City Trees

May/ June 2012

City Trees is a premier publication focused on urban + community forestry. In each issue, you’ll learn how to best manage the trees in your community and more!

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Page 29 of 39

The Urban Ecology Collaborative: A Decade of Learning in a Community of Interest by Mike Galvin, Director, Consulting Group @SavATree Photos Courtesy of the Urban Ecology Collaborative In the beginning (or at least a little while back)... For the first time in human history, most of the people in the world now live in cities. The growth of cities has exploded in the past century. The number of megaci- ties (cities with a population of 10 million or more) has grown from just 2 in 1950 to 18 by 2000, with 22 expected by 2015. When this picture is complicated by sea level rise and climate change, it poses questions regarding carrying capacity and sustainability. These and similar questions emerge at a time of a downward trend in investment in the public sector and related reductions in staff. According to U.S. News and World Report, local governments have shed almost half a million jobs nationwide since 2008, and state and local governments may shed as many as 800,000 to 1,000,000 additional jobs between July 2011 and June 2012. As resources decline, client base (population, those expecting services) grows; questions get more complex and new approaches are needed. The Urban Ecology Collaborative is a novel approach to helping partners share best urban ecosystem restoration practices through a multi-city network. A community of interest In 2001, a group of federal, state, local, and non-gov- ernmental organization (NGO) partners began working in Baltimore on a project called the Strategic Urban Forests Assessment that would provide the foundation for Urban Tree Canopy assessment and goal setting efforts in various places. Using high-resolution remote sensing data in combination with various GIS layers, a dynamic mapping tool was developed that would allow users to run a variety of queries based on different Areas of Interest (spatial) and Categories of Interest (social). Following some informal conversations, a group of people from New York and Boston made a trip to see what was going on in Baltimore. A community of interest emerged, self-identified, and grew by acquisition, and by 2002 the Urban Ecology Collaborative (UEC) was created at a meeting in New Haven, CT. Initial UEC members included partners from Boston, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC. In 2007, Philadelphia and Providence joined the UEC. While city public agency and NGO representatives made up a majority of the par- ticipants, state, federal, and academic partners played key roles as well. 30 The UEC has peer-to-peer networking and best practices identification with mapping, research, education, and program implementation—everything from how cities and NGOs collaborate on and divide responsibilities during "million tree" campaigns to how much to charge as a cost-share for a rain barrel. The premise was not to create a one-size-fits-all toolbox to be replicated across cities, but to recognize the diversity and similar- ity across cities—we were asking the same questions but needed different approaches to answer them. A country without a king The UEC operated as a collaborative community of interest that by design had no sponsor, no leader, and no budget. This self-selecting opt-in arrangement had definite benefits and drawbacks. We saw over time that some type of structure is needed for certain functions, so a committee structure was developed. Each commit- tee has successes and fizzles. The Steering Committee was responsible for administra- tion, policy, and guidance. The "practitioner's committee," presently known as the Urban Forestry Committee, is what has persisted most regularly throughout the ten years of the UEC. Members have met at least once or twice annu- ally to share program elements, identify best practices, and network on resources. The UEC has also had an Education committee and a Research committee. The Research and Education committees launched an online research journal, Cities and the Environment, hosted by Loyola Marymount University, to provide a publishing venue to highlight research within the net- work. And while it was not a direct outcome of the UEC, there may be some relationship between the fact that During their January 2012 meeting, the UEC Urban Forestry Committee looked at bioretention and low-impact development (LID) installations done by NYC in Queens. City Trees

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