Monthly archives: October, 2018

After the Storm, Call on the Urban Forest Strike Team

Editor’s note: This blog was posted a year ago but remains relevant, especially after the recent havoc of Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

 

By Patty Matteson, Southern Research Station, Forest Service in Forestry 

Thousands of federal, state, and private agencies have been deployed to areas that were impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. These first responders are there to help the people in the storm’s path. However, there is another group of responders that go into storm-ravaged towns to aid the trees: the Urban Forest Strike Teams (UFST).

This 10-year-old program is a nationwide collaborative effort among state forestry agencies funded and trained through the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. Since 2007, the Southern UFST has been activated 12 times and mobilized across the South in response to hurricanes, tornadoes, and ice storms.

The catalyst for the creation of UFST was Hurricane Katrina. Widespread tree damage prompted the international Society of Arboriculture, Davey Resource Group, and USFS to deploy certified arborists into at least nine communities along the Mississippi/Louisiana Gulf Coast. State forestry agency urban foresters were frustrated that damaged but viable trees were being cut down and trees that posed a high risk to the public remained standing. The lack of an assessment strategy or trained staff hindered their ability to offer needed assistance to impacted communities.

Urban Forestry Coordinators of Virginia and North Carolina – Paul Revell and Leslie Moorman – reached out to USFS Southern Research Station (SRS) for assistance. In 2007 Dudley Hartel, SRS’s Urban Forestry South center manager, and Eric Kuehler, technology transfer specialist, developed the first UFST training program in collaboration with state forestry agencies.

A UFST is comprised of highly-trained specialists, including Certified Arborists® and foresters, who conduct damage assessments and determine whether the storm-damaged trees pose risks to the community. The UFST walks the city streets, parks, and other public property; evaluates damaged trees; and enters GIS data to support mitigation and recovery. This real-time data provides the city with information on which trees were impacted, where they are located, the extent of the damage, and whether the damaged trees pose a risk. UFSTs also provide communities with the information necessary to apply for FEMA public assistance and debris removal, as well as connecting communities with potential partners to help replant a community’s forest.

“The UFST goes into areas first hit hard by wind damage,” said Hartel. “We will have to wait until next spring before we send a team to Houston to access tree damage due to flooding. All that water will have a significant impact to tree health in the long-term.”

“Trees are a critical part of a community’s infrastructure and should be considered in restoration planning,” said Linda Moon, communications liaison to the Southern Group State Forestry and with Texas A&M Forest Service. “Making our urban forests more resilient will in turn make our cherished communities more resilient.”



National Wood Certification Project Update

Editor’s Note: This article was previously published in the North Carolina Urban Wood Group’s September 2018 newsletter.

By Lucy Cohn-Still
Urban & Community Forestry Specialist
NC Forest Service

While attending the International Society of Arboriculture’s 2018 Annual conference in Columbus, Ohio, I participated in the urban wood certification grant meeting with Dovetail Partners executive director Kathryn Fernholz and other key players in the Urban Wood Certification Project to increase awareness and product demand for national urban wood use. We met together to discuss and examine the existing programs that are utilized in the management and care of the urban forest to identify areas of alignment and potential for mutual recognition between compatible programs. The project also includes looking for any needs and gaps in addressing urban wood use and opportunities to increase awareness and product demand.

The scope of work for this proposal includes working with partners to develop an urban wood certification approach that could be adopted and promoted by existing programs (including The Arbor Day Foundation, Society of Municipal Arborists, Right-of-Way Stewardship Council, Utility Arborists Association, Tree Care Industry Association, and Dovetail Partners Inc.), and utilized by municipalities and businesses. The results of this collaboration would support state urban wood groups, create messaging, and be presented to various audiences and venues.

Several areas of opportunity are available for development of an urban wood certification approach and promotion of urban wood use.  The opportunities we discussed include possibilities related to:

  • Green Building Programs
  • Third-Party Forest Certification Programs
  • Third-Party Forest Certification Chain-of-Custody Programs
  • Mutual Recognition and Program Partnerships
  • Regional Activities

Urban wood use may already occur to a limited degree within green building programs and third-party forest certification programs. Further research could identify current activities in these areas to highlight possible case studies or promotional opportunities. With further development, the use of urban wood in green building could be expanded and recognition within third-party forest certification programs could be formalized.

North Carolina’s role within this project is to provide financial and technical assistance, as well as work with Virginia and other states throughout the south east to promote urban wood utilization and standards. This certification project is a national project involving several partners, but North Carolina will assist within the southeast by raising awareness and encouraging discussions about urban wood standardization and utilization. Our next step will be to develop draft pilot strategies and ideas of approaching urban wood certification.

For more information on the Urban Wood Certification Project, visit www.dovetailinc.org or contact me at Lucy.Cohn-Still@ncagr.gov.