sucessstories (2)

Small Forests are a Big Deal!

Vermont’s forest landownership is changing. Trends in housing density suggest that the amount of land in parcels larger than 50 is declining, while the number of parcels between 2 and 10 acres is increasing. With financial support from the USDA Forest Service, the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program (VT UCF) worked with partners to address this shift with the development of a Backyard Woods Online Course for homeowners of less than 25 acres who want to learn more about the woods in their backyard -- what’s in it, who (wildlife) uses it, and how they can become better caretakers of it.  

The course includes online lessons, a hands-on session, and a learning journal with activities for participants to complete each week. At the end of the course, participants walk away with a Backyard Woods Action Plan tailored to their specific property.  

In 2016, VT UCF ran the course for residents of several counties to pilot the program and in 2017, went statewide with nearly 100 participants. According to one participant, "I look at my woods with newfound understanding of how to be a steward. The program provided so much information, direction, and resources which has already and will continue to help me in our woods!"

Program participants have identified a range of activities as part of their Backyard Woods Action Plan, including cultivating edible mushrooms, removing invasive species, planting a pollinator garden, and making maple syrup. The course has been successful in helping landowners learn that they do not need to “clean up” their forest. One participant discovered that the forested wetland on their property holds great value. “Our future plan was to try to drain the area of fallen trees and create a pasture or orchard, but after participating in the course, we are now rethinking what we should do. We’d also like to build trails for biking and snowshoeing while at the same time increase areas for wildlife habitats.” Small forests and the landowners that care for them are big deal.
Contact information:
Danielle Fitzko
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Bringing Trees Home

For over 15 years, through support from the PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the PA Urban and Community Forestry Council (PAUCFC) has been awarding tree planting grants to communities across the state.  The reach of the program is expanding as evident of more and more first-time applicants, such as the Waynesburg Borough who received a 2017 TreeVitalize grant. Waynesburg Borough, located in the very southwestern corner of Pennsylvania is just 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, PA. Waynesburg is not an “urban” area and therefore they questioned their qualification for this type of grant so we continue to stress the term communityforestry.

Waynesburg received a small grant to plant 13 trees in the Waynesburg Parks. The parks are four consecutive tracts of land, 2 blocks from Main Street and a gathering place for nearby residents and students from Waynesburg University. The planting took place on Friday, April 28, 2017 in celebration of Arbor Day. Staff from PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry, PA Urban and Community Forestry Council (PAUCFC) and two middle school science classes helped to plant the trees.

Tree holes were dug ahead of time and the right tree was placed next to each hole. Equipment was laid out for the students upon their arrival. Maps were printed to show where all the trees were to be planted. People were split into groups of 4 to 5 including a leader to demonstrate correct practices. There were too many students and not enough trees therefore a few students stood ideal while others shoveled or raked. At the end everyone reconvened to discuss the day.

What makes this tree planting unique is the connectedness between the place and those that planted the trees. Two of the Pa DCNR staff members that helped plant the trees are from Waynesburg. Additionally, the science teacher of the junior high science classes that volunteered that day was the same science teacher of the DCNR staff from over 20 years ago. In a small town, such connections are not uncommon but it certainly made the day feel more meaningful. The staff shared their memories of growing up in Waynesburg and of playing in the parks where the trees were planted. They spoke of how the students’ efforts of that day will be able to be seen years from now, and the impacts those trees will have on future generations.

For more information, please contact:
Shea Zwerver
Community Engagement Coordinator 
PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Bureau of Forestry | Rural & Community Forestry Section
400 Market St. | Harrisburg, PA 17105
Phone: 717.346.9583 | Fax: 717.783.5109 |

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Share your urban forestry achievements here!

The Urban and Community Forestry Committee is comprised of urban forestry coordinators from each of the 20 member states and the District of Columbia. Urban forestry coordinators are responsible for leading state-level urban forestry programs in their respective states. Urban forestry is about the trees where people live, work and play - and so, includes trees and forests in our towns, along our streets, in our parks and in our backyards. State coordinators work with a wide range of constituents and partners including: local and tribal governments, school districts, nonprofits and community-based organizations all focused on improving the stewardship of trees and the ecosystem services they provide.

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