Photos courtesy of Arbor Day Foundation

Q: To begin with how long have you been in the arboricultural industry?

A: Seventeen years. I’ve been in nonprofit work my whole professional life, mainly focusing on consumer law issues, insurance issues. I came to work at the Arbor Day Foundation as vice president of programs, and that is when I really got to be familiar with the forestry community.

Q: From my research it seems women represent only about seven to twelve percent of the total number of arborists in the United States today. Does that statistic make sense to you?

A: I don’t know the actual number, but that sounds probably accurate. That must just be field arborists, though, because there are so many other women doing more administrative or sales or other kinds of work.

Q:  Do you think that women bring anything special to the industry?

A:  These are my observations. I have seen leaders in forestry that happen to be female. They’re not as common, but I have seen women  in the areas I’ve partnered with, such as the United States Forestry Service and the National Association of State Foresters. There have been some strong, wonderful female innovators and leaders that are State Urban Forestry coordinators, that work within the arborist profession in all kinds of positive ways. But one of the other areas where I have seen remarkable leadership is in the Alliance for Community Trees Network. And that of course is this powerful national network of local nonprofit tree planting leadership organizations and, and some of the boldest, most unique personalities and innovators have come out of that space. And I think about people like Marcia Bansley, founding director of Trees Atlanta, and Shannon Ramsay, founding president of  Trees Forever in Iowa. And there are a number of other real beacons of leadership. While they themselves may not be arborists, they have done amazing things to elevate the attention and focus on the need for trees and healthy thriving forests.

Dan Lambe
Dan Lambe with Arbor Day President Katie Loos

Q: Some people seem to use arborist and forester sort of interchangeably.

A: And some people get a bit bent about that. I mean, some people will argue about what is a municipal arborist and what’s a municipal forester. For me, I think about the forestry community, and even beyond urban or rural, I just think about people who are caring for trees, managing trees, advocating for trees and elevating the awareness of the importance of trees.

Q: At the Arbor Day Foundation, is the issue of women’s progress important for you? Or is it a side issue, like it’s going take care of itself?

A: The Arbor Day Foundation has been fortunate to work with phenomenal female leaders in the forestry community. They are a mix of some of the brightest, boldest, most innovative leaders in the forestry community. That is something we encourage and champion as we lead the Alliance for Community Trees Network, as we work with state forestry leaders. Gender really hasn’t been an issue for us. Now, I will tell you, we don’t do a ton of work in the nuts-and-bolts arborist industry. We’re not the International Society of Arboriculture. We’re not the Society of American Foresters. But we have been fortunate to just have had excellent partners who are our female leaders.

Q: You’re really about planting trees. Right?

A: We are absolutely about planting, nurturing, and celebrating trees. That’s a big part of what we do, through our Tree City USA and other programs. We have an awards program that celebrates leaders of all different kinds. You can find that information on our website. We are proud to have been really thoughtful and purposeful about celebrating great female leaders in the forestry space, just like we celebrate male leaders.

Q: So is there any kind of special affinity that women have for the arboricultural field?

A: Here are my my thoughts on it. I think about the individuals I know, and I don’t know that I would separate out their strengths because of gender. I don’t think about a person as having a female attribute that makes her a better leader. The female leaders that I work with in the community are just great leaders. I’m trying to think about whether there’s some kind of special ingredient because they’re female. But I don’t know that I could pinpoint one.

Q:  Some people that I’ve spoken with say that women who are arborists happen to be more detail oriented in the field?

A: Here’s what I would tell you. You’re not going to hear me saying that. I work with phenomenal women leaders at the Arbor Day Foundation and outside the Arbor Day Foundation who are detail oriented, and I work with phenomenal women leaders who aren’t detail oriented. I work with great female leaders who are amazing at communications, and some are better at organizational skills. So I would want to be very careful about assigning to females one particular trait. Because based on my experience, when they’re great, they’re great. I mean, we’re fortunate that we’ve been able to work with great leaders who have different approaches. What has been exciting is to see women of our tree community work even more closely together over the past several years, leaning into each other, helping each other, supporting each other. I’ve seen that at the ISA. That’s been really cool. In the seventeen years that I’ve been at the Arbor Day Foundation there has been a long list of female leaders who have been transformative in my development and in the overall growth and sophistication of what’s going on in forestry.

Q: What do you think is the best thing about the tree business?

A:  The best thing is that we get to work every day to help plant and care for trees. And whether we’re doing that by inspiring others, or whether we physically get to work in the trees, in the end what’s so great it is doing something that is helping the broader communities. The work we do helps everybody. It’s such a positive and inspiring and rewarding space to be working in. And that’s why I love it. The people that we work with are great as well. But the notion that we’re doing work that is helping generations to come —that fills my bucket.

Program Staff, Arbor Day Foundation