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    Climbers' CornerTree Academy
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    Seizing Opportunity from Crisis: Columbus, Ohio and the Emerald Ash Borer

    Summary

    The effects of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) crisis are devastating and well documented.   While great efforts are being made to counteract and slow the effects of the infestation, the loss of the ash canopy is taking a financial and environmental toll nationally, especially in urban areas.  A haunting aspect is that EAB is only one of many exotic species introductions gone awry.   Around the globe, large scale canopy loss is underway caused by a variety of insects, diseases, competitor plants and even climate change.  Arborists and Urban Forest Managers find themselves on the front line of these canopy crises with the primary responsibility of mitigating the hazards associated with dead and declining trees.   Effective urban forest programs should focus on two concepts when dealing with threats to the canopy:  Primarily, how best to address the current canopy crisis and secondarily, how to better prepare for the next.   The former requires logistics and is largely dependent upon the lead time to the crisis and the amount of resources allocated to it.  The latter is a strategy used to recognize opportunities within a current crisis and to use them to attain goals that better prepare programs for future threats.  

    While presenting the components of Columbus’ Emerald Ash Borer Project, this presentation will  identify the four areas of opportunity that have materialized to advance Columbus Recreation and Parks’ (CRPD) Forestry program and improve Columbus’ tree canopy as a whole.   These areas of opportunity are:

        Expansion – An 11 year project totaling $10 Million is underway to address Columbus’ EAB crisis.  Managed by Columbus City Forestry, this resource has been used to hire project management and support staff, procure equipment and supplies, and hire contractors to supplement large tree removal, stump grinding and canopy replacement projects.  The influx of resources has breathed ‘new life’ into the Forestry Section in the form of increased crew morale, greater efficiencies and productivity, and a development of proactive management strategies.  

        GIS Integration – a portion of the EAB resources were used to develop a Forestry GIS and data management system.  To accurately identify, inventory and geo-locate ash trees in Columbus, the existing street tree inventory was converted to a GIS platform.  This data is being implemented to assign work, create efficient inspection routing for staff and forecast areas of impact city wide.  A complete GIS based tree inventory and analysis of the City’s 250+ developed parks is underway, creating a realistic representation of not only the EAB impact but also the current state of each park’s canopy.  This baseline information is used in planning the replanting effort, with a primary emphasis on diversity and increasing canopy cover, and communicating maintenance needs to CRPD Administration.   Parallel with this effort, is the implementation of a new work order system that is asset (individual tree) based rather than address based.  The existence of Forestry GIS has allowed for a seamless transition to the new system.

        Partnerships with Momentum – Recognizing partnerships that can assist in accomplishing Forestry goals is key to developing programs ready for future challenges.   It would be shortsighted to think of the EAB crisis as just a tree removal project.  In fact, City Forestry refers to the EAB crisis as a canopy replacement project.  It can be argued that diversity and available space (above and below ground) are now the two most important characteristics when considering an urban forest canopy.  The large scale canopy loss caused by EAB and related factors has generated concern and discussion in municipal sustainability networks worldwide.  Aligning urban forest canopy concerns with current municipal sustainability efforts has proven successful.  Mayor Michael Coleman considers Columbus’ municipal sustainability of primary importance, and has led a robust sustainability effort in Central Ohio.   Recognizing canopy loss as a major threat to Columbus’ livability, The Green Space Working Group of the Mayor’s Green Team developed a recommendation paper, to Columbus’ Elected Officials and Administration, focused on the importance of tree preservation and increased canopy cover throughout the City.  These efforts, in turn, have leveraged partnerships with the Ohio DNR and the American Sustainability Directors Network.  These partnerships are essential in seeking out grant opportunities aimed at developing iTree based tools and guidelines for Planners and Developers that highlight the importance of increased tree canopy in Urban environments.   

        Marketing – With a crisis, like Emerald Ash Bore, comes attention.  It is at these moments that accomplishments, limitations and forecasts must be communicated to Elected Officials, Administration and the citizenry as a whole to leverage solutions.   These solutions need to focus on the current situation and becoming better prepared for the next.  Examples include, calculating the environmental benefits lost to EAB via iTree and using the data in monthly staff reports, progress meetings and publishing an annual EAB Progress Report with copies made available to decision makers citywide.    Currently in development is a web based interactive GIS map that documents the progress of our EAB efforts.   Citizens can go to the map to answer questions on schedules from tree removals to replacement plantings.   These advancements and data are especially useful for media questions, interviews, and inquiries of progress. 

     

    All of these opportunities are interrelated with the development of one strengthening the others.  While these opportunities listed may be unique to Columbus, the important component is being able to recognize these opportunities as they present themselves.   Make no mistake; it is the challenging periods, the periods during crisis that will define our Urban Forest programs.  Look for the Silver Lining, take advantage of opportunity and make decisions that build programs prepared for future challenges.       

    Presenters

    Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan.  Joe Sulak graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences with minor in Chemistry from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and a MS in Forestry from Michigan State University. 

    After graduation, Joe became the Urban Forester/Green Corp Program Director for the Greening of Detroit for 10 years, During which time he started MORE TREES! His Urban Forestry consulting firm.  He then relocated to Florida where he served as the Roadway Landscape Manager for Lee County for 5 years.   Joe and his family relocated again and he is currently the City Forester for Columbus Ohio.  

    Joe became an ISA Certified Arborist in 2002, He is a graduate of the 2009 Municipal Forestry institute and the 2013 Ohio Environmental Leaders Institute and He has recently achieved the TRAQ qualification.  Joe is currently a member of Mayor Coleman’s Green team and the Green Space Working Group, and has served as an officer on the Florida Urban Forest Council.  Joe has planted over 70,000 trees in seven states and South Korea.   In his spare time Joe enjoys camping with his wife and three children, facilitating consensus driven planning sessions and assisting in the development of an intentional community in Western Michigan.     

    Climbers' CornerTree Academy
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