On March 1, SUFC held its hybrid 18th Annual Meeting with in-person participation for the first time since March 2020. We were joined by approximately 50 in-person and 20 virtual attendees, all who engaged in a day full of learning, collaboration, and networking. We were particularly thankful to be joined by Beattra Wilson, Assistant Director of Urban & Community Forestry at the U.S. Forest Service, and Jaelith Hall-Rivera, Deputy Chief of State, Private & Tribal Forestry at the U.S. Forest Service. Both highlighted the enormous amount of work occurring at the Forest Service in the urban forestry field.
The day also included five presentations from outside urban forestry community members that focused on issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in forestry and the future of the urban forestry workforce. Presenters at the meeting included Dana Johnson with WE ACT for Environmental Justice, CJ Goulding with Boyz n the Wood and The Avarna Group, Susan Day and Corey Bassett from the University of British Columbia, Giselle Herrera with the Natural Areas Conservancy, and Katie Fleming with Openlands.
Additionally, the Annual Meeting marked the transition of the SUFC Chair from Caitlyn Pollihan of the International Society of Arboriculture to Rachel Holmes with The Nature Conservancy. We are thankful for the time and commitment Caitlyn has given to SUFC over the past two years, and we look forward to working with Rachel in her new role.
After the day-long meeting, in-person participants were able to join us at the U.S. Senate Office Buildings for a reception. We were joined by Senator Mike Braun of Indiana who shared his experience as an owner of a tree farm in Indiana and as the Republican Chairman of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus.
We are so thankful for everyone who was able to join us for this year’s Annual Meeting. We hope to see new and familiar faces at next year’s Annual Meeting, which will be held in Arlington, VA on February 28, 2024.
Testimony from a first-time attendee:
“Many thanks to the SUFC leadership team for their incredibly thoughtful planning and facilitation of a great Annual Meeting! As we all know, urban pressures are complex and multi-faceted. Communities face development pressures, increasing costs of living, gentrification, food insecurity, and often limited access to clean water and outdoor recreation. We also know that climate change exacerbates such impacts and minority/low-income communities are most negatively impacted. This means that communities must take holistic, multi-faceted approach to addressing environmental injustices.
We must constantly challenge our own definitions of equity and access in order to identify systemic barriers to achieving environmental justice. Issues of race, discrimination, and inequities can be uncomfortable to broach. I so appreciated SUFC’s respectful acknowledgement of this, as well as creating an open space to have meaningful dialogue. The opening speakers did a great job on framing the issues, as well as rooting discussions on strategies and tactics for the remainder of the day. Great job and thanks for being such an open, welcoming group!”