By Heather Fraser – CUFN Regional Representative Atlantic Region
The third Atlantic Urban Forest Conference was held in Fredericton, New Brunswick, on November 7 and 8th, 2017, with over 125 participants. The audience included students from three Atlantic Universities and the Maritime Forest Ranger School, urban planners, several watershed groups, NGOs, Municipal and provincial governments, utility companies from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, forest pest professionals, the Canadian Forest Service, professors, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Invasive Species Council, foresters, arborists and more. Various trade show booths were set up in the registration area for all to enjoy when time allowed.
The two-day conference with over 22 speakers began with a warm welcome from the Mayor of Fredericton, Mr. Mike O’Brien, who has a true connection and vision of the Urban Forest in his community; a leader that understands the demands put on forests by pests (e.g. emerald ash borer, spruce budworm), urban sprawl, increases in urban development and extreme weather conditions (e.g. ice storms).
Our keynote speaker included Dr. Kathleen Wolf, a Research Social Scientist from the University of Washington, who discussed health benefits and how the urban forest contributes to our wellbeing. She was followed by Verna Crossman, Science Policy Advisor from Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service (CFS) who spoke about ecological goods and service values and showcased new research and programs underway that relate to urban forests in Canada. Our third speaker was Richard Zurawski, a recognized meteorologist, author, producer, writer, and talk show host on radio and television, who spoke about getting the message out to the public on trees and their value. If it has to do with science reporting there is a definite disconnect with the media. The challenge then becomes how do we engage the media to understand the science and assist us in advancing our important messages? Our morning plenary line-up concluded with Dr. Adrina C. Bardekjian, Manager of Urban Forestry Programs & Research Development with Tree Canada, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the University of British Columbia, who shared results and developments of various initiatives being undertaken across Canada as well as insights on current urban forestry research trends in Canada.
During lunch David Coon, first elected green MLA for Fredericton South and leader of the Green Party for NB (third green parliamentarian elected in Canada), spoke and shared stories of how forests have shaped his life.
The afternoon talks took place in concurrent sessions covering various topics which included: 1) Landscaping in a changing climate, what can we change in our current practice; 2) Urban planning strategies that include our UF sustaining new developments ensuring they are healthy places to live; 3) Human health and happiness benefits from the urban forest; and 4) Utilities and the role they play in management of the urban forest.
Media coverage was picked up by Global TV – https://globalnews.ca/video/3851321/invasive-emerald-ash-borer-making-its-way-to-atlantic-canada-raising-concern
The municipality of Fredericton hosted a public evening session at the Hugh John Flemming Forestry Centre Lecture Theatre with over 65 in attendance focusing on Emerald Ash Borer research, economic impacts, treatment and control. This is in response to realizing that this pest is close to New Brunswick – only a 10-hour drive away from Quebec.
Day two began with concurrent sessions covering the management of pests and diseases in our urban forests, early detection, regulations, vulnerability of certain tree species to invasive forest pests. Native forest and corridors where management is critical, various watershed groups told their story of mitigation and improvement, success stories on riparian zone restoration.
A panel discussion took place after lunch lead by Heather Fraser, Chair of the Atlantic Urban Forest Collective and the Atlantic Representative of the Canadian Urban Forest Network, involving 5 key people from the audience, an urban forestry professional, Meteorologist, a Professor, Arborist and EAB Pest Specialist from Quebec. Questions to the panel included: What are the vectors for change most likely to impact our Atlantic urban forests? What can we do to prepare? How is the advice different for large versus small communities?
Heather engaged the panel beyond the question/answer period and opened the floor to all in attendance – asking them what they learned, did our conference achieve what we wanted it to (increased networking, sharing of knowledge and expertise, improving awareness of urban forestry issues in the Atlantic region, opening doors for new partnerships and projects), do you want to see more Atlantic UF conferences in the future?
Each sector of the audience (i.e. students, NGOs, arborists, researchers, practitioners) was asked to speak and comment on the conference discussion. This was received quite well. Feedback sheets were extended to all and comments concluded that future conferences are wanted but concurrent sessions with so many good speakers made it hard to choose – you wanted to listen to everyone!
The two-day conference ended with a walking tour taking place from the hotel along the riverfront trail across the Bill Thorpe walking bridge looking at trees and infrastructure challenges and successes.
Our organizing committee wants to acknowledge our sponsors and supporters: City of Fredericton, the International Society of Arboriculture, Nova Scotia Power, City of Charlottetown, Maritime College of Forest Technology, the Association of Registered Professional Foresters of New Brunswick and Tree Canada.