Accepting the Forest Chiefs Honor Award

Last month I had the privilege of visiting Washington D.C. to accept the Chief’s Honor Award—the highest awards given out by the U.S. Forest Service to publically recognize exemplary achievements in Forest Service programs that contribute to the Service’s strategic goals.

The Engaging Urban America award—the award presented—recognizes Forest Service individuals, work units, partnerships, or groups that have demonstrated major achievements in promoting conservation education, community “greening” efforts, and management of urban forests and youth opportunities to volunteer in urban forestry activities in their neighborhoods.

As Chief of the USDA Forest Service Tom Tidwell and others spoke of the award I was taken by the power and influence of partnerships. This was an achievement of federal, state and local collaboration. Public and private partners engaged to change the lives of children in Denver. It was a memorable experience to witness how Nature Explore, and more importantly, the challenge of connecting young people with nature has been embraced and championed by so many with a common goal. In this case, it was an opportunity to recognize US Forest Service team members who are leading the way.

I accepted the award on behalf of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation for our work with the Warren Village project. Warren Village is a program that helps motivated, previously homeless single parent families to move from public assistance to personal and economic self-sufficiency through subsidized housing, on-site child care, educational guidance and career development.

The Certified Nature Explore Classroom at the Greta Horowitz Learning Center at Warren Village is unique for multiple reasons. The Center uses Creative Curriculum, a child-centered approach in which the children’s interests drive a variety of projects. The Center is located in downtown Denver, and although there is a public park close to the Nature Explore classroom at Warren Village, residents of Warren Village wouldn’t use it out of fear of their safety. This Nature Explore classroom gives mothers and children the comfort of security with the enjoyment of outdoor exploring.

This project was a collaboration of organizations, including the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State Forest Service and Colorado Parks & Wildlife. The sponsored classroom illustrates the great work we can do when we come together.

Additionally, the outdoor space at Warren Village serves as a model of how communities can engage local partners. One example of its effect is in Philadelphia, where a second classroom is being created with the help of the Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia Horticultural Society and Philadelphia Forest Service.

It is meaningful to be part of something that is enriching lives through outdoor classrooms and inspiring to see where else our collaborations will lead us.

Inside Diary of Dan Lambe: Journey Throughout Southeast Asia Part II

IMG_4457I was only able to spend a day in Hanoi, Vietnam meeting with The Asia Foundation and Winrock International—the group that manages the Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program. I was impressed with the creativity of their urban forestry and mangrove forest management programs. A framework is set-up to move forward using trees as a means to protect against extreme weather resulting from climate change. The model also includes programs expected to reduce flooding, create jobs and restore habitat for marine wildlife. The teams were interested in exploring planting opportunities with the Arbor Day Foundation. The following day I was off to Singapore.

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Marina Bay Sands

Fires from improper slash and burn practices in Indonesia filled the sky with smoke, which was hard to ignore upon arrival. Despite the haze we still managed to visit a beautiful park downtown called Gardens by the Bay. When the air finally cleared the following day I was amazed at what I saw. This small island nation has a world leading approach to urban forestry and green space management. I wish we could hold a Partners in Community Forestry Conference here because they are modeling practices and supporting urban forestry and greenling like I’ve rarely seen before.

IMG_4522We had a great day meeting with local parks and city forestry leaders.  The National Parks Board oversees the various forestry efforts across the nation and urban forest work is largely managed by their Street Scapes Division. I visited Bishon-Ang Mo Kio Park, where a concrete canal has been transformed into a green space with trees and vegetation to manage storm water flooding.

My last day in Singapore I visited CH2MHill, a worldwide engineering and development firm that oversees billions of dollars of development in cities and towns across the globe. We toured some of their green infrastructure work and discussed how we can draw attention to trees and green development in the industry.

IMG_4638My last stop was in Manila, Philippines where we met with the US Embassy, USAID, local city forestry leaders, ICLEI and the Asian Development Bank. Despite spending an obscene amount of time in traffic, I was eager to learn more about the urban forestry management and overall forestry efforts in the region. Our meetings with local leaders managing the trees in Metro Manila were encouraging.  My final day was met with some of the premier I-Tree users in the Philippines including university professors and industry leaders. I left thrilled about a number of potential collaboration opportunities.

My trip throughout Southeast Asia was an eye-opening experience, showing me the work still needed to improve urban forestry programs in the region and the innovative models that can be brought halfway around the world to improve our efforts here. I’m eager to see where these opportunities lead us next.

Missed the first post? Catch up on it here.

 

Inside Diary of Dan Lambe: Journey Through Southeast Asia

Sa Wat Dee

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Biking on Bang Kachao Island

That’s hello in Thai. Last month I spent a week traveling throughout Southeast Asia with leaders in international programs at the U.S. Forest Service and the Nature Conservancy to promote urban forestry programs in the region as we explore new program and partnership opportunities.

After a 30 hour journey I spent the first day touring lively Bangkok biking through the “Green Lung” of Bangkok, or Bang Kachao Island— an oasis encompassing 2,000 hectares of lush, green forest carved next to the city center. It was a nice escape from the chaos and smog of the Bangkok. Forest faculty from Kaestrat University showed us student projects they are managing that test new conservation strategies.

Day two proved to be even more insightful as we met with public and private leaders including the environmental director of The Asia Foundation and country director for Thailand who taught us more about their collaborations across Southeast Asia. We also met the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), a group that brings partners and cities together to combat climate change. Climate change is a hot topic in the region at the moment and opens the doors to the importance of urban forestry and the impact is has on both communities and climate. And that’s just what we did the following day.

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City view of Bangkok

My last day in Thailand was filled with meetings with the Rockefeller Foundation and USAID—both big leaders of the resiliency efforts—where we engaged in high level discussions about the role trees play in climate change the challenges Southeastern Asian cities are facing. I left the meetings with a renewed energy to tackle on the rest of the week. Up next, Vietnam.