NYSUFC Board Member Sophia Rodbell recently graduated from the 2020 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI), funded in part by a scholarship from the Council. It was held in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Can you tell us about your job background and education? Sophia Rodbell: I started working at Davey Resource Group Inc. (DRG) after graduating from Roanoke College in 2014. I started as an inventory arborist, moved to urban forester, took on more responsibility as a site manager, and then became a project manager when I joined our NYC team to manage the urban forestry component of our office. Prior to moving to NYC I was on the road 365 days a year, working up and down the East Coast, all across the Midwest, as far south as Texas and as far west as California. DRG gave me the chance to see all parts of the United States—as long as they had trees, I was there.
I am currently a DRG Project Manager; I work with a team of five to ten arborists in different places in their careers. This is the same work I previously did, but on a regional scale. We help mid-Atlantic clients—from Northern Virginia to Central New York—with their urban forests. We also have the opportunity to send staff across the country to assist other regional offices; it is awesome seeing them have the same experience I received.
As part of the first i-Tree Online Academy, participants were asked to complete a comprehensive final capstone project that demonstrated their ability to utilize the i-Tree tools to analyze trees in their community or to engage community residents in examining the greenspace in their city or town. Projects were developed by each student and they were responsible to carry out all aspects of the design, planning, and implementation of each program.
Buffalo City Forester Ross Hassinger’s project involved the City’s 2018 street tree planting. In the fall season (Oct 15-Dec 31) of 2018, the city of Buffalo put out bids for a local licensed landscape company to plant 56 street trees in the City in various locations as shown in the map above. This is Ross’s report created after conducting his i-Tree Online Academy capstone project.
The Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) is an exciting, high-level training opportunity educating professionals in the leadership and managerial aspects of urban forestry. This week-long intensive educational program delivers a challenging opportunity to grow a more successful community tree program. It’s a place to learn and master leadership and management tools for program administration, coalition building, strategic thinking, program planning, and public relations. Invest a week in your professional and personal development! MFI 2018 will be held February 18-23 at Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center in Litchfield, CT.
I grew up hiking the woods of Honeoye in Western NY and learning about trees from my father and when I moved to Philadelphia after college, I began volunteering for some of their TreePhilly programs. Yard tree giveaways, street tree plantings, pruning days, and community gardens got me involved in the community and fueled my passion for trees. Eventually I was offered a chance to volunteer for an inventory study which put me in touch with some great people and got me interested in urban forestry.
Upon moving to Buffalo I reached out to anyone I could find to get involved, which led me to the wonderful opportunity to work with Re-Tree Western NY and the CommuniTREE Stewards Project (CTS). I knew there were a lot of trees, and a huge need for even more trees and tree care. When I got involved, this program was already moving ahead, but I wanted to help any way I could. Since I seemed to have a knack for social media, when the idea was brought up to use that to get the word out, I offered to do it.
This is the first in a series of real-time reporting by NYSUFC Board Member Lori Brockelbank, who serves on the planning committee for this new Western NY CommuniTREE Stewards program.
Snow days from school in early October in Western New York—not a chance! But that is exactly what happened on October 12, 2006 to the City of Buffalo and surrounding communities. With leaves still on many trees, the heavy wet snow left Western NY with a challenge unlike any in the past. Thousands of trees were damaged; some needed pruning while many needed removal.
To coordinate replanting efforts after the storm, Re-Tree WNY (Re-Tree) was formed to help replace the vast canopy that was lost. Over the last ten years, the thousands of trees lost in the October 2006 storm have been replaced by Re-Tree’s volunteers, the City of Buffalo, and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
In 2016, community partners have come together to take a natural next step in the care of these young trees by organizing a CommuniTREE Stewards (CTS) program. The intent of CTS is to train project volunteers to nurture the trees planted since 2006 and also be part of future plantings. CTS is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Erie County, with partners that include the City of Buffalo, Re-Tree, the Buffalo Green Fund, and Wendel Companies. We looked to similar programs, specifically Onondaga County CCE CommuniTREE Stewards, for guidance on how to organize the training for a similar program in Erie County.
NYSUFC Board Member Jeff Kehoe is an ISA Certified Arborist and consulting forester based out of Schenectady, NY. He has a lifelong appreciation for trees, and advanced degrees in forest management and urban planning.
Jeff participated in recent Urban Forest Strike Team (UFST) training in Syracuse organized by NYS DEC Urban Forestry Program Coordinator Mary Kramarchyk.
When I first heard about the USFT training I felt it would be an exciting way to learn more about risk tree assessment and add to my urban forestry toolkit. Also, it was a great opportunity to meet accomplished tree professionals from all over the eastern United States. The Craftsman Inn, inspired and furnished by Stickley, was a cozy setting for arborists and urban foresters to share their stories. Despite the rain, we geared up and assessed trees in and around Green Lakes State Park and Fayetteville, NY.
Every tree is unique and each observer has a different perspective on how and why a tree may fail. Strike Team responders use a streamlined evaluation process which closely follows recent ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ) standards. One of the training highlights for me was using the TRAQ program as the backbone for data collection and target/risk assessment. This advanced training uses complex language to objectively describe a potential natural occurrence. We focused on the defect in the tree which is most likely to fail within one year, the likelihood of the failure impacting a target, and the consequences of failure if it actually occurs.
It is surprising how specific and expensive dealing with trees can be, and disaster preparedness cannot be stressed enough. The cost and scale of damages can overwhelm regional resources and local budgets in a matter of minutes. Assessments made by Strike Team arborists can save healthy trees destined for the grinder or lead to improvement of a tree’s structure after emergency measures leave stub cuts or tears. Strike Team leaders stationed on-site will process field data to help control spending for FEMA, as well as the affected communities.
I applaud the USFT program, trainers, and attendees for their dedication to ensure safety for people and trees. Overall, it was an excellent experience, although having to use these newfound skills will be bittersweet.
Urban Forest Strike Teams (UFSTs)are a means for city foresters, state foresters, commercial arborists, and others to quickly come to the aid of a region whose urban forest has been impacted by a natural disaster.UFSTs conduct assessments that help communities plan needed recovery work and document to FEMA the amount of damage and cost of clean-up.You can read all about the UFSTs on this past blog post.
Organized by our state DEC UF coordinator Mary Kramarchyk, a UFST training for professionals from the Northeast area of the US Forest Service took place in Syracuse on Sept 30-Oct 1.
Tioga County Cornell Cooperative Extension Horticulture Educator Barb Neal took the training along with many other Council members. She has an extensive background as a consulting arborist.
It sounded interesting to me and worthwhile, especially after seeing the damage from Superstorm Sandy and how much need there was for the UFST then. My executive director, Andy Fagan was on board and supportive of the UFST training to enable me and others to help out our local NY communities in the future.
It’s always good to meet other arborists and foresters in New York, and the training was a very good a blend of class presentations and going out in the field to practice both risk assessment and using the equipment: GPS Trimble and data logger. In the field, things that seemed simple were actually a little more nuanced than you would think. For instance, we kept having to think about the documentation requirements for FEMA and how we would record appropriately to fulfill those requirements.
Sometimes we would talk for ten or fifteen minutes about one tree in light of FEMA requirements. In the real world, you don’t have time to do that, but it was really valuable to slow down and work through that during the training. We all had to separate in our minds what FEMA requires from you vs. what you as an urban forest manager might do.
It was very well run and also very interesting hearing some of the war stories, like from the forester from Springfield, MA, whose city got hit with three storms in one year including an ice storm and a tornado that ripped a 40-mile swath of destruction from Springfield to Sturbridge. He was a big believer in the UFST after they came and worked for his jurisdiction.
My big takeaway was that municipalities have to be prepared with storm management plans in place prior to a storm event. The more you prepare, the faster the response will be and the more likely you will get reimbursed by FEMA. Also the better your existing documentation is, the more likely FEMA will pay something toward the removals of trees that were standing hazards at the time of the storm. Or if you have good documentation about how you currently manage your street trees, FEMA will reimburse for structural pruning as long as that’s documented as a normal part of your work. I will be advising the urban foresters in my area to get organized with all these things in mind.
I would wholeheartedly recommend the training to other arborists and urban foresters. It’s one of those things where hopefully we don’t ever get deployed or only very rarely, but the more people we have that we can call in, the more responsive we can be after a federal emergency. The training was fun, too.