Since the late 1960's, New Hampshire has had a Community Forestry Program. Technical forestry assistance was provided to communities by the State of New Hampshire - Division of Forests and Lands and by the then Cooperative Extension Service. Due to lack of adequate funding and staff this assistance was very limited in scope.
In the late 1970's funds from the USDA Forest Service made possible street tree inventories in Manchester and Hanover and provided for demonstration projects in Laconia, Berlin, Keene, and Portsmouth. As interest, funds, and staff fluctuated, so did the strength of the program, but it has always been there.
Thanks to the USDA Forest Service - State and Private Forestry, some Urban and Community Forestry funding and an exciting new approach, New Hampshire's Urban and Community Forestry Program continues riding high.
How is it being done in New Hampshire? It's working through partnerships between the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands and the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. Staff from both organizations coordinate to provide a cohesive program of public awareness, community networking, volunteerism, and continuing education of resource professionals for the entire state.
The Division of Forests and Lands has a three pronged program for providing community forestry assistance. The first is through Division staff that assist communities with the management of their Town Forests, training of municipal employees, and planning for their natural resources. The second is the Urban Forestry Center in Portsmouth. This facility has been in operation since 1977. The Center consists of 182 acres of gardens, trails, and forestry demonstrations areas, as well as a conference center. The third is the Shieling Forest in Peterborough. This facility has been in operation since 1980. Shieling Forest consists of 47 acres of forests, fields, trails, wildflower garden, and forestry demonstration areas. Informational and educational programs, workshops, and conferences are available to the public and resource professionals on a regular basis.
The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension is an educational network connecting University knowledge and research to people throughout New Hampshire. Extension Specialists based in Durham and Extension Educators in each of the 10 counties of the state offer both scientific information and technical assistance to communities. In every city and town this program is at work teaching New Hampshire residents about the critical issues of today.
In 1989, then Governor Judd Gregg established a task force to look at community trees. Over the course of a year, this group evaluated the status of urban and community forestry in New Hampshire and made a number of formal recommendations that became New Hampshire's Urban and Community Forestry Plan. In June of 1991, based on one of these recommendations, the New Hampshire Community Tree Commission was formed. Its members represented various public and private agencies, professional associations, and interest groups. They served as an advisory group to the State Forester, who oversees the development and implementation of New Hampshire's Urban and Community Forestry Program. In 1999 the New Hampshire Community Forestry Advisory Council was formed. This council serves in much the same way the previous commission did, but with a much more focused approach.
A Community Forestry Implementation Team, representing the co-sponsoring organizations, has been established to handle the day to day technical operations of the program.
The Community Tree Steward Program is an innovative use of volunteers. Under the leadership of a Volunteer Coordinator, volunteers go through a ten week training program. The training, provided by many resource professionals, includes such urban forestry topics as tree anatomy and physiology, identification, insects and diseases, proper pruning and planting, and soil and water relationships. It also includes training on fund raising, public speaking, presentation techniques, and field trips.
Upon graduation Community Tree Stewards agree to donate 40 hours of their time delivering tree awareness programs to schools and adult groups and helping communities plan, implement, and monitor their community forestry programs.
When Community Tree Stewards move out into the communities, they are provided with a lifeline to community forestry resource professionals from the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and the Division of Forests and Lands, as well as information about town officials, the community's past efforts towards a tree program, and the names of potential volunteers. The hope is that as Community Tree Stewards move on to new communities, they will leave a volunteer group in place for long-term planning and care.
The entire Community Forestry Program in New Hampshire is like a big interwoven web. A small amount of enthusiasm in a community might mean an initial contact with the Community Tree Steward Program; an attempt to put in place a long-term planting and maintenance plan might draw on the technical expertise of a Forester from the Division of Forests and Lands or an Extension Educator from UNH Cooperative Extension; a community plan might mean the hiring of local arborist to do some tree work, a consulting forester to manage the Town Forest, or it could mean an application for Tree City USA; an active program might lead to some programs for students in the local schools; then the teachers taking Project Learning Tree training and establishing an outdoor classroom to teach their students more about natural resources. There's no doubt that an active community forestry program tends to engender more and more enthusiasm, and it doesn't take much to get it started. Pretty soon you have something pretty exciting going on. Possible? Probable? Well.....ask them here in New Hampshire what it is all about.