Adrina Bardekjian, MFC, PhD Candidate (ABD)
Program Manager, Urban Forestry, Tree Canada
Originally published in the Nov-Dec issue of ReNew Canada Magazine

Victoria, BCFrom September 29-October 2nd, the 11th Canadian Urban Forest Conference (CUFC) took place in Victoria, B.C. with 275 foresters, arborists, planners and academics attending. The feedback to date has been overwhelmingly positive particularly around the structure as well as the explicit inclusion of social sciences and critical inquiry in the conference program content. This model was based on the Urban Forests & Political Ecologies: Celebrating Transdisciplinarity (UFPE) Conference, also sponsored by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation in April 2013; and given the positive response; we hope to use it in future CUFCs.

The conference included speakers from the urban forest and social science fields that represented practitioners and academics. In addition to the preconference workshop on native and novel ecosystems, as well as a Tree Academy training session, the core conference program topics included: climate change; human health and well-being; green infrastructure; biomimicry; international perspectives from China; metaphor and environmental problem-solving; governance; function and design strategies; value,economics and sustainability; and a look to the future with reflections on global urban forestry.

There was a film screening showcasing the first Shade Policy in Canada developed by the Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition, Healthy Public Policy Directorate of the City of Toronto. The Canadian Urban Forest Strategy session included progress updates and future directions for urban forestry at the national level led by Tree Canada. We also had a series of parallel breakout sessions and poster presentations that dealt with themes such as: challenges and threats (biotic and abiotic); showcasing innovation in research and practice; community-based solutions and engagement; and, the future of urban forest education. All conference sessions offered Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborists. An emerging urban forestry program from the Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia was also announced at the conference – an exciting development because no comparable program now exists in Canada.

Canadian Urban Forestry Conference 2014

Opportunities for discussion and networking were integrated into each day of the conference, with poster sessions, social breaks and a series of field tours to various sites in the City of Victoria by bus, by bike or by walking. Topics for field tours included: heritage buildings and significant trees; stormwater management; and, urban centre parks. Lastly, the Tree Canada Banquet and Gala offered a surprising and edgy comedic respite from the rigorous urban forestry program content featuring a lively debate (“Oil vs. Maple Syrup”).

The take-home message for the 11th Canadian Urban Forest Conference is to acknowledge the scalar and complex changes ahead of us in urban forestry and to face these challenges with (adaptive) collaboration and integration of transdisciplinary thought and practice. It is a mind shift. Where past CUFC conferences have focused mostly on new research and current practice in urban forestry and arboriculture, the 11th national conference has attempted to highlight the need to ask complex questions about strategic direction and the future of planning and design with respect to contesting conformity – questions that are more often rooted in social sciences. As discussed during one session: we need ask the right questions before we can begin solving something.

On behalf of the conference committee, a hardy thanks to the wonderful CUFC11 sponsors and supporters, which included: TD Friends of the Environment Foundation; Bartlett Tree Experts; Davey Tree; CN; Shell; TELUS; Government of Canada, Canadian Heritage Fund; Association of BC Forest Professionals; Invasive Species Centre; and, Brinkman Group. Also, special mention to all the exhibitors and everyone who supported this conference as well as the City of Victoria, De Armond Management and the entire CUFC11 Organizing Committee.

Please join Tree Canada in fall 2016 for the 12th Canadian Urban Forest Conference to be hosted by the City of Laval, Quebec.

For more information, please visit this page.

Adrina Bardekjian, MFC, PhD Candidate (ABD)
Program Manager, Urban Forestry, Tree Canada