From June 4 to 17, 19 participants from 16 countries visited Chicago and New York as part of the International Seminar on Urban Forestry, organized by International Programs with support from the Northern Research Station’s urban field stations and State and Private Forestry. The group included mid-career professionals from government agencies and non-governmental organizations involved in a wide range of urban issues.
Participants learned about approaches to improving lives in cities by balancing natural resource conservation with urban development needs. The program’s themes included stakeholder, community-level and youth engagement; environmental justice; green infrastructure; strengthening community and ecological resiliency; and economic valuation of trees in cities. The group met with community organizations and discussed topics such as faith-based environmental activism, how roof-top farming can be used to provide greater access to healthy foods in underserved urban communities, and how to foster social, economic and ecological resiliency after disaster. Since youth is the fastest growing demographic in urban areas around the world, participants were eager to see successful examples of youth engagement. On the technical side, participants relished the opportunity to learn about tools like iTree for measuring urban tree canopy and STEW-MAP for mapping stewardship groups and civic engagement on environmental issues across a city.
Over half of the world’s population lives in cities, and over 81 percent in the U.S. This trend is increasing rapidly. Urban trees and forests provide critical benefits to people and wildlife, such as filtering air and water, controlling storm runoff, conserving energy and providing places for people to recreate and connect with nature. Last week’s seminar was an important step toward increasing international dialogue and collaboration on these issues. The International Seminar on Urban Forestry is one of 10 international seminars led by International Programs every year. More information is available on the International Programs website.