NYSUFC VP Brian Skinner on Retirement, with a Twist

skinner-cropped-for-retirement-essaySo … to the surprise of many (including myself), I really did finally retire from National Grid at the end of October. After 45 years of enjoying the care of trees, service to innumerable individuals, mutual and professional associations with many industry friends, and decades of sharing knowledge and expertise whenever and wherever needed, it was time to hang up the hard hat and relish the thought of no-more-sawdust-in-my-shorts-at-the- end-of-the-work-day.

Those who know me well know that I’m a bit of a workaholic (OK, maybe a lot) and could never see retirement as a word that would ever flow from my lips … but it has! I had thought maybe I could help keep the good ship “Social Security” afloat, but also thought, maybe it’s time to get my share out before the sump pumps fail. So … what advice can I pass on to those still not close to that goal post?

Never be afraid to look back at the past; that’s (supposedly!) how we learn from our mistakes. How many mass failures of trees in our urban environment did it take before we finally subscribed to diversity in species selections when planting our streets? Yes, monocultures provide simplicity in appearances and management … until an invasive pest comes to visit.

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POWER-ful Allies: Utility Arborists Bring Valuable Perspective to the Council Board

The Council is tremendously pleased that three utility arborists have joined the Board: Orange and Rockland Utilities Manager of Vegetation Management Mark Beamish, NYSEG Lead Analyst Vegetation Manager Jeff Bell, and PSEG Long Island Forestry Supervisor Larry Ferrandiz.

Council Vice President and National Grid Senior Arborist Brian Skinner has, for more than two decades, provided a pivotal liaison role between the NYSUFC and the utility arboriculture world. He and fellow Council stalwart Marty Mullarkey helped the Council–and New York at large–see that utilities and communities can work together to build the urban forest while maintaining safe and efficient power delivery.

Skinner says, “While National Grid has been a big part of the Board for the past 20 years, it’s a great time and opportunity to have such wide representation for our other statewide electric and/or gas providers representing such diverse parts of the state. Their participation on the Council will demonstrate that utilities and communities exist in a partnership that can greatly benefit both. Hopefully, the knowledge that National Grid has shared with those on the Council will continue to grow that much more with these new partners on board.”

Skinner posed three questions to his fellow utility arborists: What do you bring to the Council Board? How can utilities help shape the thought processes behind community tree plantings? and, What programs or opportunities does your utility offer to promote “Right Tree, Right Place” plantings?

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NATIONAL GRID’S “10,000 TREES…AND GROWING” PROGRAM: CAN IT HELP YOUR UPSTATE COMMUNITY FOREST GROW?

storm damage
The massive 1998 ice storm in upstate NY left thousands in the St. Lawrence valley without power for weeks and caused widespread, catastrophic damage to community trees and utility infrastructure alike.

Who would think that the massive grey clouds that settled over upstate New York in the winter and summer of 1998 could possibly have silver linings? The 10,000 TREES program was developed in 1999 to assist upstate New York communities within the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp (NMPC) service territory that had sustained extensive street tree and urban forest losses and damages in the ice and wind storms of 1998.

10,000 TREES initially assisted 42 communities in planting more than 11,000 trees during the first three years of the program. Through proper species selection and placement (aka Right Tree, Right Place), participating communities planted trees with some of those planting costs offset through contributions from the 10,000 TREES program. One key facet of the planting was ensuring that trees were utility-line compatible.

Building upon that success and with many empty spaces still remaining within served communities, National Grid (the successor to NMPC) was pleased to continue assisting communities in their street replanting projects in the form of the 10,000 TREES … AND GROWING program. Utility-compatible, low-growing trees planted successfully under overhead electric lines that are accepted under the guidelines of the program receive a contribution reimbursement of $50/tree from National Grid.

with Betsy henry
One of NYSUFC’s founding members and head of ReTree Schenectady, Dr. Betsy Henry, is presented by National Grid’s Brian Skinner with a reimbursement check for trees planted within 10,000 Trees … and Growing program guidelines.

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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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