2021 Staff Highlights

As the year draws to a close, we asked DNR urban forestry staff to reflect on the last 12 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:

“My favorite work event that happened this year was the urban site indexing training hosted in the City of Beloit. Alan Siewert, from the Ohio DNR came to Wisconsin in May to give us hands-on demonstrations of the site indexing techniques they have been perfecting over the years. The urban site indexing helps their communities create well-thought-out master planting plans. Best of all, after not seeing each other for more than a year, we spent a few hours together applying the techniques in a couple of neighborhoods across Beloit. The experience culminated with a nice socially distant lunch and discussion while developing a planting plan.” -Brian Wahl, South Central Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator

“Another 2021 highlight was a cooperative project funded in part by the Bureau Research Funds. The project involved utilizing alternative sidewalk construction techniques to see if they could help mitigate some tree root/sidewalk conflicts in Stoughton. This was a collaborative effort between the City of Stoughton, the DNR and Tree Health Management, a local tree care company. The project took place during the sweltering summer weather, and many dusty hours were spent air-spading and hand digging around roots in ultra-compacted soils. The best part of the project was opening up the sidewalk and discovering the different and amazing rooting patterns beneath the concrete.” -Brian Wahl, South Central Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator

“2021 has been an interesting year. It was nice to get out in the field and visit with community folks. I’ve missed those interactions the most during the pandemic. A huge THANK YOU to my team for keeping things lighthearted and fun. You guys are the best!” -Tracy Salisbury, Northeast Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator

“The highlight of my year has been watching a four-year, first-of-its-kind, DNR Urban Forestry led project near completion.  The Urban Forestry Economic Analysis in the Northeast and Midwest is just about complete.  This is the first time urban forestry-specific numbers have been pulled out of the broader green industry.  The project includes an economic contribution analysis, an ecosystem services valuation and information about the future outlook of urban forestry.  We’re currently in the stages of reviewing draft methodology, regional and state-level reports.  We expect to be sharing the results in spring 2022.  Stay tuned!…” -Olivia Witthun, East Central Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator

“2021 was another ‘unusual’ year and, once again, we’ve proven our commitment to delivering quality service to our communities and partners. I am continually impressed with my team’s dedication to doing this work and flexing when necessary with the constantly changing situations we’ve all been facing. A professional highlight for me was seeing how we can create successful virtual events and training sessions in the colder months and gather in warmer weather for in-person meetings. We are resilient, creative, and thoughtful. A personal highlight was exploring the natural areas near my home, both places familiar to me and those I had not been to before. Here’s hoping for a safe and productive 2022!” -Sara Minkoff, Urban Forestry Specialist

“Going through the process of creating a presentation, recording it, and submitting it with Nicolle was one of my top highlights for 2021. It was a joy to dig through old files and find pictures of the team from the 90s and see how things have changed (or not changed) over the years.” -Chase O’Brien, Urban Forestry Grants Manager

“2021 was an amazing year of celebrating moments – working with the incredible Wisconsin Arborist Association committee to put on a successful, first-ever virtual annual urban forestry conference, helping communities and organizations care for the urban forest, getting to work a dream job for 30 years, urban tree seed hunting (ask me about this), attending fall Arbor Days, coming back to a new office (visit me anytime) in the Menomonee Valley on St. Paul, and, my fav, re-connecting with, meeting new and seeing colleagues and partners!” -Kim Sebastian, Southeast Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator

“I have two highlights for 2021:

1) Arbor Week Social Media Campaign. I was thrilled by how many communities participated (43), how many posts we published (159), and by the enormous number of “likes” and comments the posts generated. Communities came up with such creative ideas for using social media to celebrate Arbor Day. We taught countless Facebook and Twitter users about the importance of species diversity, how to plant an urban tree, the benefits of trees and other urban forestry topics.

2) My new job. I’ve been the North Central Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator for four weeks now, and I love my new position! I’ve started speaking with communities in my region and am looking forward to our first networking meeting on Zoom on December 14th.” -Patricia Lindquist, North Central Regional Urban Forestry Coordinator

“A highlight for me was seeing staff and partners continue to stay connected and continue to do great work. With the pandemic continuing to disrupt in-person activities, it takes conscientious effort to continue to work together and keep partnerships strong. I see this in the team, with the urban forestry council and other partners.” – Jeff Roe, Urban Forestry Team Leader

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