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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The Urban Ecology Collaborative Charlie Lord, a co-founder of the UEC and former Executive Director of the Urban Ecology Institute at Boston College, now a Senior Manager at car- bon finance firm CQuest Capital, said, "The Urban Ecology Collaborative emerged out of an exciting realization that community groups, research teams in academia and government, and municipal gov- ernment could create concrete and lasting change in cities by working together and by sharing models across cities. We saw that the teams in different cities had generated exciting innovations that we ought to be sharing with each other." the US Forest Service Northern Research Station has established Urban Field Stations in UEC member cities Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia and the start of the UEC. What has allowed the UEC to persist despite its limita- tions is the value of the peer information exchange. Passionate champions of course make it happen, and if a committee loses its passionate champion, entropy ensues. And whenever money is expended, invoices and audits are sure to follow; the UEC did develop a dues structure and one member, the Parks and People Foundation in Baltimore, was good enough to assume the role of fiscal agent for the UEC. New themes have emerged within the UEC. Some key examples are the land-water connection, particularly in the context of the federal Urban Waters initiative. Urban agriculture is also recurring topic. Will these become new committees within the UEC? Only if passionate champions emerge to lead efforts and practitioner com- munities of interest are engaged and active enough to support them. Three Qs for the Author Given the nature of the collaborative, do you think it could grow, or is there a limit to how big it can become before things break down? Mike Galvin: There are certainly other areas of the coun- try with similar interests, but with our structural and budgetary limitations we appear to have reached the geographic extent for which people can justify travel to such meetings. I think it would be possible to develop regional "cells" of communities of interest around the country that may have different structure, committees, etc. If organic growth of regional entities dictated the creation of a parent at some point, that would make sense and fit the model of many organizations with national parents and regional chapters. In 2010, the UEC's Education Committee visited an edible school- yard in Pittsburgh. How is the UEC model different from other larger-scale efforts now under way through the Forest Service and others? MG: Most of the models come from existing projects that are shared within the collaborative. As an example, at one meeting the Washington DC Department of the Environment shared their RiverSmart Homes program and talked about the rain barrel component of that program. Nine Mile Run Watershed Association from Pittsburgh was also working on a rain barrel program, so the two cities were able to modify their programs based on what they learned from one another, while modeling this approach for potential adoption by other cities. Does the UEC reflect the view that trees are an impor- tant part of the growing urban ecological restoration movement? MG: It definitely reflects a growing trend in many move- ments like the SITES initiative ( that urban foresters should be as knowledgeable and involved as possible in the ecological context of the land- scapes they work in. UEC recognizes that urban ecologi- cal contexts are complex, heterogeneous, and are land- scapes we still have a lot to learn about. This is needed to improve tree survival and longevity, program success, and landscape sustainability and functional efficacy. 31

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