Urban Forest Researcher Georgia Silvera Seamans on The Risks and Rewards of Being Black in Nature

Georgia Silvera Seamans birding in her favorite local patch, Washington Square Park. Photo Courtesy of the Author

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Georgia Silvera Seamans Essay on Medium: “The Risks and Rewards of Being Black in Nature”

Georgia Silvera Seamans is the co-founding director of Washington Square Park Eco Projects in Manhattan’s storied park. She is an urban forester, independent researcher, and writer. Georgia’s research has been published in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening and Journal of Arboriculture, and she blogs about urban nature at localecologist.org. Georgia holds degrees from Wesleyan University, the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and UC Berkeley. Here’s a brief excerpt from her essay on Medium, “On the Risk and Rewards of Being Black in Nature.”

I first learned about the concept of “nearby nature” in graduate school. The term was coined by Rachel Kaplan and Stephan Kaplan in their 1989 book, The Experience of Nature. The Kaplans define this form of nature as a space that contains “one or more plants…that is proximal [and] it can be indoors or out-of-doors.” With this wide-open definition, there are arguably many subtypes of nearby nature. I’ve thought about nearby nature or neighborhood nature or next door nature especially in the context of cities because of my work in urban forestry and urban ecology.

Conducting my life almost entirely from my apartment in New York City beginning in mid-March of this year because of the pandemic brought home the importance of nature I could easily access, from my window, on a walk around my block, and when things felt less dire, in my local park. The pandemic and how much I craved nature were the catalysts for writing an essay about the benefits of nearby nature. But then the trauma of two stark incidences of racial violence in the outdoors made me pause my work. I didn’t feel that I could unconditionally tout the benefits of nearby nature, of spending time outdoors, when nature has been the setting for anti-black hate crimes. Read the full essay on Medium here.

Beattra Wilson’s Steadfast Path: An Urban Forestry & USDA Forest Service Journey

Beattra Wilson opened the 2018 Partners in Community Forestry Conference in Irvine, California with her plenary presentation.

A Steadfast Path: My Urban Forestry and USDA Forest Service Journey

By Beattra Wilson, Photos Courtesy of the Author

Beattra Wilson began her career with the USDA Forest Service in 2002 in Atlanta as an urban forestry trainee; she is now the Forest Service Assistant Director of Cooperative Forestry and National Lead for Urban and Community Forestry. We asked Beattra to share some of her educational and career trajectory and what excites her about her work. Here she is in her own words.

I grew up surrounded by pine forests in a small town in Louisiana called Oakdale. I was introduced to agriculture education and career opportunities beginning in fourth grade through my involvement with 4-H. I competed at the parish and statewide fairs in the 4-H Sew with Cotton and Public Speaking contests.

Those 4-H experiences helped propel me to hold leadership roles in high school. I also had a pivotal experience at a summer agricultural camp at Southern University and A&M College, a historically black college and university (HBCU) system, where I learned in depth about urban forestry and other agriculture professions. (This summer agriculture institute continues to serve 40-50 students each summer, and the Forest Service is a supporting partner.)

The summer Beginning Agricultural Youth Opportunities Unlimited (BAYOU) Program at Southern University provides high school students an immersion in career opportunities in agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and related disciplines.

As I was looking into college degree programs, based on my test scores and GPA I was recruited by two colleges for urban forestry and agriculture economics and five colleges for engineering. Ultimately, I chose to study urban forestry because it seemed like a perfect merger of my deep connection to agriculture along with my desire to have a career that afforded me the opportunity to live in a big city.

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Lauryn’s Watering in Watertown: A Key Role in a Late Summer Bur Oak Transplanting

photos courtesy Mike DeMarco

Coming out of the end of my sophomore year at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I was hoping for an internship for the summer, or at least a job. Unfortunately, both of the internships I had lined up fell through due to COVID-19. Luckily, however, I came across the opportunity to be the urban forestry assistant for the City of Watertown.

My job this summer was to water and prune the young trees and also water the older ash trees that had been given root treatments for emerald ash borer. My position was a hybrid, housed between the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) and the Department of Public Works (DPW), which was really unique and made my summer all that more interesting. For instance, I realized how important the collaboration between the two was when we had to do an emergency tree transplanting in a construction site in the City.

The DPW was in the process of putting in a new sidewalk that was very close to an existing bur oak tree (Quercus macrocarpa). The DPW could have just taken the tree out or pretended it wasn’t there and severely damaged its root system, but instead they called the OPCD; they wanted to do a tree relocation and put the bur oak in place of a tree that had died about 15 feet away.

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Nafisa’s Onondaga Earth Corps Chronicles: Chapter 3

The Rain Garden in James Pass Arboretum, in the Tipperary Hill neighborhood of Syracuse. Photo by Nafisa Tabassum
Nafisa Tabbasum:
As a Crew Leader for Onondaga Earth Corps (OEC), my responsibilities include directly supervising a small crew of young adults in either pruning or green infrastructure. In that capacity, and as a learner myself, I bounced around participating in many different projects this past week.

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Nafisa Tabassum: Onondaga Earth Corps Chronicles

We are excited to be following the progress of former student ambassador to NY ReLeaf, Nafisa Tabassum, who at the time of ReLeaf was working as an urban forest technician with Syracuse City Arborist Steve Harris. Nafisa earned her degree in Sustainable Energy Management from SUNY-ESF in 2019. She attended ESF Ranger School as part of her education, and she delivered the 2019 Commencement Address to her peers. Nafisa will be writing the Onondaga Earth Corps Chronicles for us this summer.

 

Arborist & Author Jean Zimmerman on Her MFI Experience

Arborist and author Jean Zimmerman. Photo by Maud Reavill

Council Member and SavATree Arborist Jean Zimmerman recently attended the 2020 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) with partial assistance from a Council scholarship. With this MFI class, more than 750 urban forestry and affiliated professionals have completed the weeklong leadership training. Jean’s account of her experience is literary in nature because in addition to being an arborist, she is a published author.

Sugar white sands. Crashing waves. The occasional parabolic arc of a dolphin off shore. We gathered along Alabama’s famously gorgeous Gulf Coast, sixty-five pilgrims from all over the country and abroad. We had come to sharpen our leadership skills at the Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI), a long-running (since 2006) continuing education symposium that is celebrated as one of the best in the world. I remember arriving at the Gulf Shores Hilton, being unsure of whether I could fit in.

My fellow MFIers came from varied backgrounds. Some were urban foresters at municipalities of varying size, from New York City to Denton, Texas. Others hailed from not-for-profits, such as TreePhilly in Philadelphia. One participant, a champion tree-climber, represented the happiest place in the world, Disneyland. Another traveled from Sweden. There were representatives of PlanIT Geo and Davey Tree. I came to Gulf Shores from SavATree, the third largest tree care company in the United States, where I work as a commercial and consulting arborist.

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Remembering a Titan of Urban Forestry: Ed Drabek

Edwin S. (Ed) Drabek

Feb. 18, 1934 – Jan. 22, 2019

Some factual information for this post is excerpted from Mr. Drabek’s obituary, written by Dale Anderson for The Buffalo News.

Ed Drabek leaves a legacy of nearly 60 years of service to Buffalo’s urban forest and community and to our wider field of urban forestry. Drabek joined the Buffalo Parks Department Forestry Division 1962 as assistant city forester and was promoted to city forester in 1968.

In the early years, his career was consumed by managing the ravages of Dutch elm disease, removing elms and beginning to restock the Buffalo city forest with a wider variety of urban-tolerant species. It’s estimated that Drabek oversaw the removal of about 95,000 mature elms, but then supervised the planting of 75,000 trees—with sustainable biodiversity in mind. 

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All Thanks to Mary! Pictorial & Tributes to a Phenomenal State Urban Forestry Coordinator

Mary Kramarchyk at the 2014 Releaf Conference at Hofstra University.

Our longtime, beloved DEC statewide coordinator Mary Kramarchyk has moved on to a position with the Diocese of Albany. A call for tributes to Mary was put out via various media; if you sent one and don’t see it here, or would like to add yours belatedly, please write Council Editor Michelle Sutton at editor@nysufc.org.

Oh, Mary, I am so sad to lose you and your bright spirit! We owe so much to you in helping to build the urban forestry program here in NY!

In a similar vein to the experiences of other Council Board members, I came to a ReLeaf workshop in Westchester, not knowing a soul, and met you, Brenda Cagle, and Nancy Guski. You were all so much fun, and encouraged me to attend the annual conference in Canandaigua. That was ten years ago, and I have learned so much and met so many wonderful people over the years—all thanks to your outreach at that event. Thank you so much for welcoming me into the group!

And now you are off on a new adventure. The Diocese of Albany is very lucky to have you. I wish you nothing but the best in this new position. We will miss you. —Karen Emmerich 

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A Tribute to Our Friend Pat Tobin

Pat Tobin in 2014 accepting Tree City USA recognition for Fayetteville, which has been a Tree City USA for nearly 20 years, thanks in no small part to Pat’s efforts. With Pat is NYSDEC Urban Forestry Partnerships Coordinator Sally Kellogg.

Beloved Council Past President (2006-2009) and longtime Council stalwart friend Pat Tobin died unexpectedly on September 1, 2018 in her home in Fayetteville. Pat was born and raised in the Eastwood neighborhood of Syracuse, graduating from Eastwood High School and continued her education, receiving a BA from Syracuse University. She remained a lifelong SU sports fan, cheering the football team on her last evening!

Pat spent 40 years at Niagara Mohawk as an IT programmer. After her retirement, Pat became a super-volunteer, helping out with numerous causes, most especially the urban forest by way of the Council and the Fayetteville Tree Commission. Pat was also an active member of Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville. 

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Reflections from Newly Retired Albany City Forester Tom Pfeiffer

Tom Pfeiffer iiiI grew up in Albany. When I was a kid, Mom would point out different kinds of trees to me (she had grown up on a farm). My interest grew, always with sensory attraction: the smell of maples in the spring, the sound of wind in pine branches, the color of fall leaves, all the forms and shapes.

Growing up in a reasonably dense city gave me a different perspective on trees when I went to Forestry school at Paul Smiths College. After graduating and taking internship positions with the US Forest Service, I returned to Albany. A volunteer project with the City led me to the then-new position of Assistant Forester, where my re-education in urban forestry began.

Our department found every urban tree issue there is: plumbing, overhead wires, bad practices, poor soils, vandalism, sidewalks, structures. And we made many of the mistakes, but learned and adjusted. One of my first—and ongoing—efforts was to increase tree species diversity; tree planting along streets, in parks, and on school grounds gave me my highest satisfaction in the position. 

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