NYC Parks’ Liam Kavanagh Brings Big-Picture Discussion to Council Board

Liam Kavanaugh
NYC Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. Photo by Michelle Sutton, from 2016 SMA Conference 2016

Last month, NYC Parks First Deputy Commissioner  Liam Kavanagh came and spoke with the Council Board at their meeting at the NYSDEC Region 2 office on Long Island. Commissioner Kavanagh discussed three national, big-picture urban forestry projects with the Board: the Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan, a report on the Impact of Urban and Community Forestry Federal Grants, and the Urban Forestry Toolkit. Let’s look at each one.

1) The Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan (2016-2026) was developed by and for the urban forestry community. It was funded by the US Forest Service and developed by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC)* with extensive input from stakeholders. You can read an interesting interview with Liam Kavanagh about the Plan here.

The Plan’s purpose is to expand awareness of the benefits that our urban forests, including green infrastructure, provide to communities throughout the nation, and increase investments in these urban forest resources for the benefit of current and future generations.

The Plan provides specific goals, actions, and recommendations for improving the status of urban and community forestry for the United States and its territories. The plan also identifies research needs, messaging and communications needs, and innovative funding and collaborative opportunities for urban forestry initiatives.

Notably, the Plan also serves as a framework for funding and recommendation priorities developed by NUCFAC for the U.S. Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry program and National Challenge Cost Share Grants. The urban forestry community, including the Forest Service and other applicable Federal agencies, are to use the Action Plan as a guide to implement and expand urban and community forestry for the next ten years. Therefore, all of us in the UCF field—professionals, allied professionals, and volunteers—will want to become familiar with this Plan!

Ten year plan summary page

2) Southern Regional Extension Forestry (SREF) completed an impact assessment of the USDA Forest Service National Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program. SREF found that programs funded through the grants reached millions of people and developed critical research. Moreover, in excess of $13 million in additional funds were awarded to grant recipients. In all, for every federal dollar invested in these grants, there is a $4.92 return on investment!

Grants supported research that benefits the public, arboriculture and urban forestry industry, scientists, municipalities, environmental engineers, policy makers, youth, and other stakeholders. Projects focused on human health and wellness benefits of urban trees and forests, job creation through green infrastructure, youth leadership skills, technology to advance tree risk assessment, urban resilience, trees and stormwater management, and much more. assessing-nucfac-cover

The study found that the publicly-funded grant program supports research that improves the economic, environmental, and social challenges faced by those who live, work, and recreate in urban areas. Extension personnel can benefit from this report by accessing new research and as justification for arboriculture and urban forestry educational programming.

This report demonstrates the value of NUCFAC-recommended grants awarded during the years 2010-2015. A final report, summary report, white paper, and case studies have been created for detailed information about this study and the impacts of the grants.

Vibrant cities lab screenshot

3) The US Forest Service, American Forests, the National Association of Regional Councils, and numerous cohorts created Vibrant Cities Lab to help city managers, policymakers, and advocates build thriving urban forest programs. Here’s a terrific article Ian Leahy of American Forests wrote about it.

Key passage from the article:

“Urban forestry as a discipline has matured to a stage whereby it is ready to integrate into the decision-making processes of the disciplines that impact tree canopy the most. Vibrant Cities Lab is an important online infrastructure to begin doing that on a national scale. Lance Davisson, chair of the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council to the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, captured this vision perfectly.

The Vibrant Cities Lab is a valuable resource for all professionals who are charged with planning for and managing the green infrastructure of our nation’s cities and towns,” says Davisson. “The Vibrant Cities Lab brings together a much-needed compendium of information for urban and community forestry, and provides access to technical tools for long-term sustainable management of this critical community resource. This is a great resource for urban and community forest efforts everywhere to reach new scale and effectiveness.”


The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC) advises the Secretary of Agriculture on matters relating to the protection, planting, and care of trees and forests in our nation’s cities and communities. Since 1994, NUCFAC annually recommends urban and community forestry projects for funding to the USDA Forest Service (USFS). Recommended projects meet objectives outlined in the current National Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) Action Plan, which is used to expand awareness of the benefits that urban and community forests provide to urban areas.




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