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Urban Forestry Award Winners

The DEC recognized the Arbor Day Poster Contest winner, 5th Grader Annika Chang from John Mandracchia Sawmill Intermediate School in Commack, accompanied here by her parents and NYS Urban Forestry Program Manager Mary Kramarchyk (right).

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens recognized award winners for their participation in urban forestry activities across the state at a ceremony held March 27, 2014 at the Downtown Albany Hilton Hotel. Communities and organizations meeting the standard requirements in the programs administered by DEC’s State Forester and the Arbor Day Foundation were recognized as a Tree City USA, Tree Campus USA, or a Tree Line USA.

The DEC contingent was at the 2014 Tree City, Tree Line, Tree Campus USA ceremony in support of the state’s urban forestry program and to recognize award winners. (L-R) Fran Sheehan, Lands and Forests Assistant Director; Bruce Williamson, Bureau Chief; Mary Kramarchyk, Program Manager; DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, Sally Kellogg, Program Assistant and State Forester Robert Davies.

The Department also recognized the Arbor Day Poster Contest winner, 5th Grader Annika Chang from John Mandracchia Sawmill Intermediate School in Commack.

“Urban forestry volunteers, students and industry professionals contribute their knowledge to enhance and maintain tree canopy in cities, village, towns, parks, college campuses and other public places,” said Commissioner Martens.

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Getting to Know Brian Skinner, our Council VP

Upstate NY 181Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in arboriculture and urban forestry, and about your education? Brian: Both my grandfathers were heavy into gardening, and I spent many a day helping them with vegetables, fruit, and flowers. My dad was active in the Boy Scouts when he grew up and continued through adulthood, so I was with him in Scouts until I went to college. I spent most of my free time at Scout camp, working in and enjoying the blessings of Mother Nature.

I spent four years at SUNY ESF and got my bachelor’s degree in Resources Management, then I spent a year and a half logging, then the past 42 years “practicing” arboriculture … and hoping to get good at it someday!

Can you tell us about your current position? As senior arborist for the upstate NY Central division of National Grid on the distribution forestry side of the business, I’m responsible for helping to manage more than 16,000 miles of overhead electric distribution lines; managing our divisional hazard tree management crews; managing our UNY community forestry commitment, including our “10,000 Trees and Growing” tree planting contribution program; and having a corporate presence by being an active member on a number of industry related professional organizations and committees (including NYSUFC).

Brian says, "Here I am at my summer desk."
Brian says, “Here I am … at my summer desk.” Brian staffs exhibits for National Grid, NYS Arborists ISA Chapter, and other organizations.

When did you first get involved with the NYSUFC, in what capacities have you served, and what has your involvement meant to you? I started by attending the 2002 annual ReLeaf conference in Brooklyn and meetings lots of interesting and unique people of like interests.  I volunteered to help out managing the financial side of the following year’s conference in Utica … and then the rest snowballed downhill from there. I ended up somehow getting involved with the executive committee, and I must have raised my hand at some point when I sneezed and was volunteered to run as VP. The rest, as they say, is history!

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Lori Brockelbank’s Tour des Trees Adventure Continues

NYSUFC Treasurer Lori Brockelbank is preparing for her second year in the STIHL Tour des Trees, a weeklong cycling event which benefits the TREE (Tree Research and Education Endowment) Fund. This year, riders will traverse Wisconsin from July 27-August 2 and will stop in Madison, Door County, Green Bay, and at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, among other places. 

Each full-Tour cyclist commits to raising $3,500 for the TREE Fund, and you can support Lori’s fundraising effort here.

Lori group Tour des Trees
Lori Brockelbank (second from left) with fellow Tour des Trees riders. Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

Since 1992, the Tour has raised more than $6.6 million for tree research and education programs, making possible more than 400 TREE Fund research grants focused on arboriculture and urban forestry and the safety of the tree care workforce since 1976, along with scholarships for college students across the country.

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Cross-Pollinating Urban Forestry

On March 4, NYSUFC President Andy Hillman and Executive Secretary Betty Shimo attended the Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) first-ever Urban Forest Council Steering Committee meeting. The other participating state councils were from NC, PA, WI, CO, and CA.

Hillman says, “The meeting affirmed for me that our Council is part of a larger urban forestry movement that could benefit from more cross-pollination and sharing of ideas.”

In that spirit, it seems fitting that as our own NYSUFC blog launches, we check out the blogs of other state urban forest councils. What are some of the most interesting and innovative things they are doing? Which ones do you already have bookmarked?

Georgia Urban Forest Council | Sustaining Georgia’s green legacy by helping communities grow healthy trees. The Georgia Urban Forest Council has a well-developed, easy to navigate website that has a new-ish blog that runs on the home page of the website. Also they have a Georgia ReLeaf “Donate” button right on the home page. Other nice touches: There is a tab that links to the American Grove blog, and a tab that goes to extensive pages on tree care.

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A Week at MFI and My Personal Journey to Do More

Danielle GiftIn February, NYSUFC Board Member Danielle Gift attended the 2014 Municipal Forestry Institute at Lied Lodge & Conference Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska.  

As a child I never had any interest in climbing trees. What I did like was having my feet on the muddy ground and scrambling under vines and logs, ending my day with wet knees and dirt under my fingernails. I remember getting my Arbor Day trees in the mail and planting them with my dad (25 years later, two of them are still around!) I remember as a fifth grader being very concerned about recycling, the Amazon Rainforest, and the humpback whale.

Throughout high school I was usually in one of two places—romping about with the Ecology Club or playing the piano and singing with school ensembles. I went on to study music education in college but I found that teaching music wasn’t for me; the thought of being cooped up in a classroom for the rest of my life seemed soul-crushing. I moved to Flagstaff to study forestry at Northern Arizona University, a move that didn’t shock the people who know me best.

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An Emblem for a New Blog

Welcome to the first post of the TAKING ROOT blog! This is a place for members of the NYS Urban Forestry Council to share ideas and successes and get to know one another.

yellowwood in bloom

The photo used in the banner of TAKING ROOT you may recognize as a yellowwood tree (Cladrastis kentukea) in bloom. To me 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).

Indeed the banner photo comes from a yellowwood that is one of a pair planted in the 1960s. The duo is found in a courtyard on the SUNY New Paltz campus; the one you see has good branch structure and is thriving, while the other one had poor branch structure, busted up after a storm a few winters back, and has been in steady decline since.

With yellowwood and urban forestry, great things are possible, and the value of a simple early intervention to care for them is inestimable.  -Michelle Sutton, TAKING ROOT Editor