Getting to Know the Multifaceted Rachel Holmes

RHolmes_Headshot_Nov2014NYSUFC Board Member Rachel Holmes is the coordinator of The Nature Conservancy’s urban forestry program called Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities. She is also a Flamenco dancer and a wildland firefighter (read on!). 

Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in urban forestry?
Rachel Holmes: I grew up in Clifton, New Jersey on a street that was lined with a diverse mix of mature trees that had been planted by a previous generation of homeowners. I remember riding my bike over heaved sidewalks and imagining that I was racing in a BMX course. When I was in fifth grade, the town decided to redo all the sidewalks. Rather than work around the trees, they took them all down! I actually went outside to yell at the men removing the trees. Concerned for my safety, my Mom actually took me away because I think she was afraid I would throw myself in between the workers and the trees.

I was driven away from my tree-lined street and came back to … nothing. It was a pretty painful experience and at the same time, a seminal moment in my appreciation of trees. Because I had been surrounded by trees in my early childhood, I knew what I was missing when they were taken down. It is important to me now to do what I can to help prevent other people from experiencing this.

The City replaced some of the trees with flowering pears, many of which came down in storms, including ours. A few years ago, I helped my parents pick out a good specimen of eastern redbud that is doing really well; my Mom and Dad frequently text me photos of it.

While I gained an early appreciation for urban nature, I was fortunate to experience what some would call the “wild” at a much bigger scale. Starting in sixth grade, I worked on my aunt and uncle’s ranch in Colorado, learning the ins and outs of ranch management including Western horsemanship. The ranch abutted Pike National Forest which is where I was first exposed to managed forests. This is also where I first witnessed the impacts of wildfire on forest ecosystems.

Read more…

The Nature Conservancy’s Bill Toomey: Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities

bill-toomeyWe 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.