Tree Hugger from Upstate New York By June S. MacArthur
From my earliest remembrance of about age three and a half, I lived in the countryside in Upstate New York on an apple orchard and chicken farm. I remember walking in the woods across from our house with my father and brother, Gerald, who was four years older. We were on a trail with Gerald ahead of me and Dad behind me when my father suddenly spoke sternly, “June! Stop now!” And I did. In the path ahead of me, where Gerald had just walked, was slowly uncurling a rattlesnake. Dad said, “Your brother seems to have woken up a rattler.”
Gerald yelled because he hadn’t seen it as he obviously had walked over it. My brother wanted to kill it but Dad said, “No, snakes are important. Just be aware that it’s their home too.” We watched it slither off into the underbrush. After that, I always made a point to watch where I was walking in fields or woods and was never surprised or afraid of snakes; I just gave them their own space.
Can you tell us about your childhood influences? Andy Pleninger: I grew up in a neighborhood in Rochester, NY with mature black oaks and numerous diverse niche ecosystems ideal for play and exploration. Scouting took me to Camp Massaweppie in the Adirondacks, and camping trips with the family were exciting adventures. In the 1970s gypsy moth arrived and gorged on the oaks in my neighborhood. I also watched in awe as a tree surgeon climbed and worked on one of those giant neighborhood oaks. These events and experiences sparked and fostered my interest in the environment.
What has been your educational and career trajectory? AP: My educational and career trajectories are intertwined. My interests and work and life experiences guided me to my career in urban forestry. Right out of high school I got a job with a tree service and enrolled at the local community college in pre-forestry studies. After my two years of studies I moved to Colorado with the intention of finishing a BS in forestry.
I worked in commercial landscaping and tree work and explored and pursued all the adventures the Rocky Mountains could offer. One of my jobs working as a tree surgeon had me pruning street trees for the City of Fort Collins, where I met the city forester. This was my introduction to urban forestry and I knew this is what I wanted to do. I returned to my studies at Colorado State University and completed a BS concentrating in urban forestry.
We are excited that the Nature Conservancy’s Bill Toomey will be our Conference keynote speaker at Hoffstra later this month (register here!). Bill oversees the Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities project of the Nature Conservancy. Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities is an initiative of The Nature Conservancy with programs currently running in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Tennessee.
Bill is currently the Director of Forest Health Protection working as part of the Nature Conservancy’s North American Forest Priority and the Conservancy’s Urban Conservation Strategies Initiative. Most recently, Bill served as the Executive Director of the Highstead Foundation, a conservation non-profit based in Connecticut, which advanced forest conservation work throughout New England. Prior to that he worked for The Nature Conservancy for 10 years in the Connecticut and Massachusetts Chapters where he held positions as stewardship ecologist, landscape project director, and major gift fundraiser. He has also worked for the City of San Jose, California where he managed the residential recycling and composting program. Bill holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Fairfield University and a master’s degree in Soil Science and Ecology from North Carolina State University. Bill is also an ISA certified Arborist and is a member of the CT Urban Forest Council.
Here’s a link to a great interview the Conservancy did with Bill about his background and the Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities initiative, and here’s an excellent video about the Nature Conservancy’s Urban Strategies:
From the Healthy Trees… site:
Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities is improving the health of America’s trees by engaging people in hands-on tree care and inspiring a new generation of environmental stewards. How do we do it?
We start with:
Assessing urban forest health to inform tree planting and management;
Training volunteers in tree stewardship and tree health monitoring;
Engaging youth and the public;
Raising awareness about the importance of trees and what people can do to keep trees healthy through education and outreach; and
Working with local partners to ensure the successful implementation of the program.
By Tim Chick, NYSUFC Board Member, Town of Lake Placid Tree Board Member, Paul Smith’s adjunct professor
Photos by Sally Kellogg, DEC Urban Forestry Program Assistant
On May 14, 2014 the Lake Placid/North Elba Tree Board held its 13th annual Arbor Day ceremony. The program was held in Peacock Park on the shores of Mirror Lake under a beautiful sunny sky. Although the Weather Channel predicted that storms would pass to the Northeast, community members who are used to rapidly changing weather in the North Country came prepared with rain coats and umbrellas.
The Council’s longtime Board member and beloved speaker, Nina Bassuk, gives us an update on three areas of research underway at UHI. Dr. Bassuk will be the plenary speaker for the NYSUFC Conference this July. (Register now for best rate!)
New Oaks for Tough Sites
Dr. Nina Bassuk founded and directs Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) and conducts applied research in the areas of plant improvement, transplanting technologies, and soil remediation. “We think of everything we do in terms of potential practical value to the field,” she says.
For example, owing to hybridizing work UHI has been doing since the early 1990s, some oak introductions will be coming onto the market in the next five to ten years that could be game-changers: a whole series of oaks—not just English and bur oak—that can tolerate a pH of 8.0! That means oaks with foliage that stays green in the alkaline soil conditions prevalent in urban settings (and we are increasingly recognizing that in terms of plant stress, “urban” conditions are everywhere—not just in cities.)
In January 2008, a small group of intrepid high school students from New York City’s John Bowne High School joined a team of arborists from Bartlett Tree Experts high in the canopy of one of Central Park’s oldest trees. They sought to make sure that this tree, a European Beech planted at the direction of Frederick Law Olmstead during the construction of Central Park, would have a legacy beyond its natural lifespan. They were surrounded that winter morning by organizations united by an ambitious vision: to clone New York City’s aging historic trees and populate the five boroughs with their offspring.
The NYC Historic Great Tree Cloning Project, sponsored by the TREE Fund, Bartlett Tree Experts and the New York City Parks Dept, exemplifies how advances in tree science have changed the landscape for tree preservation. In addition to protecting the existing tree canopy, urban forestry in the 21st century allows for preservation of the genetic material of culturally and environmentally significant trees to ensure that they are not lost forever. Additional support for the project was provided by the Coleman Company, Inc., Marmot Mountain LLC and David Milarch, co-founder of the Champion Tree Project International.
Plenary Session: Trees for the Urban Landscape This presentation will showcase Nina’s knowledge and recommendations for the best trees to use in urban settings. Municipalities will learn the best management practices to improve the best uses of plants within the urban ecosystem. The broader audience made up of volunteers and professionals will hear of the latest resources available to integrate technology and science into local landscapes. Demonstration sites using soil technology will show past and present success stories. —Dr. Nina Bassuk, Executive Director, Urban Horticulture Institute, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in arboriculture, urban forestry, and environmental education?Nancy Wolf: I grew up in a small southern Appalachian town in the Clinch River Valley of Virginia that was surrounded by farms. Everyone had gardens, my father kept chickens and my grandmother had a Jersey cow, which produced the best milk and butter in the world. I loved tree climbing and my first experience in “knowing” a tree was while perched in the major crotch of a big maple, surrounded by branches, leaves and breezes.
In my small high school, we were fortunate to have a well-educated science teacher who had just returned from World War II. Mr. Couch, in better days, would probably have gone on to graduate school and become a college teacher. The botany part of his biology class was “it” in terms of my entry into what I later understood was horticulture and arboriculture. His field trips and hands-on activities with plants brought to class were environmental education long before the term was introduced.
Is it legal for a municipality to plant street trees beyond the right-of-way (ROW)—that is, on private property?
It’s a question I’ve run into a lot when planning street trees with towns and villages. That’s in part because with the widening of our roads over the years and the construction of sidewalks, there is often insufficient soil volume in the ROW to support street trees. Furthermore, some highway superintendents want a ROW free of trees so they can do street maintenance operations more easily. Also, trees in the ROW may conflict with utility lines, a battle neither “wins.” So it’s really tempting to plant just a few feet beyond the ROW, on what might be an open and inviting lawn. But is it legal to do so?
Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in arboriculture and urban forestry? Mike Mahanna: I grew up in the city of Utica and was always mesmerized by the American elm trees and the way they lined the city streets and formed a canopy almost appearing to touch in the middle. I spent many hours walking those streets with my family—and suddenly they were gone. At the time I had no idea it was because of Dutch elm disease, but I did miss seeing them and was saddened by the void they left and lack of beauty it created.
I also spent years as a child camping with my Dad in the Adirondack Mountains and loved everything about it. I knew at a young age that I wanted to spend most of my time outdoors.