NYC’s 25-Year Plan for its Urban Forests

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Joel Meyerowitz

A recent New York Times article by James Barron features an interview with Natural Areas Conservancy Executive Director Sarah Charlop-Powers and Senior Ecologist Helen Forgione about the story behind the new Forest Management Framework for New York City’s urban forest. Prospect Park Alliance President and Administrator Sue Donoghue is also featured. Climate change, invasive plants, forests at tipping points–and the mitigations for all these dilemmas that the Framework will power–are discussed.

About the Forest Management Framework for New York City

A joint project of the Natural Areas Conservancy and NYC Parks, the Forest Management Framework for New York City is a strategic and comprehensive plan to bolster and protect New York City’s vital urban forests. It is the first citywide vision for this critical piece of infrastructure. The plan is intended to guide restoration, management, and community engagement for 7,300 acres of New York City’s forested parkland. The 25- year plan includes the process, costs, steps, recommendations, best practices, and goals for forest management in NYC. It marks the culmination of six years of research, data collection, and analysis by NAC scientists. 

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City Forest Credits (Formerly Urban Forest Carbon Registry) Update

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By Mark McPherson, Director, City Forest Credits

A year ago, I wrote for the Council blog about the Urban Forest Carbon Registry, a non-profit organization based in Seattle. The Registry developed the first-ever Tree Preservation Carbon Protocol that enables urban forest preservation projects to earn carbon credits and bring in new funding sources. The Registry is working with urban foresters in a number of cities to help them develop both preservation and planting programs. In addition, many urban forest professionals serve as advisors and protocol drafters for the Registry. Here’s an update.

New Name: City Forest Credits

The Registry recently announced a name change: City Forest Credits. It’s still a non-profit registry issuing Carbon+ Credits for city forests (more about the “+” later). We found that the terms “urban” and “urban forestry” do not connect well with either funders or the person on the street. By contrast, the word “City” ties to resilient cities, smart cities, carbon neutral cities. We also believe that the buyers of City Forest Carbon+ Credits will include sustainability and water-neutrality buyers, so we wanted to emphasize the credit as well as the carbon. 

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NYC Parks’ Liam Kavanagh Brings Big-Picture Discussion to Council Board

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NYC Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. Photo by Michelle Sutton, from 2016 SMA Conference 2016

Last month, NYC Parks First Deputy Commissioner  Liam Kavanagh came and spoke with the Council Board at their meeting at the NYSDEC Region 2 office on Long Island. Commissioner Kavanagh discussed three national, big-picture urban forestry projects with the Board: the Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan, a report on the Impact of Urban and Community Forestry Federal Grants, and the Urban Forestry Toolkit. Let’s look at each one.

1) The Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan (2016-2026) was developed by and for the urban forestry community. It was funded by the US Forest Service and developed by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC)* with extensive input from stakeholders. You can read an interesting interview with Liam Kavanagh about the Plan here.

The Plan’s purpose is to expand awareness of the benefits that our urban forests, including green infrastructure, provide to communities throughout the nation, and increase investments in these urban forest resources for the benefit of current and future generations.

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Memorial Park as Urban Arboretum: White Haven in Pittsford

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The oldest and largest tree at White Haven, a majestic red oak (Quercus rubra).

The tree collections of cemeteries and memorial parks make a significant contribution to urban forests. Recently we learned more about the Certified Level 2 urban arboretum that is Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn as part of the blog profile of Green-Wood Director of Horticulture and Curator Joseph Charap. White Haven Memorial Park in Pittsford is a Certified Level 1 Arboretum, soon to be applying for Level 2 Certification.

The 170-acre White Haven Memorial Park in Pittsford is a park for all people. Walkers and runners are welcome, bicyclists and hikers are welcome, dogs are welcome. Birders can come do their early morning thing, including observing Eastern bluebirds in the Park’s dedicated nesting area. The entrance sign even says “Geocachers welcome.” One need not have a loved one buried there to enjoy the beautiful natural assets of White Haven—including formidable horticultural assets.

There are more than 150 different tree species in the developed areas alone, with dozens more species yet to be inventoried in the Park’s 70-plus acres of forest. The oldest and largest tree is a red oak (Quercus rubra) in the center of the developed Park. Director of Horticulture Gary Burke is partial to a large shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) and Park President Andrea Vittum loves the large Nootka cypress (Cupressus nootkatensis).

Other interesting specimens include Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonicus), tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea), American fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), goldenchain tree (Laburnum anagyroides), paperbark maple (Acer griseum), and six different kinds of beech trees. There are five mature ash trees in the developed collection that are being micro-injected to project the trees from Emerald Ash Borer. Newly planted trees get trunk protection via corrugated plastic tubes, to protect the tender cambium from rutting bucks. 

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Up With Trees! SMA Tulsa Conference Highlights

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Up with Trees headquarters in Tulsa. Photo: upwithtrees.org

Recently, Council members such as Past President Andy Hillman, Secretary Steve Harris, Board Member James Kaechele, and myself (Blog Editor Michelle Sutton) attended the Annual Conference of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). It was held November 13-14, 2017 in Tulsa, Oklahoma prior to the Partners in Community Forestry Conference on November 15-16.

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SMA conferences are open to and welcoming of anyone and everyone interested in urban forestry but tend to draw most from professional city foresters, parks superintendents, state UCF coordinators, urban forestry nonprofit staff, and the like. Many continue on to the “Partners” conference, organized by the Arbor Day Foundation, where they are joined by hundreds of community forestry professionals, volunteers, and activists.

A bus tour of Tulsa (human pop. ~ 400,000) highlighted the long and productive collaboration between the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Forestry Section and the nonprofit group Up with Trees, founded in 1976. Urban forestry in Tulsa was first formally recognized in 1992; its longtime city forester, Mike Perkins, recently retired from the City and went to work as operations manager for Up with Trees. Arborist Dave Zucconi then took the city forester position, rising from the ranks of Parks and Recreation. Tulsa benefits from the longtime positive working relationship between Perkins and Zucconi, who gave a very animated tour and are rightfully proud of their accomplishments and those of their colleagues.

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Mike Perkins (left) and Dave Zucconi (right)

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Green Horizons: NYC Middle School Careers Event in its 22nd Year

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NYSDEC Senior Forester Greg Owens facilitated native tree planting and other activities in the All About Trees workshop. Photo by Diana Pedi

The 22nd New York City Green Horizons middle school careers event was held October 19, 2017 in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. It attracted almost 300 students—the largest registration ever. The weather was perfect and the Park was an ideal site for students to explore 19 stations that focused on environmental and natural resources careers. Special partners this year were staff and volunteers of Van Cortlandt Park, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, and the Van Cortlandt Historic House Museum. 

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CNYC Receives Property Gift for Utica Office, Education Center

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New Parks HQ with Cucumber Magnolia

If you’ve ever visited Utica (perhaps for a past ReLeaf conference), you know what a treasure the City’s Olmsted-designed Parks and Parkway System is. The Central New York Conservancy has preserved and restored the Parks and Parkway System, listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places, since 2002.

After 15 years, the nonprofit organization is establishing its first-ever office, and in the most ideal location, in Utica. Thanks to a generous donation of property by the family of the late Albert Shaheen, M.D., the Conservancy has begun renovations to its new office located at 1641 Genesee Street.

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Ashleigh Pettus and Trees New York’s Young Urban Forester Internship

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Some of the 2017 Young Urban Forester Interns, with program coordinator Ashleigh Pettus at far left.

Ashleigh Pettus is the Operations Manager & Environmental Educator for Trees New York. She coordinates the organization’s summer Young Urban Forester Internship, which began in 2008.  

Can you tell us about your educational background and how you came to Trees New York?
Ashleigh Pettus: I graduated from Lehman College in 2016 with a BA in History and Minor in Childhood Education. I spent my winter and spring breaks volunteering; one of my most memorable spring breaks is when we traveled to Perryville, Arkansas to spend a week at Heifer International. There, I learned about rural farming and sustainability; I loved it so much, I went back and spent three months there.

When I came back to NYC, I wanted to share my knowledge but it had to be adapted to an urban setting. I found Just Food and taught some of their Farm School NYC classes. Soon after that I worked at Wave Hill in the Bronx, where I started to learn tree identification, fell in love with trees, and realized I wanted to focus my energy there. I was fortunate to be hired by Trees New York in the summer of 2015 to be an environmental educator. Eventually I became the Young Urban Forester Internship program coordinator as well. It’s a pleasure to share the things I’ve learned in this environmental field with my summer interns.

Please tell us about the internship.
AP: Trees New York’s Young Urban Forester Internship is a seven-week, 175-hour urban and community forestry paid experience. The goal of the annual summer program is to introduce up to 16 high school juniors and seniors from low-income households in New York City to careers in the fast-growing field of environmental science and in urban forestry specifically.

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Meet the NYC Natural Areas Conservancy 2017 Summer Field Interns

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NYC’s Natural Areas Conservancy welcomed nine summer field interns from the City University of New York (CUNY). Over the course of eight weeks, the CUNY teams are studying NYC’s ecological health in 12 parks in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

Led by Conservancy ecologists, the students are collecting data on plants and soil to help direct improvement of natural areas citywide. You can watch their progress and learn more about their findings by following The Natural Areas Conservancy on social media. The Conservancy thanks the Leon Levy Foundation, Lise Strickler, and Mark Gallogly for supporting this program.

Meet the interns:  

Photo taken at Marine Park, Brooklyn

Front row: Irina Arias (environmental engineering); Uziel Crescenzi (landscape architecture); Kenia Pittman (landscape architecture); Brian Stonaker (biology); Merna Youssef (physics and mathematics); Stephanie Cando (biology).

Back row: Renee Montelbano (urban sustainability); Rafael Arias (environmental engineering); Harmanveer Singh (environmental science and urban studies).