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Partners in Community Forestry Conference 2015: A Look Back

by Alan Moore, NC Urban Forestry Specialist


The 2015 Partners in Community Forestry Conference was held November 18th – 19th in Denver, Colorado.  It was the 9th annual conference and had the most attendees of any of the previous conferences, 532 people.  We were welcomed of course by Dan Lambe of the Arbor Day Foundation, but also by some energetic representatives of the City of Denver and the Colorado State Forest Service.

The climate in Denver is much different than many North Carolina communities.  Denver is arid and has a limited selection of native trees.  We learned in fact that a visionary mayor at beginning of 20th century created a program to plant trees in town in order to entice people to stay.  Contrast the idea of planting trees on purpose to establish a community with many population centers here in the eastern US where trees were often cleared to create space to establish a community.

Both the General and Educational Sessions had good speakers and presentations.  During one of the General Sessions some myths about Colorado were debunked.  Not everyone hikes and skis the mountains.  There are plenty of pinyon-juniper woodlands in the southwest and cottonwood trees dot the great plains of the northeastern part of the state.  Despite recent legislation about certain vegetation, the state tree is still the Colorado blue spruce.

For the Educational Sessions there were 21 different concurrent sessions over the 2 days for the 7 different time slots.  Of the 4 different tours on Wednesday afternoon, I chose the walking tour of downtown.  It was a good presentation on the collaborative efforts between the City of Denver Forestry Department, a local non-profit group, and a private company, to tackle the challenges of maintaining the existing trees and planting new trees using different paving materials and soil technologies.

One of the 7 Educational Sessions I attended was about how urban tree canopies regulate microclimates and urban heat islands.  I found this session most educational.  Sure, as urban forestry advocates we all know trees can help mitigate urban heat islands.  However, the presenters had a little more to add to that.  In their study they looked at data from Denver and Baltimore and found that no matter the differences in climate, a humid temperate city like Baltimore or a semi-arid city like Denver, clusters or patches of tree cover help reduce the urban heat island effect more than do single lines of trees.

In at least 2 of the 21 different concurrent sessions, North Carolina communities were highlighted.  Catherine Deininger, with Biocenosis, right here in North Carolina, presented about some of the tools available to communities that want to identify and prioritize significant natural resources for conservation when they are facing development pressures.  In a lightning round session, the City of Raleigh’s urban forestry program was discussed as working to increase urban tree utilization by identifying, quantifying, and communicating the value of wood from trees that must be removed.  Removed urban trees have more value than just mulch and compost.

A few educational sessions were about topics that were presented at previous Partners Conferences and how those ideas and projects have grown.  The 2016 Partners in Community Forestry Conference will be November 16th – 17th in Indianapolis, IN.  Make plans to attend and hear about great collaborative efforts to make our urban forests even better!  Visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s Web site to see presentations and pictures from 2015 -