US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Phil Rodbell

Phillip Rodbell

Natl. Prog. Lead - Urban Sustainability
1400 Independence Ave., SW
District of Columbia
United States

Phone: 610-680-7952
Contact Phillip Rodbell

Current Research

Position Statement:

Phil supports a community of 50+ scientists and technicians studying the social, economic, and ecological impacts of trees and forests where people live, work, and recreate. As national program lead for urban sustainability research he convenes a network of nine urban field stations and a cross-deputy Technology and Science Delivery team providing research services and tools for improved knowledge and practice in urban and community forestry.

Research Interests

  • How much and what quality of forest cover do we have in communities, and how is it changing?
  • How does the presence or absence of trees and forests influence daily decisions of residents?
  • How do changes in forest cover or access to forests impact the quality of life and well-being of residents?
  • What are the causes of tree decline and loss, and how can we improve tree survival and diversity?
  • How do forest stewardship activities contribute to forest and community resilience, climate adaptation, sustainability, and/or recovery after disturbance?
  • How does urbanization impact forest health, water quality, wildlife, and wildfire risk in the wildland-urban interface?
  • How can we use tree and forest stewardship activities to detect pests before they spread?
  • How can we inform and leverage local government and private sector investment to improve forest protection and productivity?
  • How much wood ends up in local landfills and how can it be diverted to fund sustainable jobs and local economies?
  • How do people interact with public forest lands and contribute to local recreation economies?
  • Why This Research is Important

    As urbanization continues to alter our environment, understanding people and providing decision tools to inform their stewardship of trees and forests in and around urban areas is essential to sustaining the quality of life and well-being for current and future generations.


    • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, Masters Of Science In Forestry Urban Forestry, Public Administration, Landscape Architecture 1988
    • University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Bachelor Of Science, Forest Resources Urban Forestry, Planning, Environmental Horticulture 1982

    Professional Experience

    • Regional Program Lead, Urban and Community Forestry, USFS Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, Newtown Square, PA
      1999 - 2018
      Provided overall leadership in delivering federally funded action to plant and improve community trees and forests in the 21 states that make up the Midwest, New England, and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.
    • Urban Forestry Coordinator, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, Boston, MA
      1994 - 1999
      Delivered technical and financial assistance to local governments and nonprofit organizations supporting their efforts to plant and improve the health of community trees and forests.
    • Community Action Forester, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Olympia, WA
      1992 - 1994
      Facilitated development of local government programs and nonprofit organizations that plant and improve the health of community trees and forests.
    • Urban Forester, Managing Editor, National Urban Forest Council Secretary, American Forests, Washington, DC
      1989 - 1992
      Provided program support to State and Local governments and nonprofit organizations in developing and implementing the award-winning public outreach campaign, Global ReLeaf. Served as Secretary for the National Urban Forest Council and liaison to other nonprofit groups, corporate sponsors, and governmental agencies. Prepared testimony for congressional hearings, and coordinated efforts to build consensus toward the successful passage of the 1990 Farm Bill. Wrote/edited national bimonthly Urban Forests Magazine, expanding readership from 8,000 to 32,000 readers. Coordinated development of national conference programs, speaker selection, local arrangements, and edited conference proceedings.
    • Peace Corps Volunteer, Peace Corps, Honduras
      1983 - 1986
      Supported local farmers to improve agroforestry production of crops and fruit. Served as first urban forester for the capitol city of Tegucigalpa.

    Awards & Recognition

    • Eastern Region Honor Award , 2018
      Helped to develop and establish Urban Forest Strike Team, responding to natural disasters in cities.
    • Award of Merit, 2018
      From the Society of Municipal Arborists in recognition of decades of skilled leadership and meritorious accomplishments at the local, regional, and national levels including development of a network of State Liaisons.
    • Chiefs Honor Award, 2017
      Contributions to The Urban Waters Federal Partnership
    • Certificate of Merit, 2011
      For Exceptional Performance as Acting Deputy Director for Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center
    • Outstanding Performance Award , 2007
      For conducting a landscape-level analysis of metropolitan areas, spearheading interdisciplinary work, and creating a bridge with EPA Region 3
    • Chief's Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer, 2004
      Creating OASIS NYC
    • Chief's Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer, 2003
      Living Memorials Project – creating 50 living memorials and tools for a nationwide network

    Citations of non US Forest Service Publications

    • Konijnendijk, C.C.; Rodbell, P; Salbitano, F; et al. 2018. The Changing Governance of Urban Forests. Unasylva 69(250):37-42
    • Rodbell, Phillip et al. 2018. "Philadelphia: a "green contrie towne". In Forests and Sustainable Cities: Inspiring stories from around the world. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) publication: pages 61-66.
    • Rodbell, Phillip. 2016. "USA Urban and Community Forestry Program". Page 21-23. In proceedings: FAO. 2016. Towards a Greener, Healthier, and Happier Future: The 1st Asia-Pacific Urban Forestry Meeting. Zhuhai, China, 6-8 April 2016. Urban and Peri-urban Forestry Working Paper No. 11. Rome.

    Last updated on : 02/20/2021