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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.

NYS DEC’s First Urban Forestry Program Intern: Laura Grant

Laura Grant
Laura Grant 

NYS DEC Urban Forestry Program Manager Mary Kramarchyk says, “Summer 2015 was the first time our program hosted an intern. Having several projects in mind and not having enough time to do them myself, I set our new student guest on the quest of identifying possible Tree Campus USA candidates, Tree City communities, and performance measure activities to set our goals by.”

Mary continues, “Laura Grant was a quick study and I soon realized we could expand her activities to other subjects that interested her most. Not only did Laura get a first-hand experience in learning about the urban forestry world, she left us with much needed information to help steer our program into the coming year. We are looking forward to sharing our enthusiasm with a student intern again in 2016.”

Laura is a senior at SUNY ESF, working toward her bachelor’s degree in forest health and a double minor in urban forestry and environmental writing.

Read more…

Rebecca Hargrave: Get to Know Her!

Rebecca measuring planting depth
Rebecca measuring planting depth for a scarlet oak on the Morrisville State College campus on Arbor Day, 2014. 

Rebecca Hargrave is an assistant professor at Morrisville State College in Madison County in the central part of our state. She served on the NYSUFC Board for nine years. She says that as a kid who grew up in Vestal, NY, she spent a lot of time outside, camping with her family or with Girl Scouts. “I spent many summers at Scout camp and loved it. I knew I wanted to work with nature.”

Please tell us about your educational and career trajectories.
Rebecca Hargrave: I went to Penn State for forest science. I don’t think I really knew what I was getting into when I enrolled, but I loved it. After my sophomore year, I spent the summer doing forest inventory in Montana for the Forest Service. I really enjoyed the job, but it was too quiet—not enough interaction with other people.

At that point I had been exposed to urban forestry, so when I got back to college that fall, I switched into the new urban forestry concentration at Penn State. The following summer I worked for the Borough of State College, PA on their tree crew, planting and pruning trees and conducting inventories. That cemented my decision to pursue urban forestry.

Read more…

NYS DEC Cost-Share Grants: The Trees New York Example

CPs at work
Advanced Citizen Pruners, trained and supervised by Trees New York, working their magic in East Harlem, NYC. Photos Courtesy Trees New York

The NYC-based environmental and urban forestry nonprofit organization, Trees New York, has trained Citizen Pruners since 1976. In light of so many years of success—including mentoring new Citizen Pruner groups upstate—they created the Advanced Citizen Pruner Program in 2012. You can see a video about the Trees New York Citizen Pruner program here.

Trees New York applied for and received a NYDEC U&CF Round 11 Cost-Share Grant for its Advanced Citizen Pruner training and work sessions. In-kind support came from NYC Parks in the form of NYC Parks foresters on hand for the training and Park staff and trucks to haul brush away. The training took place in summer of 2012 and the work outings began in November 2012. The focus was on structural pruning of young trees that were out of their two-year warranty, and the majority of the work took place in East Harlem, since it had dense plantings of such young trees.

We spoke with Trees New York’s Executive Director Nelson Villarrubia about their Advanced Citizen Pruner Program project implementation and things to consider when applying for a NYDEC U&CF Cost-Share Grant. Following the Q&A is the narrative of the Trees New York successful Round 11 Cost-Share Grant application. This successful narrative is instructive for municipalities who want to apply for the next round of grants (Round 13), the details of which should be announced later this fall.

Regarding Round 13, NYS DEC Urban Forestry Program Manager Mary Kramarchyk says, “The cost-share grant match for maintenance and tree planting will be only 25% this year. Also, applicants may receive partial reimbursements to make completing the project easier than funding the entire project up front. We hope this will make creating green spaces easier for non-profits and municipalities.”

Read more…

Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards”

B&B trees on truck Matthew Stephens
B&B trees dug properly—i.e., when dormant. Photo by Matthew Stephens

by NYC Parks Director of Street Tree Planting Matthew Stephens and Taking Root Editor Michelle Sutton

We coauthored this story questioning commonly held beliefs about “fall hazards,” mostly as it applies to B&B trees, but we also discuss the interaction of the fall season with other production methods, like bare root. The section, “The Five Branches of Transplanting Success,” should be of interest to anyone planting trees, period!  With the help of Nina Bassuk and others, we tried to break down the complex interactions at work with transplanting. This article originally ran in Arbor Age (Fall 2015).  

The nursery industry is reluctant to dig certain species of trees in the fall, yet the “fall hazards” lists can vary significantly among nurseries. Also varying is the experience of nursery customers, including city foresters who plant hundreds or thousands of trees each year. In addition to digging season, there are other interacting factors at play in the fall planting picture.

A More Nuanced Look
Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute Director and street tree expert Dr. Nina Bassuk says, “Those fall hazards lists are generalizations. Typically the trees that appear on those lists are trees that are more difficult to transplant, period. In spring they don’t become easy to transplant; they’re just observed to be easier in the spring than in the fall.”

Tree Pittsburgh Director of Urban Forestry Matthew Erb has overseen the planting of more than 25,000 trees (mostly B&B) since 2008. “I’m sure if you look hard enough, you will find nearly every species on someone’s fall hazard list,” he says.

Read more…

Developing Creative Community Forestry Partnerships

Community partnerships and effective urban forestry branding and marketing: we can learn from our sister states’ approaches. Here, Vice President of Public Relations at CEL Kari Logan talks about the Kentucky Roots campaign of the Northern Kentucky Urban & Community Forestry Council and gives suggestions for “Developing Creative Community Forestry Partnerships.” If your community has forged a creative partnership that has benefited your urban forest, please tell us about it: takingrooteditor@gmail.com.   

Kentucky RootsDynamic community partnerships can be the fuel needed to propel educational forestry campaigns and programs with additional resources and vehicles for distribution. However, the best partners are not always the most obvious, but the reality is opposites can attract and can come together for the greater good of both.

Consider thinking past your typical supporters to businesses, retailers, entertainment venues, and beyond. Community forestry programs need support, and businesses need to support programs that elevate their position as environmental leaders.

Read more…

Bare Root & UHI Webinars Update

Thanks to Nina Bassuk’s research and extension efforts in bare root transplanting technology, tens of thousands of trees have been planted in New York and the greater Northeast that would otherwise not have been. In 2014 alone, 8800 bare root trees were purchased by 93 municipalities across 11 states from Schichtel’s Nursery in Western NY.

Bare root planting by volunteers in Utica. Photo by Roger B. Smith
Bare root planting by volunteers in Utica. Photo by Roger B. Smith

Schichtel’s Sales Manager Jim Kisker, who has partnered with Nina on bare root and other research since 1990, says the vast majority of the nursery’s bare root sales go to municipalities that are using her bare root technique. Kisker says, “When I listen to some of our municipal customers give presentations on the success they’re having with bare root, they’re up in the exceptional 93-96 % survival rate with the dip and bag method. We know it works, because the same municipalities come back every year. Some have been buying from us, with this method, for 10-15 years and in some cases, 20-plus years.”

NYS DEC Urban Forestry Program Manager Mary Kramarchyk says, “When learning about volunteer efforts across the state, I find it uplifting that so many local tree stewards already know about bare-root tree planting and that they find it much easier to do than balled and burlap trees.”

Read more…

The Story of the Urban Forest Strike Teams

USFS-Strike-TeamThe 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. Here’s the backstory. 

Team Specialists discuss tree loss (and near miss!) with homeowner after Hurricane Gustav. Because it impacted a public street, the tree was marked for FEMA removal and reimbursement.
Team Specialists discuss tree loss (and near miss!) with homeowner after Hurricane Gustav. Because it impacted a public street, the tree was marked for FEMA removal and reimbursement.

by Paul Revell, Urban & Community Forestry Coordinator, Virginia Department of Forestry ♦ Photos Courtesy Urban Forest Strike Teams

In 2003, Hurricane Isabel cut a devastating path across Virginia, leaving lots of damaged trees in its wake. Several of the Tidewater cities were hit hard. Further inland, the state capitol of Richmond lost more than 10,000 public trees. Between 2002 and 2005, North Carolina and South Carolina suffered several hurricanes that also caused tremendous tree damage and loss.

Urban foresters were frustrated that there was no way to adequately respond to these disasters in order to qualify for FEMA reimbursement. Even communities with established urban forestry programs lacked the staff or a methodology to document tree damage in a timely manner, given all the other clean-up activities that were taking place. Similarly, state forestry agencies lacked a method for assisting communities from an urban forestry perspective. Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused widespread tree damage in the Gulf States. One of the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina was that contractors destroyed thousands of healthy trees in the aftermath of the storm.

The Urban Forestry Coordinators of Virginia and North Carolina, Paul Revell and Leslie Moorman, decided that some sort of urban response capability needed to be developed by state agencies in advance of the next disaster. They consulted the U. S. Forest Service for assistance. Dudley Hartel, a technology transfer specialist with the Southern Research Station, was eager to help. He had assisted several communities after Hurricane Katrina and was ready to use his experience to develop a storm response methodology.

Read more…

Bassuk, Luley, and Nowak Receive Awards at ISA Orlando

Chris Luley accepting his R.W. Harris Author's Citation Award, granted to authors for sustained excellence in the publication of timely information pertaining to the field of arboriculture.
Chris Luley accepting his R.W. Harris Author’s Citation Award, granted to authors for sustained excellence in the publication of timely information pertaining to the field of arboriculture.

In early August, at the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Annual International Conference and Trade Show in Orlando, Florida, three of our New York urban forest luminaries won prestigious awards.

Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute Director Nina Bassuk received the Alex L. Shigo Award for Excellence in Arboricultural Education. Urban Forestry LLC Principal Chris Luley received the R.W. Harris Author’s Citation. USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station Project Leader and Research Forester David Nowak received the L. C. Chadwick Award for Arboricultural Research. In the past, Nina also received the Research award and David also received the Author’s award.

What follows are the videos that ISA produced for each recipient. We can take pride in the accomplishments of these New York-based professionals who, among their many good works, have contributed immensely to the efforts and mission of the NYS Urban Forestry Council.