New York City’s Green Infrastructure Program is a multi-agency effort led by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). DEP and agency partners like NYC Parks design, construct, and maintain a variety of sustainable green infrastructure features such as green roofs and rain gardens on City-owned property such as streets, sidewalks, schools, and public housing. You can see a video about NYC green infrastructure here.
For three years, the Council has been administering Arbor Day grants that provide funding to communities who wanted to have their first-ever Arbor Day celebrations and begin to build their urban forestry programs. These grants have benefited 37 New York communities whose inaugural Arbor Day celebrations you can read about here on the blog.
What about those municipalities or non-profits that have established programs and want to kick things up a notch (or many notches)? Here, colleagues to the Northwest advise on how to make sponsorship of programs and events a reality. With its current population of 472,000, Surrey, BC would rank as the 37th largest city in the U.S. Their successes as a large city with sponsorship came via strategies that are translatable to smaller communities. First, have a look at how Surrey, BC put this into practice with their annual Party for the Planet, a day-long celebration for their equivalent of Arbor Day in the U.S.
Story and images by Mark McPherson, Executive Director of the Urban Forest Carbon Registry
The urban forests of the U.S. are long overdue to earn certified carbon credits. Carbon buyers purchased $700 million in carbon credits in the U.S. over the last decade ($4.5 billion worldwide). Yet not a single dollar of that money can go to the trees in the cities and towns of America.
Everyone in urban forestry knows the documented benefits of ecosystem services provided by trees in cities, yet urban forests receive relatively little funding as municipalities struggle to meet basic utility and human service needs. Furthermore, urban tree canopy is being lost in many cities due to growth and development.
The Urban Forest Carbon Registry (the Registry) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is working to make it possible for urban tree planting and preservation projects to earn and sell carbon credits. Money from the sale of the credits would go directly to the projects that earned those credits.
The Registry has developed practical carbon protocols for urban forestry projects. These protocols, one for tree planting and one for tree preservation, will be the “rulebooks” that projects must follow to earn certified credits.
The Registry assembled a drafting group of national stakeholders from many areas of urban forestry including Greg McPherson, Scott Maco, and Andy Trotter to address the quantification issues—as well as representatives of municipal forestry, non-profit tree organizations, utilities, transportation professionals, and watershed experts. You can view the protocols on the Registry website at www.ufregistry.org.
Save the Rain is Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s comprehensive program to improve the environment and clean Onondaga Lake by reducing the stormwater runoff that enters the sewer system. There is a combined sewer system in Syracuse, and during heavy rainfalls the system overflows into the tributaries of Onondaga Lake. Save the Rain utilizes innovative green and gray infrastructure to capture stormwater, preventing combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and improving water quality. The Save the Rain Tree Planting Program has planted over 6,300 trees that, among other ecological services, can soak up stormwater runoff.
Using data from the TreesCount! 2015 inventory, NYC Parks brings us the interactive New York City Street Tree Map, the world’s most extensive, accurate, and detailed tree map. With the Map, anyone can access data about any street tree in the City.
Users can learn about the inventory as a whole, including its quantifiable ecological benefits and predominant species, they can mark trees as favorites and share them with friends, and they can record their tree stewardship activities. They can find out ecological benefits of each individual tree; for instance, the Japanese pagoda tree at 213 E 73rd Street, provides the following benefits.
CityLab, from The Atlantic, published a nice article about the project. Author Laura Bliss reports that “For more than a year, some 2,300 volunteers helped park officials survey more than 685,000 street trees across all five boroughs, gathering stats on species, bark health, trunk width, latitude and longitude, and—this was new—GPS coordinates for every one.”
The interactive New York City Street Tree Map that was created from that data is a marvel. It will surely inspire more of its kind.
Our Council’s blog was viewed more than 19,500 times in 2016! Here are the year’s seven most-viewed posts.
Over a thousand people read Participate in the Reintroduction of the American Chestnut … by Simply Planting a Few Nuts. “Now comes the part of getting the blight-resistant trees into the forest. That is where you come in! We need people all over NY and in other states to plant pure wild American chestnuts so they have trees to cross with our blight-resistant tree, when it is approved for release, hopefully in the next few years.” -Allen Nichols, President of the American Chestnut Foundation, New York Chapter
Some blog posts resonate long past their original publication date date. Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards” was one of the top five posts in 2015 and was the second most viewed post in 2016. Former NYC Director of Street Tree Planting Matt Stephens and Taking Root Editor Michelle Sutton coauthored this story questioning commonly held beliefs about “fall hazards,” mostly as it applies to B&B trees, but they also discuss the interaction of the fall season with other production methods, like bare root. Nina Bassuk helped craft the section called “The Five Branches of Transplanting Success,” which should be of interest to anyone planting trees.
Kristy King and NYC Forest Restoration: Dreaming Big for the City’s Natural Areas Many readers wanted to learn about the work of the NYC Natural Resources Group, which manages 5,000 acres of forested natural areas across the five boroughs of NYC, and about Director of Forest Restoration Kristy King. Her dream for NYC: “… that all forested areas are dominated by native species and that invasive species have been managed to the point that natural forest regeneration is occurring and that the public holistically values the natural resources in their area.”
NYSDEC Urban Forestry Intern Jennifer Kotary: Get to Know Her! Many blog readers were keen to know about this dynamic up-and-comer. “My internship research involved in-depth exploration of what communities are doing to protect and build green infrastructure across the state. Via Mary’s [Kramarchyk] assigned projects, I was able to produce tangible evidence that there is quite the statewide collective will to plant and nurture an expanding canopy as well as many career and volunteer opportunities to do so.”
From Scottsville to Long Beach: Urban Forest Master Plans, Management Plans, and Reports introduced blog readers to the growing compendium of Urban Forest plans and reports on the Council’s website. Communities creating or re-envisioning their master plans can survey what’s already been done in New York and use these plans as templates. NYS EPF (aka Cost-Share) Urban Forestry Grant funds are available for management plans or master plans, provided these plans include a specific work schedule made up of goals, tasks, and a timeline. Go to link above > Browse > DEC > 2016 Urban and Community Forestry Grants Program (Round 13)- Tree Planting or Tree Maintenance Projects.
SMA’s 2016 Urban Tree of the Year: Musashino Zelkova generated a lot of buzz. ‘Musashino’ has been a successful and popular street tree for many more years in Japan, proving itself useful as a narrow, upright form of zelkova. It can tolerate drought and heat and is pH adaptable and pollution tolerant. See a list of all the past SMA Urban Trees of the Year here.
Gary Raffel: Get to Know Him! Gary has served the Council in a variety of capacities, including as a board member. “I started Dynamic Tree Systems in 2002, offering general tree care service as well as Plant Health Care and Integrated Pest Management programs. I later wanted to find a niche in the industry and purchased a Tree Radar Unit at a time when there were only three of us in the U.S. and eleven people in the world using the equipment. A few years later I became the company’s international trainer, such that when a new unit was sold I would fly to the particular client and spend a week training them on their new equipment (I still do that, in addition to Dynamic Tree Systems).”
… with Trees for Tribs Coordinator Sarah Walsh
Trees for Tribs, as in tributaries, is a Department of Environmental Conservation program replanting New York’s streams. The program began in 2007 in the Hudson River Estuary and has since expanded statewide, working with partners across the state to plant native trees and shrubs for improved wildlife habitat, water quality, and storm resiliency.
The program works with private landowners, municipalities, schools, and conservation organizations, providing technical assistance, low- to no-cost native trees and shrubs, and tree tubes for planting sites. The program currently has coordinators on the ground in six watersheds (Champlain, Mohawk, Hudson Estuary, Croton, Upper Susquehanna, and lower Genesee). Trees for Tribs works with other organizations outside of these watersheds to coordinate projects on the ground.
You may have noticed that every summer the ReLeaf conference gets an infusion of youthful energy when members of the Onondaga Earth Corps attend. Here, we learn more about this Syracuse-based organization from OEC Program Coordinator and SUNY ESF grad Adrienne Canino. “OEC is a community organization dedicated to creating jobs for youth here in Syracuse and bringing people together to understand the value of trees in our city,” she says.
Here’s a terrific video about the range of activities OEC is involved with:
The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy (BOPC) honors ten “Frederick Law Olmsted Award” recipients who stepped up after the October 12-13, 2006 freak snowstorm in which more than 12,000 trees in the City’s Olmsted-designed park system were damaged by nearly 2 feet of snow. Here’s an excellent video about the storm, its aftermath, the Olmsted Award winners, and the current state of the urban forest that BOPC manages.
Video directed and produced by Lemur Studios
You’ll note one of the honorees is Re-Tree WNY, an all-volunteer group established on November 3, 2006 by a group of about 40 Western New York residents who wanted to respond to the devastation. The group, chaired by radio executive Paul Maurer, has planted 28,112 trees and is working toward its goal of 30,000 trees across the 18 Western NY municipalities affected by the storm. (The goal is expected to be reached by November, 2018.) Some of the other munis affected include Amherst, Williamsville, Tonawanda, Kenmore, Cheektowoga, and Clarence. They have all met their planting goals, with Buffalo not far behind. The 30,000 trees are in addition to replacement trees planted by the munis themselves.
You can read more in an article, “Freak Buffalo Storm Killed over 57,000 Trees, but Most Were Replaced,” by Mark Sommer in The Buffalo News. Also see a related blog post about Ed Dore and Upstate NY’s community tree planting movement.
See Re-Tree WNY to get involved in the final tree planting push to reach 30,000 trees.
Drs. Susan Day and Nina Bassuk have collaborated on a variety of research projects in the urban forest, with a special focus on soil remediation. Susan Day is an associate professor in the Virginia Tech Departments of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation and Horticulture, and longtime Council stalwart Nina Bassuk directs the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell.
Here, Susan Day summarizes her findings after ten years of researching Soil Profile Rebuilding (SPR), a technique that the urban forestry community will be hearing about! See also this post from 2014 about Nina Bassuk’s related soil amendment research.
Soil Profile Rebuilding: An Alternative to Soil Replacement
by Susan Downing Day
Urban foresters and their allies know poor soils can lead to an endless cycle of dieback and tree replacement. Even if trees do establish, growth can be underwhelming and tree health disappointing. Increasingly, project managers have been turning to soil replacement, where existing soils are excavated and removed and replaced with “recycled” or blended soils. These soils present their own challenges, however. For example, many imported blends rely on high sand contents to improve drainage, resulting in low water-holding capacity and drought stress for unirrigated plantings. Resulting sharp transitions in soil texture introduce the possibility of creating a “bath tub” effect in situations where it is impossible to replace all the soil and new soils are confined to the immediate vicinity of individual trees.
There is an alternative to soil replacement that is especially appropriate where there are extended open soil (unpaved) areas such as in street medians—soil rehabilitation. Soil rehabilitation can help restore important ecosystem functions such as stormwater transmission and vegetation support to existing native soils.