Blog

Nina Bassuk Part I: The Early Days of Our Council

RELEAF 252Previously we featured super dynamo Council cofounder Nancy Wolf. Continuing in that series, we talk here with another beloved Council cofounder and current board member, Cornell Urban Horticulture Director Nina Bassuk, who prefers to go by “Nina.” We asked her about her recollections about the early days of the Council. In a subsequent post, we’ll get some updates about things going on in the life and garden of Nina and her husband, the landscape architect Peter Trowbridge.

Nina, a native of NYC, received her bachelor’s degree in Horticulture at Cornell and then went on to receive her Ph.D. from the University of London while carrying out her research at the East Malling Research Station in Kent, England. Her current work in Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute focuses on the physiological problems of plants grown in urban environments, including plant selections, site modification and transplanting technology.

Nina is the coauthor with her husband of Trees in the Urban Landscape, a book for arborists, city foresters, landscape architects, and horticulturists on establishing trees in disturbed and urban landscapes. Nina is on the technical advisory committee of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) and helped to develop the Student Weekend Arborist Team (SWAT) to inventory public trees in small communities. She is a recipient of the Scott Medal for Horticulture and an ever-popular speaker at the ReLeaf Conference.

Nina Bassuk on the Council’s Origins: “The impetus for the creation of the Council—which was then known as the NYS Urban and Community Forestry Council—was the fact that federal grants were coming from the US Forest Service to the states for the first time for urban forestry related projects. Each state had a different way of handling the grant funds; for instance, in Pennsylvania the money went through Cooperative Extension, while in New York the money went through DEC.

One of the requirements of the federal grants was to have an advisory group advising the DEC, who would in turn handle grants to municipalities, on urban forestry matters. The state foresters had to learn about urban forestry in a hurry! Some of them embraced the new urban forestry aspect of their positions, while others didn’t.

Read more…

Reflections on the Sept 21 Climate Change March

This essay comes to us from NYC Parks Forester Bill Schmidt. Bill is a Certified Arborist who coordinates urban forestry for the Greening Western Queens project. 

NYC Forester Bill Schmidt
NYC Forester Bill Schmidt

Last Sunday, September 21, 2014, I joined over 300,000 of my fellow human beings in Manhattan for the largest climate change march in history. I was delightfully overwhelmed by the incredible turnout and the diversity of the participants.

There were young people, senior citizens, middle-aged Gen Xers like myself, faith-based organizations (I was marching next to a lovely group of elderly nuns), Native and African American groups, and organizations representing a variety of issues not directly related climate change who were marching out of solidarity.

It was a truly inspiring experience. During the march, I thought about what climate change meant to me as a forester, a father, and a global citizen. When I returned to the office Monday morning, a colleague suggested that I should encapsulate these thoughts about the march and share them with others in my field. So, here is my attempt to express how I felt in eight paragraphs or less.

Read more…

To Fire You Up About Collaboration: The 3M Urban Wetlands Restoration Project in Columbia, MO

buttonbush f.r
The 3M Flat Branch-Hinkson Creek Wetlands on reclaimed/restored land in the city of Columbia, Missouri. Foreground: buttonbush and cattails; background: mixed bottomland hardwood species. Photo by Brett O’Brien

“Collaboration” and “Partnership” can be empty buzz words or they can be impressive manifestations of passion, hard work, and HEAPS of patience. In his article, “Collaborative Effort in Columbia, MO Spearheads the Renewal of a Former Sewage Plant Site into Wetlands Habitat,” Columbia Park Natural Resources Supervisor Brett O’Brien tells an exceptional tale of collaboration, with abundant pics. The article starts on page 28 of the Sept/Oct 2014 edition of City TREES, the magazine of the Society of Municipal Arborists.

How did Columbia go from this:

3M siteto this?

spring 2014and from this:

3M_Wetlands_Pumphouse (5)to this?

IMG_3780
Photos Courtesy Columbia Parks and Recreation

This is a must-read for all urban foresters and their allies, even those with no connection to urban wetlands restoration, because the collaborative aspect speaks to us all.

 

UF Must-Read: TD Bank’s Report on the Value of Toronto’s Urban Forest

 

Torontos-Urban-Forest2-600x254
photo as seen on sweetandloveable.com

One of the summer’s most widely circulated urban forestry-related stories was about the TD Bank Group’s evaluation of the economic value of Toronto’s urban forest. TD Bank Group, which acts as a think tank as well as an advisory group of economists and has a full-time environmental economist on staff, is chaired by Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Craig Alexander.

In a great interview with Alexander on the Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) website, he said that his group found that for every dollar of maintenance, the trees are returning between $1.35 and $3.20 (a 220% return) in benefits. Alexander says, “It’s a good investment. We aren’t including things we can’t measure like the intangibles of being able to go to a park and enjoy the trees. This is a low ball number because you can’t measure everything.”

TD Bank Group Chief Economist Craig Alexander
TD Bank Group Chief Economist Craig Alexander

It’s thrilling for City of Toronto urban foresters and indeed urban foresters everywhere to get this kind of affirmation from economists from the second largest bank in Canada (eighth largest bank in the U.S.). In their capacity as a policy think tank, Alexander said his group of economists does research on the environment and that this is the first of their reports on “natural capital.” He says, “Economics measures GDP, but there is a lot that doesn’t get measured, including the value of the environment.”

In the ACTrees article, Alexander says, “The challenge we have on public policy and environmental issues is at the end of the day, you have to have a dollars and sense argument on your investment. This kind of data also really helps politicians and government officials to make decisions. Everyone is facing fiscal constraints… we need to economically appreciate what trees do. In the aggregate the numbers are really impressive.” This is something urban foresters have known for a long time, but coming from TB Bank’s Chief Economist, it will greatly add to this awareness among the populace.

You can read the full TD Bank Group report here.
You can read a great profile of Toronto’s urban forestry program here, starting on p 10 in the July/Aug 2011 issue of City Trees.

Screenshot 2014-09-11 11.19.37

 

Vinnie Drzewucki on Tackling the Public’s Dendrophobia, the Fear of Trees

CCE Nassau County Horticulture Educator Vinnie Drzewucki
CCE Nassau County Horticulture Educator Vinnie Drzewucki

At the 2014 ReLeaf Conference in July at Hofstra University, CCE Nassau County Horticulture Educator Vinnie Drzewucki (pron. “Sha-VOOT-ski”) gave an engaging talk on “Breaking the Fear of Trees: How to Help the Public Overcome their Dendrophobia.” He graciously shares the highlights of his talk here on the blog. Thanks, Vinnie!

Fear of Trees title page

Breaking the Fear of Trees, by Vinnie Drzewucki
For most of you reading this blog, being afraid of trees is probably just about the strangest thing you’ve ever heard of. Lately, though, I meet many citizens who are afraid of trees.

Read more…

Ed Gilman Pruning Research Update: Reduction Pruning to Prevent Storm Damage

By Michelle Sutton
Photos courtesy of the authors of Structural Pruning: A Guide for the Green Industry (Urban Tree Foundation 2013).

Codominant stems: A bark inclusion in the union indicates there is very little, if any, wood of one stem wrapping around the other. This is one of the conditions that make unions very weak and can be avoided by appropriate structural pruning when trees are young.
Codominant stems can be avoided by appropriate structural pruning when trees are young.

Studying tree pruning and its effects on tree stability is a classic form of applied research—and can be a little lonely. “Only a few researchers are tackling pruning right now, and that can be frustrating,” says Dr. Ed Gilman, Professor of Urban Trees & Landscape Plants for the University of Florida Environmental Horticulture Department.

Gilman does Extension outreach to municipal arborists and urban foresters to teach pruning practices based on his research findings. Because he is Florida-based, Gilman is acutely aware of the need for tree pruning that enhances the tree’s ability to survive wind storms. As we in New York are experiencing increasingly bizarre weather, including tornados in places where tornados were once unheard of, Gilman’s research has application to us.

Read more…

David Moore: Get to Know Him!

RELEAF 259David Moore is a city forester at the New York City Parks Department and serves on the Executive Council of our NYS Urban Forestry Council. How did he get here? What’s great and challenging about it? What are some of his other passions and interests that might surprise you?  

What were your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in urban forestry? David Moore: Well, I never could have predicted that I’d be working in this field, but I always enjoyed trees and had an interest in biology. I can recall some really exciting science teachers in middle school and high school that helped spark my interest. By the time I was 12 or so, I started spending my summers at camp in the Adirondacks where I could ramble around the mountains and lakes and learn to be a real outdoorsman in all the primitive splendors of the North Country. Those experiences really laid the groundwork for my future path in forestry.

Read more…

A Whitman’s Sampler of ReLeafers

Urban and community foresters (both paid and volunteer) and their advocates and allies are some of the most interesting and warm people you will meet. I endeavored to meet everyone at the 2014 ReLeaf Conference at Hofstra, but alas, the buzzer went off too soon. I wish there had been more time to trade our stories! But thankfully, sharing our stories is something we can do in TAKING ROOT. For now, here are some of the ReLeafers I did get to meet. Warmly, Michelle Sutton, your TR Editor

RELEAF 142
Region 7’s Kate Woodle worked for over 25 years as Exhibit Designer, Graphics Artist, and Illustrator at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse. Retired from that position, she now works freelance and is also a photographer and children’s book illustrator. You can see her work at katewoodleillustration.com.

Read more…

ReLeaf Rock Band! Video of Bram Gunther and Friends

 

For the members’ reception Thursday night of 2014 ReLeaf Hofstra, we were delighted to have a live rock band, Billy Goes Buffalo. The lead singer is Bram Gunther, Chief of Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources for NYC Parks and Recreation. (Bram is also a novelist in his “free time.”) The bass guitarist is carpenter Tim Foster, and the drummer is David Maddox, publisher of The Nature of Cities. When asked for the story behind Billy Goes Buffalo, Bram says, “We are just friends having fun.”

 

ReLeaf 2014: Horticulture at Hofstra

Many college campuses have arboreta or like to say, “The whole campus is an arboretum!” At Hofstra, they take their arboretum to the next level, adding diverse, intensively planted gardens around every corner. I was truly blown away. Each evening after workshops and a happy frenzy of socializing, I strolled around the campus grounds by myself, mouth agape at the beauty and diversity, and took hundreds of pics.

For background, check out this terrific short video interview of Hofstra Arboretum Director Fred Soviero. Fred was truly on fire when giving us our tours; we loved his energy and great sense of humor! Then read on to the pictorial that follows.

Read more…