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File photo/QNS

In what is being called the first strategic plan to bolster the health and protect the future of New York City’s urban forests in the midst of climate change, the Forest Park Trust — a nonprofit that supports programs in Forest and Highland Parks in Queens — has been selected as a winner to receive innovative new conservation resources.

The “Forest Management Framework for New York City” plan was announced by the Department of Parks and Recreation and its nonprofit partner, the Natural Areas Conservancy (NAC), on April 16 after six years of research, data collection and analysis by NAC scientists. The Forest Park Trust, along with the Prospect Park Alliance in Brooklyn, were announced as the winners of a competitive program within the plan that will provide the nonprofits with newly developed tools to take care of the forested areas in the parks.

“The new Forest Management Framework represents a significant step forward in improved management and resources for our natural areas,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP in a press release. “It is my hope and expectation that this framework will not only inform forest management here in New York City, but in cities across the country and around the world.”

At Forest Park on April 17, Executive Director Sarah Charlop-Powers and Senior Ecologist Helen Forgione of the NAC joined members of the Forest Park Trust on a tour of Forest Park to explain exactly what this program will do for its 170 acres of forested land. The two recapped their visit on a conference call with QNS later that day.

The NAC’s research led to the creation of three tools that serve as informative resources for park workers, Forgione said. One is called a rapid site assessment, which is a streamlined way to analyze and record observations about the condition of a certain area of the forest before and after any work is done to it.

The second is a series of questions and observations that park managers can go through to understand what type of forest they are dealing with. Forest Park, for example, has an “oak hickory” forest, Forgione said, and knowing that allows workers to plant the proper trees that won’t be invasive to the species already present.

The third resource is a planting list that is categorized by forest type so that park employees can see the types of native trees that are best adapted to climate change.

Charlop-Powers also explained that the details of the rapid site assessment were developed to be collected with a smartphone or tablet with the hopes of eventually creating a digital database.

“It’s a good case study to track the work of parks and nonprofits in a single database, creating one place to see all the restoration work being done in the whole city,” Charlop-Powers said. “Having that live and interactive in a new way is really exciting.”

Forgione added that the tour with the Forest Park Trust was also a training opportunity, and they actually performed a rapid site assessment to demonstrate its importance. They intentionally chose a spot in the forest that looked like it was in good health, but the results of the assessment showed that the very few seedlings sprouting in the forest floor were mostly invasive species.

“It really reflected the information we already had about the park and confirmed with numbers the conditions on the ground, even though the eyes were telling us things looked pretty good,” Forgione said.

Overall, the NAC’s study found that the city’s forests are in surprisingly good condition, with 85 percent of its trees considered native and healthy. The framework, however, estimates that there is a need for $385 million in investments over the next 25 years to preserve and improve the health of the city’s forests.

As this program gets underway at Forest Park, NAC scientists will work hand-in-hand with the Forest Park Trust to provide training and support.

 

 

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