What does a DNR Urban Forestry Coordinator do?

By Olivia Witthun, DNR urban forestry coordinator, Plymouth, olivia.witthun@wisconsin.gov, 414-750-8744 

Wisconsin’s urban forests provide a wide range of ecological, economic and social benefits. Urban areas contain nearly 27 million trees with an estimated total replacement value of almost $11 billion. Many don’t realize all the services urban forests provide. They reduce air pollution, mitigate storm water runoff, conserve energy, provide wildlife habitat, increase property values, and attract businesses, tourists and residents. They even improve public health and well-being. The Wisconsin DNR’s Urban Forestry Team seeks to maximize these benefits derived from our state’s community tree canopies. 

Thirteen people are part of the DNR Urban Forestry Team, and six of those are Urban Forestry Coordinators (UFCs).  Each UFC serves a different region, and within that region, we mainly serve city foresters, local government tree managers and other partners.  (UW Extension serves homeowners.)  Your UFC is your go-to contact for all things urban forestry. 

Grants are a large part of what we do.  We want you to get funded, so we help communities and other partners with DNR Urban Forestry Grant project development.  We serve as the main contact as you work through your project, and we oversee the technical aspects of the grant.  Another large part of what we do is administer the various Arbor Day Foundation programs here in Wisconsin, i.e. Tree City USA, Tree Line USA, Tree Campus USA and Tree Health Care Campus.  Presenting these awards and celebrating with you at Arbor Day events is a very rewarding time for us.  Providing training opportunities such as the Community Tree Management Institute is another task we do.  Often times, we work with partners to increase our training capacity, e.g. cohosting the Annual Urban Forestry Conference with WAA or assisting UW Extension with their fall workshops.  We also engage in many special projects over the year.  For example, Wisconsin is leading a project for the 20 states in the Northeast/Midwest looking at economic contributions of urban forestry in the region, the first of its kind in the nation.  Every year we continue working with the Green Bay Packers on their First Downs for Trees program.  And for several years now we’ve helped with the ROOTS campaign (Restoration Of Our Trees Sheboygan.)

These are just a few of things UFCs are involved with.  A favorite part of our job is connecting with you and helping your community/county/organization advance your urban forest.  Do you want to know what kinds of trees others in your area are planting, who’s using gravel beds successfully, what others have experienced with Emerald Ash Borer, or what kind of ordinance language they have?  Contact your UFC for these and other questions you may have.  We’re here to help you!  And remember, we couldn’t do all this alone.  The DNR UF Team not only includes UF Coordinators, but we have specialists as well.  These include folks working with grants, assessment, policy & partnerships, communications and the WI UF Council.  Together, we strive to make urban forestry across Wisconsin the best it can be!

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