Oneida County SWCD expanding its urban forestry work

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New York’s Oneida County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is branching out into urban forestry through a $48,450 grant the district received from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

This past year, Oneida County SWCD applied for this urban forestry grant after speaking with potential community partners. The SWCD is one of 54 candidates statewide to secure a piece of more than $2.2 million in funding for urban forestry-related projects.

The grant is through the DEC’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, which helps communities develop and implement comprehensive tree planting, management, maintenance and education to create healthy forests while enhancing quality of life for residents.

For the SWCD, the funds will be used for tree inventory and management planning for the town of Whitestown, N.Y., including the villages of Whitesboro, Yorkville, New York Mills and Oriskany.

“This is brand new to us,” SWCD forester Jessica Pyrda said. “We don’t have anything in the county like this, so it’s a great way to get our foot in the door to work with our communities and give them information they can use now and in the future in dealing with hazard trees and invasive species.”

Pyrda said DEC employs urban foresters who work throughout the state. At the local level, there has not been staff or funding to conduct larger scale projects to address urban forestry. Often, the upkeep and maintenance of urban trees is left to the individual municipalities’ highway and/or parks departments.

As emerald ash borer spreads across New York State, this grant enables Oneida County to be proactive in early identification of infestations as well as other tree diseases. Tree inventories benefit communities by the creation of guides that correctly identifies specific tree species, such as ash trees that host emerald ash borer.

“These communities are heavily populated with aging Norway maples. If a disease or infestation kills them, we would lose a majority of our street trees,” Pyrda said. “We need more tree species, so we’ll be looking at adding additional species for diversity. We need to have trees that will be able to survive different insect or disease outbreaks.”

Oneida County SWCD will work with each of the villages on the project and has collaborative working partnerships with the Hamilton College Sustainability Team and high school students from the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES Conservation Program.

These formed partnerships along with Oneida County SWCD staff will begin in April to identify and map each tree in each village of the town. The inventory will include data such as species, size, health, risk assessment, treeless areas that would benefit from a planting and recommendations for tree species to use in future plantings. The completed report will be distributed to each municipality, the DEC and the conservation district.

“Oneida County SWCD’s application was large in scope,” DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said. “It provides the geographic area with a report on tree health and risk assessment that can be used as Oneida County SWCD’s long term, five-year plan that also includes planting, storm preparedness and invasive species detection. We look forward to working with Oneida County SWCD to see this project to fruition.”

The above story is featured in the latest edition of Forestry Notes – click to read the full edition.

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