Dr. Ed Gilman on Semi-Retirement, the Research Trail He Leaves Behind, and the Nexus of Urban Forestry and Arboriculture

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Ed and Betsy Gilman, married 37 years, overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge on a visit to NYC.

Dr. Ed Gilman is a popular presenter among NY arborists and members of our state’s U&CF community, giving talks based on his decades of applied research at the University of Florida (UFL) and countless field observations and conversations with arborists. Gilman retired from UFL in July but— happily for our industry—he is going to continue doing education in the field, especially with commercial arborists around proper pruning techniques. The resources he created on UFL’s website for pruning and all things related to trees and other landscape plants are phenomenal—more about those later.

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The Gilmans’ Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired house on the St. John’s River in Jacksonville

How is the transition to semi-retirement going?
Ed Gilman: Retirement allowed me to step back and take a break from writing; after 120 scientific publications and 35 years of tearing trees apart, I felt it was someone else’s turn. I’ll have more time now to do education in the field with commercial arborists—sharing the practical fruits of my research and that of my colleagues, which I really enjoy. I stay involved with ISA Florida and with the ANSI Pruning Standards committee. It’s nice to remain plugged in and relevant. What would be particularly gratifying is if I could get more people doing what I’m doing in terms of the education of commercial arborists. Stay tuned for more on that.

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Tim Chick: Get to Know Him!

Tim Chick teaching
On Arbor Day in Lake Placid, Tim Chick teaches Girl Scouts and other groups about how to plant tree seedlings.

Tim is semi-retired and a NYSUFC Board member. He works part-time as an adjunct forestry professor at Paul Smith’s College and consulting forester and is co-chair of the Lake Placid/North Elba Tree Board.

What led you into arboriculture and urban forestry?
Tim Chick: I was raised in northern New Jersey but attended and eventually worked at a wilderness boys’ camp in the southern Adirondacks from age 10 until I finished college. I fell in love with the North Country and by age 14 I knew I’d be a forester. I went to Michigan Tech in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a forest management degree.

After graduation in 1963, I moved to Detroit to take care of family obligations and was fortunate to find a forestry supervisor’s job with the City of Detroit. Up until that time I didn’t even know cities had foresters! It was quite a shock to go from cruising timber in the woods to inspecting trees along busy city streets. Detroit had an enormous street and park tree population and 17 professional foresters to manage their care. I received excellent technical mentoring from the forestry staff and patient training from the work crew foremen. I was then placed in charge of tree care for a quarter of the city. Talk about having to learn quickly! While I still had fantasies of returning to woods forestry, I was hooked by the challenges of urban work.

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NYSUFC VP Brian Skinner on Retirement, with a Twist

skinner-cropped-for-retirement-essaySo … to the surprise of many (including myself), I really did finally retire from National Grid at the end of October. After 45 years of enjoying the care of trees, service to innumerable individuals, mutual and professional associations with many industry friends, and decades of sharing knowledge and expertise whenever and wherever needed, it was time to hang up the hard hat and relish the thought of no-more-sawdust-in-my-shorts-at-the- end-of-the-work-day.

Those who know me well know that I’m a bit of a workaholic (OK, maybe a lot) and could never see retirement as a word that would ever flow from my lips … but it has! I had thought maybe I could help keep the good ship “Social Security” afloat, but also thought, maybe it’s time to get my share out before the sump pumps fail. So … what advice can I pass on to those still not close to that goal post?

Never be afraid to look back at the past; that’s (supposedly!) how we learn from our mistakes. How many mass failures of trees in our urban environment did it take before we finally subscribed to diversity in species selections when planting our streets? Yes, monocultures provide simplicity in appearances and management … until an invasive pest comes to visit.

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Syracuse 2016 State of the Urban Forest

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What is the state of Syracuse’s urban forest in 2016? Photos Courtesy City of Syracuse
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Syracuse City Arborist & NYSUFC Secretary Steve Harris

City Arborist Steve Harris of the Syracuse Parks Department—who also serves as our Council’s secretary—is pleased to share the release of the 2016 State of the Urban Forest for the City of Syracuse. Steve is an ISA Certified Arborist and Municipal Specialist and in addition to being active in the NYSUFC is involved with the Society of Municipal Arborists. He has been Syracuse City Arborist since 2010.

The 2001 Syracuse Urban Forest Master Plan was one of the first of its kind. The impetus for that report was to lay the groundwork for a focused response to the devastation caused by the Labor Day Storm of 1998. The US Forest Service Northern Research Station (USFS) and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County crafted that plan in cooperation with the City of Syracuse, Syracuse ReLeaf, and SUNY ESF.

Being the home of a world-class research institution (SUNY ESF) and a USFS Research Station dedicated to urban forest change has its benefits. Data gets collected. Beginning in 1999, the USFS established permanent plots in the City to monitor urban forest change. By urban forest, think all trees in the landscape no matter the ownership. Plots were most recently re-measured in 2014. In addition, the USFS worked with the University of Vermont Spatial Laboratory and SUNY ESF to complete an urban tree canopy (UTC) assessment of Syracuse in 2010. (UTC assessments use LIDAR and other spatial analysis tools to identify and measure tree canopy in the landscape.)

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Flood Damage to Trees after Hurricane Sandy: Lessons and Surprises

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Section of Long Island following Hurricane Sandy photographed by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson. Photo in the public domain.

by Michelle Sutton

The 2016 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season officially began June 1, with meteorologists offering varying opinions about how much activity we in the eastern U.S. will see. Hurricane Sandy (October 2012) savaged tree populations with both high winds and flooding. Sandy brought one storm surge of salt water that retreated with the same day’s tides. What were some of the impacts and lessons learned? We hear from a veteran arborist on Long Island and from a former NYC urban forester.

What are the major reasons flooding is so punishing for trees? Dr. Kamran Abdollahi, professor of forest ecophysiology in the urban forestry program at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, explains that flooding fills soil pores, denying tree roots access to the oxygen they need for respiration and water and nutrient uptake. Dr. Abdollahi says, “In the urban environment where soils are already compacted by human activities, flooding exacerbates compaction and its negative effects. Flooding can also negatively affect root anchoring and tree stability.”

Long Island
Arborist Joel Greifenberger is the owner of Valley Tree and Landscape in Long Beach, Long Island. Valley has planted more than 25,000 trees for NYC in over 25 years. Greifenberger says that on Long Beach, Hurricane Sandy brought several feet of salt water on land, “bay to ocean,” for about 12 hours. That brief flooding event left dramatic damage to the region’s trees, with some surprising victims.

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Taking Down the Beloved Balmville Tree

Balmville tree by Mary Kramarchyk
NYS DEC Urban Forestry Program Assistant Sally Kellogg provides perspective on the size of the Balmville tree trunk. Photo by Mary Kramarchyk

On August 5, 2015 the people of Balmville in the Town of Newburgh in Orange County said goodbye to a storied old-growth eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) revered by many big tree lovers. Core samples showed it to be 316 years old, far exceeding the expected life span for cottonwoods (app. 70 years); it was the oldest of its species in the United States. FDR made frequent trips to admire the Balmville Tree. The hamlet of Balmville was so named because the tree was originally thought to be a balm-of-Gilead (Populus x jackii).

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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.