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    Climbers' CornerTree Academy

    Healthy Forests for Healthy Cities


    American Forests launched a new program in 2013, entitled, “Community ReLeaf.” The premise is to help rebuild urban forests in communities facing environmental challenges as a result of factors ranging from natural disasters (this year, Hurricane Sandy and Asbury Park, NJ) to pollution caused by urbanization (Atlanta, Nashville, Detroit and Pasadena). On the ground work includes conducting assessments of the canopy and species composition, resulting in specific economic calculations of environmental benefits and replacement costs. The particular challenges faced by each city are profiled in order to determine where and what to plant to enhance the benefits that the urban forests provide.

    Using the assessment results, the program works with our local partners in each city to get the trees in the ground and to educate legislators, civic leaders and the public about the tangible value of trees and the powerful impact of their benefits on their city.

    The Community ReLeaf program grew out of a year-long American Forests project funded in part by the US Forest Service that resulted in a book called Urban Forests Case Studies, published in fall 2012.  A dozen cities across the country were selected for analysis of how partnerships, public policy and influential leaders have helped overcome urban challenges, Milwaukee among them. Cited as part of what made  Milwaukee an exemplary case study were its citywide greening initiative, invasive pest management program, long-term maintenance plan, stormwater and watershed management and public partnerships. And there are another 11 cases of cities where decisive action; smart management practices and public-private partnerships helped solve serious problems with green rather than gray infrastructure.  

    This presentation will help attendees gain an understanding of strategies that were effective in improving urban forests in cities across the country, lessons learned from those strategies, and tools and criteria that were employed to measure the benefits of urban forests. 

    American Forests Community ReLeaf goal is to have completed Community ReLeaf programs in 20 cities by 2020.



    Ian Leahy, Director of Urban Forest Programs, American Forests

    Ian is focused on developing innovative American Forests programs that help communities better improve and manage their urban forest assets over the long-term. Before joining the organization in 2014, Ian worked throughout the urban forestry field in nonprofit, municipal operations and state government roles, in addition to being a landscape design and installation business owner in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He most recently served as the State Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator for the District of Columbia. Before that he worked as an urban forestry instructor for Baltimore’s Department of Recreation and Parks and as the Managing Editor of the publication Communities and Forests. After studying Natural Resource Policy and Management at Cornell University, Ian’s first job was at American Forests, implementing community-based forestry initiatives nationwide.

    Climbers' CornerTree Academy

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