City Climate Corner

Eugene OR: The Giant Sequoia next door

Episode Summary

Eugene Oregon has some hugely impressive trees and canopy management tools. We interview City of Eugene Urban Foresters Scott Altenhoff and Heidi Lakics, and learn how trees are intimately woven into Eugene's climate action plan and how Giant Sequoias are a key part of their urban forest.

Episode Notes

Eugene Oregon has some hugely impressive trees and canopy management tools. We interview City of Eugene Urban Foresters Scott Altenhoff and Heidi Lakics, and learn how trees are intimately woven into Eugene's climate action plan and how Giant Sequoias are a key part of their urban forest.


Episode Transcription


Abby Finis  0:02  

Cities produce more than sixty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Big cities get a lot of attention, but most household emissions in the US actually come from communities outside urban cores, making them critical players in climate mitigation and climate justice. City Climate Corner explores how these small- and mid-sized cities are tackling climate change and moving toward an equitable and sustainable future. 

Abby Finis  0:21  

I'm Abby Finis.

Larry Kraft  0:23  

And, I'm Larry Kraft. We're co-hosts for City Climate Corner. 

Abby Finis  0:31  

Hey, Larry!

Larry Kraft  0:31  

Hey, Abby!

Abby Finis  0:33  

What are some of the most magical forests that you have visited?

Larry Kraft  0:39  

That's such a fun question to think about. There's a couple things that come to mind. One is in the Pacific Northwest, where the giant sequoias are, that's amazing. And then, the other for me, is when I went with my family in Peru to the Amazon Rainforest. We were out in a place where there was no electricity for about a week at this half tourism half scientific research station and that was just incredible.

Abby Finis  1:09  

That's cool. I think I've admitted before that I am a literal tree hugger. And, in a number of cities that I've been to, where there are just these massive trees that are still there, and Sylvia and New Orleans, they're oak trees. But, I think the most magical forests for me are in the Pacific Northwest. And, there's a Suspension Bridge Park in Vancouver, BC that's really cool to walk among the canopy, Muir Woods, of course in California, Chuckanut Mountain in Bellingham, Washington. But, I often think about the campus of the University of Oregon, and how special that was to have all these older trees on campus and the magic that it brought there.

Larry Kraft  1:55  

Hmmm, huh. University of Oregon. That's where you went and where is that located?

Abby Finis  2:00  

That's in Eugene, Oregon. Right there on I5, a little bit south of Portland.

Larry Kraft  2:06  

And, we're talking about Eugene this week.

Abby Finis  2:09  

Yeah! We're talking to Scott Altenhoff and Heidi Lakics, of the City of Eugene, Oregon, who are urban foresters there and have been doing a ton of really good work, transforming their approach to how they manage the urban forest and make it work for the City better.

Larry Kraft  2:24  

And they've got some really cool tools that we heard about; just to hear more about them and figure out how we can use them where I live.

Abby Finis  2:33  

Yeah, it's interesting to see where forest management has come and the availability of just how much GIS has been able to help support decision making and how you set priorities and stuff. Super cool stuff out of Eugene.

Larry Kraft  2:52  

Yeah, let's do it!

Abby Finis  2:54  

Let's do it. 

Start of interview

Abby Finis  2:57  

We're here today with Scott Altenhoff and Heidi Lakics. They are urban foresters with the City of Eugene, Oregon. Welcome, Scott and Heidi. Can you both introduce yourselves and tell us about your roles with the City? We'll start with Scott.

Scott Altenhoff  3:07  

You bet! My name is Scott Altenhoff. And as mentioned, I'm the urban forester with the City of Eugene's parks and open space division. I've been with the City now for about sixteen years, and my focus is primarily on strategic planning and community engagement and education outreach, and so forth. I'll pass it on to Heidi.

Heidi Lakics  3:28  

Hi, I'm Heidi. I have been with the City for just over two years. And, I work in a more technical role as an arborist and I do mostly consulting on city projects and contract management.

Abby Finis  3:41  

Welcome to you both! Eugene is a very lovely community in western Oregon. Scott, can you give the listeners a little bit of a sense of what it's like in the City of Eugene?

Scott Altenhoff  3:50  

I believe our current population is about 170,000 people within the urban growth boundary, and then probably extends in the mid two hundreds in our metropolitan area. We are situated north to south in between Washington to the north and California to the south. We're about mid state in terms of latitude. We're about an hour from the coast. We have a very benign climate, or at least we have historically. Situated in the Willamette Valley where marine influence and ample regular rainfall. We've got great soils and trees. When most people think of Eugene, one of the first things that comes to mind are the noteworthy trees. We're trying to help continue that legacy and improve our urban forests wherever possible. We are known as being one of the college cities on the I5 corridor, and we really pride ourselves on trying to stay on the cutting edge and especially with regard to climate action and sustainability. And, we take that charge seriously.

Climate hazards experienced in Eugene

Abby Finis  4:59  

In the last year, Eugene has faced some pretty severe climate hazards. There was the McKenzie holiday farm fire that was pretty close by last year, record setting heatwave and extreme drought this past summer. Can you describe those events and what impact they've had on the community?

Scott Altenhoff  5:17  

We've been in the midst of an extended drought for at least ten years, and we're starting to see the effects in our forests, both within the local area and in the outlying areas are working forest lands. A lot of tree mortality, a lot of really dry vegetation. And, coupled with historic fire suppression efforts, there's been a significant buildup of forest fuels, wildfire fuels. We, over the last five years, have had many catastrophic fires. Luckily, none as close as the holiday farm fire that last year came within arguably half an hour of approaching the city. That was way too close for comfort. 

Scott Altenhoff  6:03  

And, beyond the physical threat of fire inundation, our town was more or less shut down due to the smoke that just sat in the Willamette Valley. It had severe economic impacts, and it had severe health impacts and psychological impacts for our community. So it was really a wake up call. If there are any silver linings, much like the pandemic, that made us that much more aware about social and environmental justice, the wildfire situation has gotten people's attention and created a sense of urgency. 

Scott Altenhoff  6:38  

We've also had very severe ice storms, historically, we have not been subject to heavy snows or heavy ice events as other parts of the country have been. It caught us by surprise a little bit. We don't have the staffing or the equipment that you folks in the upper midwest have to deal with snow, and our trees, historically, have never had to harden themselves against an inch of ice. My understanding is that in the midwest, it's not uncommon to have three inches of ice, but the trees have grown up and developed with those regular stressors. We haven't had that. It was catastrophic in 2014, and 2016, as well. 

Scott Altenhoff  7:24  

And then lastly, the other major climate threat, arguably the most pressing currently relates to intense urban temperatures, the urban heat island effect. And, our city is subject to really intense infill development pressure. That's not uncommon worldwide. But, it's exacerbated here in Oregon, because we have really stringent land use planning. We have urban growth boundary requirements where you can't sprawl out or extend out beyond that predetermined limit without a lot of work. So that's a good thing it helps to preserve our working farmlands and forest lands, but we're experiencing competition for space in the downtown core. And, we're paving over areas that could and should be devoted to green infrastructure.

Abby Finis  8:15  

I saw an article with the Pacific Northwest heat wave earlier this summer where a guy in Portland, I think, maybe works for Portland State University went around with a heat gun, just taking different temperatures. And one of the highest recorders is like 164 off of a building or something like that. People who are experiencing homelessness, you know, the tents were 135 degrees. It's a real problem that we don't even see that increase necessarily that occurs in urban areas. Thanks for bringing that up.

Climate action planning in Eugene

Larry Kraft  8:48  

The City I understand just updated its Climate Action Plan to 2.0. And, I remember reading Eugene's Climate Action Plan 1.0 several years ago. Can you summarize the history of climate action planning in Eugene and what prompted the city to revisit and update its plan?

Scott Altenhoff  9:08  

I believe we were on the vanguard of cities in the US to come up with a Climate Action Plan. Our first version was published in 2010, and was a pretty cutting edge and visionary document. It involved a lot of stakeholder engagement and inquiry and analysis, and then some very lofty goals. I think it's fair to say that at that time, it was important to set aspirations and we didn't have the tools and technology that we have now to really quantify things. The intent with the 2.0 Climate Action Plan was to really refine our objectives to make them attainable. This 2.0 was a document that really looked at some of the gaps and shortcomings with the previous plan made use of the things that we're working to educate and engage folks and then really become more specific, measurable. Our goal is to posit some targets that are realistic and to hit those or exceeding, ideally, and lead by example.

Urban forestry and climate resiliency

Larry Kraft  10:14  

Under the climate resiliency chapter, there's a section of actions related to urban forestry. Heidi, why is a healthy urban forest an important element of climate resiliency and in the Climate Action Plan?

Heidi Lakics  10:28  

I'm going to touch on one of the things that we've been doing to hit one of our goals, which is to reduce our pruning cycle of the trees down to ten years or less. And, that's building a lot of resiliency in our system by proactively managing the trees that we do have in town, rather than going out and acting in a really reactive response, which is historically been the way it is. I think we were at something like a twenty plus year pruning cycle on our trees. We've been able to half that already in just a matter of a couple of years through working with our contractors. What we've been doing is creating these maintenance pruning zones, where I'll send some folks to go do some inventory updates. And, then what they're also doing is looking for unhealthy trees, things that maybe are low value that would eventually fail in the next two years or so. We can work in that proactive approach, again, to kind of take care of our system in a holistic kind of way. 

Heidi Lakics  11:29  

In the maintenance, routing zones are getting street clearance and sidewalk clearance, they're doing dead wooding, and really mitigating any hazards that are out there and leaving a better product in the end. The intent is that not only are we having a better street life for these trees and the people that are using our streets, but we're going to build resilience into our system so that we're not facing a bunch of tree failures in a storm situation. And, they'll be better off to be more resilient internet than an invented restore. But really, that's what it is. 

Heidi Lakics  12:08  

In hitting these neighborhoods, we want to take a really holistic approach. We're pulling out for stock, getting all our clearance we're done. But, we also want to replant the trees that we do end up removing so that we're working on at least one to one or better, removing replaceable there. What we're also finding is that in doing this more proactively, it means less trips out so that's less fuel spent. And, our contractor has some really cool tools and equipment to be able to move around those neighborhoods more efficiently without having to dump a bunch of diesel into trucks to do all this work. So reduced fuel costs and less emissions from that is also a huge benefit for our own climate.

Larry Kraft  12:56  

Why is it important to maintain a healthy forest in an urban environment - long run?

Scott Altenhoff  13:03  

Tying that back to the Climate Action Plan 2.0, we've really been striving to increase canopy coverage throughout the city. So the extent of tree coverage, and especially focusing on areas that have social challenges, socioeconomic challenges, historically disadvantaged populations and such, that was one of the first goals is to work towards a thirty percent average canopy cover city wide. And, although that's important to focus on extent, the condition of those trees. You can imagine if we have lots of trees, but they're not in the greatest condition, they're not going to provide as many ecosystem services and they'll be many maintenance stresses and requirements. 

Scott Altenhoff  13:51  

As Heidi mentioned, being proactive with our maintenance efforts helps to raise the quality. It's not unlike doing proactive work on a roof. If you wait till the roof is leaking, the costs and the performance overall will be greatly reduced. Getting ahead of the situation through proactive funding and planning can make all the difference. I think it's fair to say in talking with my colleagues nationally, that's the problem that most municipalities our size struggle with, moving from a reactive system, where they're just putting out spot fires to a proactive system. So we're very proud of that. And, that was wrapped into our Climate Action Plan. 

Scott Altenhoff  14:33  

The second was a point that we really work to improve is how we track information. As Heidi mentioned, our tools now allow us to quickly derive information pertaining to our investments or maintenance activities and the returns on those investments. We're able to kind of close that feedback loop very quickly and see how cause and effect work and it's really translated to increased operational efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint. And, once again, maximizing those ecosystem services and co-benefits that trees provide. So, very proud about that. 

Scott Altenhoff  15:14  

Another goal that we linked with the Climate Action Plan 2.0 was to improve our soils. There is a tendency in the field of urban forestry and arboriculture to focus on the trees and to neglect the fact that two-thirds of our carbon sequestration here on Earth occurs in the soils, at least in terrestrial systems. And, the health and well-being of trees depends on having quality soils and ample soil volume. And, in an urban setting, there's so much competition for space, we're losing that. We've really tried to enhance our communication and outreach efforts to get people thinking about soil conservation and protection, because that has profound impacts on not just trees, but water, the hydrological cycle. We've lost the capacity for our soils to absorb water and to sequester carbon. They've been dried out, papered over, and so we're trying to just adopt a more systems thinking approach and work with internal and external partners and collaborators to really think big picture and stop working at cross purposes as municipal departments often do.

Urban tree canopy goals

Larry Kraft  16:34  

I want to dig a little bit further into the urban canopy goals you talked about. You're aiming for thirty percent. I think right now you're at about twenty-two or so if I remember correctly? 

Scott Altenhoff  16:44  

That's correct. 

Larry Kraft  16:45  

How do you get there? I mean, I guess the simple answer is planting more trees. But, there's probably more to it than that. And even what kind of trees? I think that's an also interesting story for as I was reading about some of the stuff you're trying to do.

Scott Altenhoff  16:58  

Yes! Historically, Eugene has been at thirty percent canopy cover in the not too distant past. We know it's possible. Portland, a city far more developed than we are, and larger to the north of us, has just under thirty percent. So we feel that's a realistic target. In terms of getting from where we are to where we want to be, is an excellent question. That's where the devils in the details. 

Scott Altenhoff  17:23  

We've identified potential planting sites, both on our parklands and natural area lands, which will be the highest return on investment. They won't require the same level of maintenance inputs that we would require with street trees. However, we also have arguably about 15,000 currently vacant tree planting sites along our roadways system, and that is a clear low hanging fruit. We have about fifty square miles of area here in Eugene, so we can't do it all. We've got to prioritize our efforts. 

Scott Altenhoff  18:02  

Our focus will be to encourage robust tree planting on our parklands and our natural areas, especially where we have riparian zones that need that cover and habitat and erosion control. But, then neighborhoods and rites away street trees, and we can't do it all. But, we'll look at those areas that have current low canopy cover. And as mentioned previously, social challenges as well. I think if we can plant all those sites, and then as Heidi mentioned, keep our existing trees healthy and producing those ecosystem services and growing, that is where we can quickly make up some canopy cover. I think, based on the trends I've seen, it's within our means if we are just strategic and intentional and follow through on a good plan. Increasing by seven percent system wide is within our reach.

Heidi Lakics  19:03  

There's one other thing I'd add is that we're trying to preserve the truth that makes sense. We take a very open approach to things, sometimes things at the end of their lifecycle and they have to be removed. But, sometimes it's just easy to remove trees for projects because they're in the way. We're really trying to keep things like that from happening, and really focus on preservation when it makes sense to be able to do so. We've been doing things like root pruning or brute shaving or grinding in order to get sidewalk back or curbs back. Sometimes we slimmed down curbs to make way for tree roots. We're really trying to focus a little more on preservation. 

Heidi Lakics  19:46  

One of the things too that we've done here in the last two years is work on fixing our approved street tree list and planting guide. Really for us it's all about right tree in the right spot. We've gone through that whole list and updated it to have more climate adapted trees on our approved list and taking a look at other places that we think our climate might start to change, too. And, looking at the trees there and thinking about what we might want to grow for the future. That list is also broken out so that we're trying to match the right sized tree to the different kinds of street spots that we have out there so that we're not planting trees that are going to be too big in a small spot and then have to be removed down the line. Or, having really small trees planted in really big spots where we can have a bigger tree and have bigger canopy coverage.

Giant Sequoias

Larry Kraft  20:41  

Did I see that you're going to be planting sequoias as part of this too?

Heidi Lakics  20:48  

Yeah, that is one of our tree species out there. On our approved list, there are only options for spaces that are twenty feet or greater in area. But, they're such a great climate adapted tree for our area here and provide a lot of benefits really quickly. 

Scott Altenhoff  21:05  

Just to be clear, as a street tree giant sequoia, is in most cases, unless it's twenty feet or more of a space, we don't recommend it. But, on private property sites or parklands, where there's ample space, giant sequoias are a solid performer. They're really drought tolerant, they sequester carbon, like no other type of tree. And, they seem to be very resilient to storm forces, whether heavy winds or frozen precipitation events, we've planted about three thousand over the last couple of years, as part of a campaign. It was to really link in people's mind, we're going to be hosting the world track and field event. It was scheduled for 2021. That's why we posited the number 2021, to get people thinking about the footprint associated with these big events, and get people to think about offset measures and balancing the equation. If we're going to have an impact, we know we will, how do we compensate that and just connecting the dots for people and making it fun. Oftentimes, when cities host Olympic events, or major world events, they built all this infrastructure, which after the event no longer is useful. And, it's kind of wasteful. We were trying to invest in such a way that would provide enduring benefits for the community and be a memorable event and build cohesion.

Larry Kraft  22:41  

Having been close to sequoias on trips in the past, they're incredible things and they live for a really long time. So the idea of putting something in the ground that's going to provide benefits for maybe hundreds of years is kind of cool.

Scott Altenhoff  22:58  

Yeah, something so iconic. And, we really wanted to hit that awe-inspiring chord in people to say this is important folks. Trees aren't just niceties. They're necessities. And, this can be part of our cultural heritage and identity in the same way that Eugene used to as a former mill town or logging town. It's part of our cultural identity, that connection to trees. And, I think if we just adapt things we can want to people as mentioned before, think of Eugene, I want them to think of big beautiful trees and expensive networks of bike paths and people out hiking and rafting and a thriving economy based on ecotourism and cultural connection and health and well-being.

Canopy management tools

Abby Finis  23:49  

So you guys have talked a little bit about tools that you have at your disposal and what you use for managing the urban forest. We came across the interactive map that provides a bunch of information on the different trees where they are in the city and their health. When we spoke with you earlier, Scott, you mentioned a new tool that you're using, and I think you call that the Canopy Tree Plotter that provides a wealth of useful information. Can you tell us a bit more about that and how you use those tools?

Scott Altenhoff  24:17  

Just by way of context, the inventory interactive inventory tool is a ground based inventory. Folks have gone out and assessed trees - taken their size and the species and condition and put it into a database and that is super helpful for understanding our tree population. In contrast, the new tool is a remote sensing based tool. We call it a spatial decision support system. It gives us an overview of the entire system and then subpopulations of trees, whether those are park trees or street trees, and it allows us to quantify extensive cover or that urban canopy metric that I referred to earlier. And, then it overlays it with the census based information so it gives us insight as to the people situation in those respective areas. It really allows us to target and identify those problem areas that have, once again, the environmental justice challenges. It's going to be a revolutionary tool. 

Scott Altenhoff  25:29  

We have a proprietary product, as mentioned, but there are new free tools available. American Forests just published their tree equity website and tool and for other cities that would like to have access to that information for their own jurisdictions. That's a great starting point. But, what it has allowed us to do is really understand the current situation. And then it allows you to play with potential scenarios to say okay, if we planted this many trees, how would that change the provision of ecosystem services? What would that cost? How many trees of what size would it take? And, it really starts giving you a very clear roadmap to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Abby Finis  26:19  

That's really cool. And that gets to kind of our earlier conversation around urban heat island, or maybe there's stormwater issues or whatever might be happening. It sounds like you can use that tool to target those areas and make plans for trying to cool different parts of the city or adapt to those situations.

Scott Altenhoff  26:36  

Yeah, it identifies and factors in heat related information as well as population vulnerability. So a 130 degree day in Phoenix, Arizona, people are used to it, and they've had a chance to adapt and build accordingly. Here in the northwest 115 degree day, for folks that don't have air conditioning, that haven't had to plan for that intensity, it's a drastically different situation.

Larry Kraft  27:06  

I have one question on that interactive tree map. There's a lot of little dots on that map. How many trees are you tracking on that? And, how long did it take to get them to create the thing?

Heidi Lakics  27:23  

I think there's probably about 100,000 points on that map. And, we have them broken down into three different categories. Green circles are actual trees that we have out there, the yellow circles would be potential planting locations, and red places are where we had a tree and there's a stump now. We can use that tool to see from an overview where we've got trees and where we can focus plantings in certain areas. In conjunction with the tree plotter tool that Scott was talking about to help guide where we need to go. I think our actual number of trees is somewhere closer to 80,000. 

Larry Kraft  28:01  


Scott Altenhoff  28:02  

In the rights of way.

Larry Kraft  28:03  

And, so when you do that ten year pruning cycle, people are pruning - are then they updating that database with what's going on with the tree?

Heidi Lakics  28:09  

Yep! In advance of me dispatching work to our contractor, I have two folks that go out and actually go into that area, and they go street by street, and they update every tree point or planting spot out there. So that we are keeping a really accurate inventory. As we move through this, our inventory is going to be on the same path as our pruning cycle too. Our inventory should be updated every eight to ten years, just like our trees are getting pruned every eight to ten years. It keeps being super fresh and relevant.

Abby Finis  28:43  

As you go from twenty-two to thirty percent tree canopy, are you tracking the carbon benefit of that? Does the tool do that? And, are you counting that toward your goal?

Scott Altenhoff  28:56  

That's one of the other goals that is embedded in the Climate Action Plan. It's really essential to track ecosystem services and then inputs so that we can look at the net benefits. Tracking things like air quality contributions, water quality contributions, pounds of carbon sequestered. And, once again, the cost so that we can look at and refine our return on investment. These sorts of actions require decades of small continuous improvement, it's not something that we can just flip a switch and expect everything to change magically. But, with consistent diligence and linking things over time, I think we'll be able to achieve it.

Abby Finis  29:45  

That's cool. I think a lot of cities struggle with well, how do we count this? How do we capture that?

Scott Altenhoff  29:49  

Yeah. For the first time ever, in my understanding, Eugene had last year or this year, hit the carbon neutral point. We had to purchase some offsets from Washington state, which was somewhat painful to have to invest externally, but that's the way the markets currently operate for certified standards and such. But, personally, I'm really excited about the prospect of being able to purchase carbon credits for offset purposes locally, investing in green infrastructure. That's whether it's tree planting efforts in the urban area, they just haven't been quantified to the same extent that traditional forestry projects have up to this point. And, the financing isn't quite as refined. But, we're slowly but surely building awareness, and I think the market will catch up to us if we keep pushing and talking about it.

Complex problems… simple solutions?

Larry Kraft  30:46  

We've talked on this podcast before about this simple and old, amazing technology called trees, Abby! But, anyway, what are your thoughts on how we approach a complex problem, like climate change, with maybe sometimes with more with technologies that are proven?

Scott Altenhoff  31:13  

Excellent question. Bill Mollison said it well, when he said our problems are becoming increasingly complex, but the solutions remain embarrassingly simple. And, a prime example is that amazing technology known affectionately, as the tree. I can't think of an organism or technology that does a better job of sequestering carbon, providing all the essential benefits, contributions towards air quality, water quality, temperature, wildlife habitat, psychological well being and aiding commercial districts in terms of encouraging folks to linger and building community identity. Trees have so many cobenefits. I think the lesson there is, all these modern technologies, tools and such are great and helpful, but we can't lose sight of the fact that we have had the means to build our cities in a sustainable manner for millennia or centuries. And, it's important to not lose sight of what is really going on. And, to not overcomplicate things. We have a tendency as human beings to overcomplicate problems. Building relationships and understanding and honoring the contributions of good old mother nature. If we're working in harmony, and in sync with natural processes, that will contribute to sustainability and help combat climate change. If we're working in opposition to nature and natural processes, that's going to be not successful.

Abby Finis  32:59  

So thinking beyond maybe just the strategies or technologies and how we move forward as a society on advancing climate action, or I want to fast forward to the future, we imagine, right? I want to live in that now. It's not going to happen, of course, but we at least need to make the steps to move there. How do you see us doing that? Who needs to be involved and what needs to happen to make meaningful gains on advancing toward that future?

Heidi Lakics  33:30  

I think it's going to take everybody in hearing their different roles to work together to get to those points of being and that's something that we've been really focusing on is building those partnerships and relations with other departments in our city, our fellow workgroups and parks and natural areas. And, also folks in public works engineering, and folks downtown to really be on the same page about what our goals are, and how we're going to get there. In addition to just the folks that we work with here at the City, we also have a really great nonprofit here in Eugene called Friends of Trees. They're helping to get trees planted and trees pruned in ways that we can't quite do here in the city. And then, we've been focusing time to work with other tree companies out there private arborists, as well as landscape companies to work collaboratively to get to those points, because it's going to take all of us to get there. We've got a lot of active just private citizens in town too who are really keen on tree issues out there who are fighting to work on preservation or tree planting and those kinds of things. I think if we all work together as a team, we're going to be able to get to those goals a lot quicker.

Abby Finis  34:46  

All right. Any advice that you would like to share for other cities?

Scott Altenhoff  34:52  

Well just figure out what your strengths are both as an organization, whether it's a municipal entity or county or regional entity, and then to leverage those strengths. Also, identify where your challenges are in vein of systems thinking, start working to turn your problems into solutions or your liabilities into assets. So if you've got an issue, figure out how to understand it, and then transform it in and leverage it to your advantage. And, don't forget the importance, as Heidi just mentioned, of relationships. Bridging the gap between government and the nonprofit sector and the commercial sector, and breaking down the silos that just keep us from communicating and collaborating. And it seems once we have a common understanding of the problem, and the common understanding of where we want to go, the strategies come pretty quickly. Keep the relationship strong, and as you folks understand all too well, given that you're doing podcasts, utilize storytelling. We are, for lack of a better description, mythical creatures. We can take in all the data or raw information we want, but it's not going to translate to action. We need to add that all-compelling emotional content and the narrative. Really think about how not just doing the work, but then telling the story about that work and building enthusiasm, understanding, and buy in for those efforts.

Abby Finis  36:37  

Well, thank you both for joining us for this conversation! We really appreciate it.

Abby and Larry debrief

Larry Kraft  36:44  

Alright, Abby. So what are your takeaways from your prior home?

Abby Finis  36:51  

Yeah, so I did. I lived in Eugene for three and a half years well I attended the University of Oregon. I am a little bit surprised to hear that it's twenty two percent tree canopy, I would think it might be a little bit higher than that. But of course, that's average city wide. And, I spent a lot of my time over by the campus so I might have felt a bit more tree coverage over there. And you know, I just come back to, we take trees for granted often kind of as a global society. I know a lot of people understand and know the benefits of trees. So for me, it was just really a lovely conversation to hear how much support there is for this urban forestry program and that they're able to really take management of the urban forest to the next level. And, thinking long term about how do we build a sustainable forest within our community so that we can maximize those benefits for an urban ecosystem?

Larry Kraft  37:47  

That really struck me about the tools they have. The level of obvious attention and investment they've put into understanding their canopy and their trees. And, then the benefit that it provides when they want to go from twenty two to thirty percent, they can actually identify here are the places we're gonna go to make it happen, right, it becomes very real.

Abby Finis  38:09  

Yeah, I think it's really cool. And, just even the simpler tool, I guess, with the inventory, and the interactive map that comes with that, which you took a lot of ground truth in time to go out and measure those trees can still provide you with a lot of valuable information. And then to go next level, with the tree plotter, it just sounds like a very valuable tool that many cities can use to prioritize how they want to manage and grow their forests within their communities.

Larry Kraft  38:38  

There was something else that Heidi was telling about after we stopped recording about things that they've done to get folks up in trees to actually experience them where they took their mayor and fire chief, maybe police chief, up 150 feet in the air and the tops of some of these trees to actually get, you know, a canopy view of what's going on. That sounds really cool. I want to go do that.

Abby Finis  39:00  

Yeah, I love that. It took me back to elementary school and we watched nature programs or something and they'd like go up into the canopy of these rain forests or something, it's like, I want to do that. That sounds really awesome. Just a totally different view of the tree. And, appreciation for that and the city around it.

Larry Kraft  39:18  

My son who's now a teenager, never passed by a climbable tree that he didn't try to climb. Brings back to doing that kind of stuff.

Abby Finis  39:27  

Yeah, and the more we can grow our appreciation for trees, the more we can make the case for why we should budget for them and hence city budgets. And, it is a very simple solution to this complex problem. It's obviously not the only one, but it provides those multiple benefits from storing carbon and providing that offset, to resilience and adaptation measures.

Larry Kraft  39:52  

Right stormwater management, shade, temperature.

Abby Finis  39:55  


Larry Kraft  39:56  

Air quality.

Abby Finis  39:58  

Yes. And that mental health is huge, right? This is a big thing. Trees are everywhere. I think I gave an unsolicited idea to turn the Autzen Stadium parking lot into a Sequoia forest beer garden. Get rid of the cars - get more trees. 

Larry Kraft  40:15  

For those who don't know what is the Autzen Stadium?

Abby Finis  40:18  

Larry everybody knows. We're the most obnoxious. All of the fans in the PAC 12. The University of Oregon Ducks football team plays in Autzen Stadium.

Larry Kraft  40:28  

All right. All right, quack, quack.

Abby Finis  40:31  

Go Ducks!

Abby Finis  40:35  

We hope you enjoyed this episode of City Climate Corner. If you like what you're hearing, make sure to subscribe and give us a review. If you're able, become a monthly supporter through Patreon. As always, you can find more information on this topic and resources from each episode's guests on our webpage If you have an idea for the show, send us an email at or find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Larry Kraft  40:59  

City Climate Corner is produced by Abby Finis and me, Larry Kraft,. Edited by me. Our Production Assistant is Maggie Morin. Music by ...

Abby Finis  41:07  

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Larry Kraft  41:09  

Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time.