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Forest Service Chief Tidwell Tours New York City’s Urban Forests

Volunteers work during a MillionTreesNYC fall planting day in New York City. (New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Photo/ Malcolm Pinckney,)

Volunteers work during a MillionTreesNYC fall planting day in New York City. (New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Photo/ Malcolm Pinckney,)

When most people think of urban forestry in New York, they usually evoke Central Park, Frederick Olmstead’s crown jewel that covers 843 acres in the middle of bustling Manhattan.

Most people, however, would only have a small part of the overall picture  – New York City manages 29,000 acres of parkland and urban forest overall. That includes nearly 600,000 street trees, more than 1,400 acres of wetlands and more than 5,000 acres of forest.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell visited Forest Service staff working in New York recently to learn of the wide range of lands and issues that the agency is partnering on to provide a better quality of life to the tens of millions of people who call the Big Apple home.

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and Forest Service staff briefed the chief on everything from phyto technologies – the science and application of using plants to deal with environmental problems – to links between tree stewardship and civic engagement. Chief Tidwell toured a community garden, a “green streets” demonstration project that captures 10 times the stormwater runoff nearby fields of pavement do, and yes, even Central Park.

As the Forest Service’s Erika Svendsen explains, the agency is trying to strike a balance between the “gray, the green and the human.” She pointed to a stronger environmental ethic exhibited by more New Yorkers than most people realize, explaining that a taste for tree planting usually signals a larger ethic in civic pride.

“A woman sweeping the steps outside her house is a ‘cue to care,’ much like we look at indicator species in a national forest as being representative of overall forest health,” she said.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell tours New York City with agency employees and representatives from the New York City Department of Park and Recreation. The Forest Service has placed a renewed emphasis on the health of America’s 100 million acres of urban forests. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell tours New York City with agency employees and representatives from the New York City Department of Park and Recreation. The Forest Service has placed a renewed emphasis on the health of America’s 100 million acres of urban forests. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

“We’re looking at New York City as a forest,” said the Forest Service’s Lindsay Campbell, pointing to the interconnectedness between the city’s trees, its waterways, its vacant lots and its people.

The city – in partnership with the nonprofit New York Restoration Project – is 662,000 trees along on its MillionTreesNYC initiative, and has reduced urban tree mortality by 50 percent. The city is also working with the Forest Service on building a network of scientists and practitioners engaged in research and application on the urban forest.

And yes, the U.S. Forest Service – so often known primarily for its 193 million acres of forests and grasslands across the country – is right in the middle of these urban efforts. Considering that 80 percent of the American public now lives in urban areas, a renewed emphasis on America’s 100 million acres of urban forests is altogether fitting for this conservation agency.

3 Responses to “Forest Service Chief Tidwell Tours New York City’s Urban Forests”

  1. Hermelindo Perez says:

    Is anyone considering the electric wires which tall trees can reach, pear and cherry blossom trees can reach 25 ft in height easily. Those trees can raise the risk of sidewalk pedestrian electrocution? How about the presence of old, masonry type sewage lines, which can be broken by tree roots, causing underground contamination and financial damage to home owners. Be smart when you plant, only gas lines are being marked by city officials. How about including fruit trees and shrubs, for wild animals and some people to enjoy? Please consider small shrubs when planting, Euonymus, Dogwoods, Hydrangeas, Japanese maples,Rhododendrons, can be some nice choices. Cutting a side walk and putting a tree into a homeowners front, without any regard for the sewage lines or electric lines and without the opinion of that homeowner, might not be a friendly idea. I love trees but I don’t want to be liable for a person being electrocuted in front of my house or spend a fortune having to cut a tree in order to fix a sewage line.

  2. NRS Disgust says:

    Whoa, Lindsey, take your pseudo-science non-empiricism somewhere else. NYC isn’t a forest, doesn’t approximate a forest, doesn’t function as a forest and has no value as a forest (city yes, forest no). Why are the taxpayers paying for this nonsense? Why is the Northern Research Station not filling in behind research silviculturists, biologists, ecologists at its real labs and throwing money away here, Philly and Baltimore.

  3. Curious city dweller says:

    Looks like a mess in 30-50 years when the next Superstorm Sandy goes through – pines easy to windthrow. Do they sell chainsaws in those stores at Times Square I predict city dwellers will say, leave the forest in the forest, you know like the Catskills.

    Any danger in creating ecological traps? Pity the neotropicals that nest only to be predated on by cowbirds, rats and gray squirrels.

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