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Tree-planting effort is focus of forum

Successful reforestation in the wake of October's snowstorm will require active public involvement and an overall plan to guide the way, speakers said at a community forum Thursday.

About 70 people attended the event in the Buffalo Science Museum, including several community leaders who are spearheading tree-planting efforts in Buffalo and the Olmsted parks.

David Nowak, a project leader for the U.S. Forest Service in Syracuse, said he was impressed by how all of the city's trees had been surveyed and inventoried before the freakish October storm hit and by the replanting efforts under way.

Nowak said what's needed next is a long-term vision for the role trees are to play in Buffalo and a public-private effort to meet the problem head-on.

"The city is so far ahead of many other cities in terms of knowing what resources it has," Nowak said. "Most cities don't have any information to manage by. Now the decision is: 'Where do you want to go?' "

Nowak reminded listeners of the ecological and healthful benefits of trees, such as cooler air temperatures, better air and water quality, absorption of greenhouse gases and psychological and aesthetic effects.

He used an aerial map of Buffalo to show how only 10 percent of the city has tree cover, compared with a national average of 30 percent.

Arthur Traver, an urban forest manager and consultant for Wendel Duchscherer, said there were an estimated 67,000 trees in Buffalo before the storm. He said 2,700 trees have been felled, with another 5,000 more to be cut down.

Traver said he hopes there could be a citywide and, if possible, regional approach to reforestation.

"The plan moving forward is still somewhat fragmented with the different players, and having [events like this one] will hopefully [lead] to one cohesive mission," Traver said.

Paul Maurer, co-chairman of ReTree WNY; David Colligan, chairman of ReForest Buffalo; and Tim Fulton, director of operations for the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, all discussed ambitious plans for replanting.

The one with the farthest reach was ReTree's goal to plant 30,000 trees over five years, beginning with 3,000 on April 27, Arbor Day, and another 3,000 more in November. Maurer said the plan would cost about $10 million, with fundraising still in its infancy.

G. William Page, a University at Buffalo professor, said there is an opportunity to strategically target the planting of trees to improve quality of life and attract new residents.

Community activist Jay Burney urged that trees and the environment be seen as a central resource for economic development and that urban ecology principles guide reforestation.

Oswaldo Mestre, director of the city's Division of Citizens Services, expressed the Brown administration's support for reforesting efforts.


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