamo Council cofounder Nancy Wolf. Continuing in that series, we talk here with another beloved Council cofounder and current board member, Cornell Urban Horticulture Director Nina Bassuk, who prefers to go by “Nina.” We asked her about her recollections about the early days of the Council. In a subsequent post, we’ll get some updates about things going on in the life and garden of Nina and her husband, the landscape architect Peter Trowbridge.

Nina, a native of NYC, received her bachelor’s degree in Horticulture at Cornell and then went on to receive her Ph.D. from the University of London while carrying out her research at the East Malling Research Station in Kent, England. Her current work in Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute focuses on the physiological problems of plants grown in urban environments, including plant selections, site modification and transplanting technology.

Nina is the coauthor with her husband of Trees in the Urban Landscape, a book for arborists, city foresters, landscape architects, and horticulturists on establishing trees in disturbed and urban landscapes. Nina is on the technical advisory committee of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) and helped to develop the Student Weekend Arborist Team (SWAT) to inventory public trees in small communities. She is a recipient of the Scott Medal for Horticulture and an ever-popular speaker at the ReLeaf Conference.

Nina Bassuk on the Council’s Origins: “The impetus for the creation of the Council—which was then known as the NYS Urban and Community Forestry Council—was the fact that federal grants were coming from the US Forest Service to the states for the first time for urban forestry related projects. Each state had a different way of handling the grant funds; for instance, in Pennsylvania the money went through Cooperative Extension, while in New York the money went through DEC.

One of the requirements of the federal grants was to have an advisory group advising the DEC, who would in turn handle grants to municipalities, on urban forestry matters. The state foresters had to learn about urban forestry in a hurry! Some of them embraced the new urban forestry aspect of their positions, while others didn’t.

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Reflections on the Sept 21 Climate Change March

This essay comes to us from NYC Parks Forester Bill Schmidt. Bill is a Certified Arborist who coordinates urban forestry for the Greening Western Queens project. 

NYC Forester Bill Schmidt
NYC Forester Bill Schmidt

Last Sunday, September 21, 2014, I joined over 300,000 of my fellow human beings in Manhattan for the largest climate change march in history. I was delightfully overwhelmed by the incredible turnout and the diversity of the participants.

There were young people, senior citizens, middle-aged Gen Xers like myself, faith-based organizations (I was marching next to a lovely group of elderly nuns), Native and African American groups, and organizations representing a variety of issues not directly related climate change who were marching out of solidarity.

It was a truly inspiring experience. During the march, I thought about what climate change meant to me as a forester, a father, and a global citizen. When I returned to the office Monday morning, a colleague suggested that I should encapsulate these thoughts about the march and share them with others in my field. So, here is my attempt to express how I felt in eight paragraphs or less.

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Vinnie Drzewucki on Tackling the Public’s Dendrophobia, the Fear of Trees

CCE Nassau County Horticulture Educator Vinnie Drzewucki
CCE Nassau County Horticulture Educator Vinnie Drzewucki

At the 2014 ReLeaf Conference in July at Hofstra University, CCE Nassau County Horticulture Educator Vinnie Drzewucki (pron. “Sha-VOOT-ski”) gave an engaging talk on “Breaking the Fear of Trees: How to Help the Public Overcome their Dendrophobia.” He graciously shares the highlights of his talk here on the blog. Thanks, Vinnie!

Fear of Trees title page

Breaking the Fear of Trees, by Vinnie Drzewucki
For most of you reading this blog, being afraid of trees is probably just about the strangest thing you’ve ever heard of. Lately, though, I meet many citizens who are afraid of trees.

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New Blog & e-Newsletter

logo

Welcome to the first blog post of the New York State Urban Forestry Council! And please subscribe to the new monthly e-news, which features this picture alongside the Council’s logo. The blog and e-news work together to keep you informed about all things urban forestry in our State. 

yellowwood in bloom

You may recognize this as a yellowwood tree (Cladrastis kentukea) in bloom. The yellowwood is emblematic of urban forestry with its promise (including that of breathtaking beauty) and challenges (yellowwood, especially when not given proper structural pruning when young, is notorious for breaking up after storms).

The photo comes from a yellowwood that is one of a pair planted in the 1960s. The duo was found in a courtyard on the SUNY New Paltz campus; the one you see has good branch structurethanks to early pruningand is thriving, while the other one had poor branch structure, busted up after a storm a few winters back, went into steady decline, and was finally removed. With yellowwood and urban forestry at large, great things are possible with early, simple interventions!

Enjoy the blog and e-newsletter, and please send submission ideas and comments to editor@nysufc.org

Michelle Sutton, Editor