By Virginie Angers, ing.f., PhD Biol. –Department in charge of Large Parks, Greening and Mount-Royal for the City of Montreal

Alternating between east and west every two years, the last Canadian Urban Forest Conference (CUFC) to have taken place on French-Canadian soil was in 2006, in the City of Quebec. Ten years later, Laval hosted the 12th CUFC, from September 26 to 29.

There were more than 400 participants at the event, including 38% from municipal departments, 21% from organizations representing the environment and arboriculture, 16% from the private sector, 10% from academia, 6% from the provincial and federal governments, and 9% from other sectors. The presentations and debates reflected of course the serious problem of the Emerald Ash Borer affecting or threatening Eastern Canada. As every cloud has a silver lining, this disturbing insect has triggered a widespread reflection on the role of trees in urban settings, which has led many cities to set ambitious goals related to conservation and an increase of the canopy index, as well as to find ways to improve their resilience.

About 50 presentations, workshops and activities were offered by local and international speakers. More than a learning event, the CUFC is an amazing networking opportunity for professionals, managers, researchers, students, decision-makers and citizens that take part in the Conference. As each and every participant faces new challenges all the time, dialogues on policies, strategies, tools, latest advances in research, local initiatives and innovative pilot projects are becoming even more important.

The success of the CUFC lies in the diversity of its participants. Apart from the City of Laval, Tree Canada and the International Society of Arboriculture – Quebec, many elected officials, researchers and representatives of local organizations working to protect natural areas were involved in the committees. The event was more than a gathering opportunity for the initiated. The program worked hard at opening it up to the public by offering a presentation by Céline Cousteau, grand-daughter of the legendary Commander Cousteau.

The urban forests of Eastern Canada are at a turning point in their history and decisions made today will redefine the urban arboreal legacy of future generations. Let’s hope that once back at their daily grind, the participants will continue their exchanges and dialogues. Connectivity doesn’t only affect the resilience of urban ecosystems; it affects also the resilience of the urban forestry professionals. Let’s use this momentum to establish a formal regional network where the sharing of knowledge and best practices will benefit everyone who’s an agent of change in tomorrow’s urban forests.

Virginie Angers, ing.f., PhD Biol.
Department in charge of Large Parks, Greening and Mount-Royal for the City of Montreal
Administrator of the Corporation pour la mise en valeur du Bois de l’Équerre
Member of the CUFC 2016 Scientific Committee
Canadian Urban Forest Network – Quebec Chapter

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