Staff Highlights of 2020

As the year draws to a close, we asked DNR urban forestry staff to reflect on the last twelve months and choose their top highlight – whether it’s a project they’re especially proud of, a new partnership or a deeper relationship with coworkers. Here are their responses:

“The highlight of my year has been watching the partners we support achieve lasting impacts via their Urban Forestry projects. Two immediately come to mind. Restoration Of Our Trees Sheboygan (ROOTS) kicked off their EAB Mitigation Grant Program by funding five separate projects in Sheboygan County communities for a total project value of $165,500. The other is Cedarburg Green who instituted a public awareness campaign to encourage community leaders to refund the city’s tree planting budget. Their campaign consisted of a common council presentation, an educational workshop and tree sale for residents, Arbor Day plantings, student art and writing contests, tree benefit tags, multiple news articles and a “Trees of Distinction” booklet, video and walking tour.”  -Olivia Witthun, East Central Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator

“In January, I had the opportunity to visit the state of Ohio and take part in a portion of the Ohio DNR (ODNR) Tree Commission Academy (TCA), a sister program to our Wisconsin Community Tree Management Institute (WCTMI). Attending this session allowed me to get a feel for how the logistics of the entire academy work and provided opportunities to share ideas and strategies for providing such outreach programs. Aside from attending TCA, I was able to spend time touring ODNR’s urban forestry program and networking. An abundance of ideas and resources were shared between our programs.”  -Brian Wahl, South Central Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator

“My 2020 highlights include meeting with communities who received 2020 urban forestry grants, helping 2019 grant recipients receive their reimbursement for successful projects, adding a new Tree City, USA community to our family (South Milwaukee), learning the world of webinars and Zoom calls and introducing my colleagues to my COVID cleaning find – a toy from the 70’s – my ventriloquist pal – Willie!  -Kim Sebastian, Southeast Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator

“Through the ups and downs of an unprecedented year, the Urban Forestry team proved once again that we can get through anything that attempts to get in our way. The team pulled together to provide our clientele the best customer service. Thanks for all you do!”  -Tracy Salisbury, Northeast Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator

“This year has been uniquely challenging and successful in working with partners. One of my highlights is how smoothly we have transitioned to holding Urban Forestry Council meetings remotely. Sara Minkoff and the council leadership (August Hoppe, Shahla Werner and Jordan Skiff) did a great job of working through the logistics and essential meeting items to keep them from getting too long. The council members remained actively engaged and participated fully in the meetings. The success of these meetings is a testament to the leadership, trust and passion of our staff and the council members.”  -Jeff Roe, Urban Forestry Team Leader

“As we all know, 2020 was an unusual year for many reasons. The pandemic required everyone to pivot, become more flexible, creative and patient. A highlight of the year for me was watching my team do just that. While they thrive on interpersonal relationships, they needed to find ways to maintain and even grow their partnerships without sacrificing safety, theirs and as well as others. Arbor Day celebrations, tree distribution and planting events, and training sessions all looked very different this year, but quality and connections were not affected. We’ve proven to be a resilient and resourceful bunch. I never doubted my team’s commitment, and now I know we can weather any storm!”  -Sara Minkoff, Urban Forestry Specialist

“For me, the highlight of 2020 was applying for and receiving an additional $175,000 in federal monies to supplement our state urban forestry grants program. These dollars will be used by local communities to manage and mitigate the impacts of EAB.”  -Laura Lorentz, Urban Forestry Policy and Partner Specialist

“My highlight of 2020 was attending my first WAA/DNR Annual Conference in Green Bay in February. I listened to top-notch speakers, engaged in terrific discussions, caught up with old colleagues and acquaintances and made new connections. The energy at this conference was amazing and I was proud to be a part of it!”  -Patricia Lindquist, Urban Forestry Communications Specialist

“I was stoked that the state was awarded over $200,000 from the Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program to be used for EAB response in Wisconsin communities and to help fund a restoration project at Havenwoods State Forest in Milwaukee.”  -Dan Buckler, Urban Forestry Assessment Outreach Specialist

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