September 2020
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As I write this, kids are learning in newly established outdoor classrooms, friends are catching up on their lives under big shade trees, and restaurants are serving dinner outside, where fresh air adds another important layer of safety during the pandemic. Many of us have learned this year just how adaptable we can be, and just how much the urban forest facilitates our resilience. But not everyone has access to the same urban forest benefits. This summer I’ve spent considerable time exploring the connections between community health, racism, and public spaces and asked myself, “What am I doing to bring anti-racism into urban forestry work?” I encourage all of you to email me with suggestions for how to better accomplish this important aspect of our work. This month, our newsletter showcases some national and local health resources and projects that support our common, critical relationship with the urban forest.
Paula Randler, Urban & Community Forestry Program Manager, US Forest Service-Region 8




Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives Initiative Promotes Human Health-Nature Connection

Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives (HTHL) is an initiative started in 2017 by the Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF) in collaboration with other regional state forestry groups, and with funding from the U.S. Forest Service. The initiative aims to increase understanding of the connections between human health and nature. HTHL started with each of the 13 southern state forestry agencies sharing social media messages about the connections of forests and trees to human health. 

In 2019, the SGSF applied for and was awarded a Forest Service grant to fund an expanded HTHL communications campaign, including an engaging, accessible website that includes a resource library and success stories, such as the Lone Star Family Health Center, UF Health Children’s Healing Garden (described in the Updates section), and the #QuaranTREES campaign. It will also eventually include a downloadable communications and marketing toolkit, media relations support, educational activities and curriculum, and slideshows that doctor’s offices can display in their lobbies. 


Responding to Richmond's Urban Heat Island

Richmond, VA, is like many cities across the United States: highly populated with an aging tree canopy that has encountered increased urban heat island effects in recent years. To address this, citizen scientists measured temperatures during a 2017 heatwave to design community scale adaptation plans. They found that the warmest communities in the city were in areas with more impermeable surface areas and less tree canopy. The results also uncovered that these communities consisted mostly of low-income families and have more residents of color.

UF Health Children's Healing Garden

In partnership with USDA Forest Service and other organizations, UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, FL, has created a Children’s Healing Garden. This garden is a certified Nature Explore classroom, part of a network of nature-based play and learning spaces. This unique outdoor space promotes healing and wellness through connection with nature. The garden includes walking paths, butterfly gardens, ample seating, raised gardening beds, and interactive areas for engaging in unstructured exploratory play.

Green Heart Louisville

In the fall of 2017, the Green Heart Project was launched to examine the link between neighborhood trees and human health in Louisville, Kentucky. The five-year study is the first of its kind to scientifically assess the impact of urban green space on air quality and human health. A local non-profit partner, Louisville Grows, was contracted to plant and care for trees in the project area. Initial delays have slowed tree planting efforts; however, planting initiatives are underway.



Centers for Disease Control Heat & Health Tracker 

 Extreme heat events have long threatened public health in the United States. The CDC Heat & Health Tracker provides local heat and health information so communities can better prepare for and respond to extreme heat events. County profiles provide specific information on its vulnerable populations, how extreme heat events are changing in the community, and more.


Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities App

The Nature Conservancy's Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities (HTHC) App will help you take actions to improve the quality of life in your community through the planting, care, and stewardship of trees in your yard, neighborhood, and community. 



Community Forestry Program Opportunity

Do you want a community forest that provides economic, environmental, social, and health benefits? Does your community need help buying private forest land? This USDA FS Program offers a unique opportunity for communities to acquire and conserve forests


Nature's Impact on Human Health Toolkit

The Nature Conservancy, the USDA Forest Service and several partners are developing a resource toolkit to help practitioners with limited access to formal researchers to demonstrate the human health effects of green interventions in their communities. The toolkit contains a rapid health assessment tool, basic guidance to help toolkit users identify how people feel about their own health as a result of nature engagement, and more.


The Ecological and Evolutionary Consequences of Systemic Racism 

This article, featured in the journal Science, reviews how systemic racist practices, such as residential segregation (enacted in part through the practice of redlining), have led to unequal distribution of nature within cities. 


New Faces in State U&CF Forestry

We have several new people that have joined State urban and community forestry programs across the South over the last few months. In this issue we highlight Sara Huffman from Kentucky Division of Forestry and Seth Hawkins from the Georgia Forestry Commission. Learn more about them here.



Upcoming Conferences & Webinars:

Urban Forest Connections Webinar Series

SHIFT Health and Nature Webinar Series

Natural Resource Conservation Webinar Series: Introduction to Monarch Butterfly Biology and Conservation in the Southeast
October 7, 2020

Community Forest and Open Space Program Webinar
October 13, 2020


SHIFT Healthy by Nature Conference
October 14-16, 2020


Partners in Community Forestry
November 17-18, 2020

Nature and Health Conference 2021
University of Washington, Seattle, WA


PBS Hour: Ambitious Louisville study seeks to understand impact of trees on our health
Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives: Lone Star Family Health Center


How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering

The Ecological and Evolutionary Consequences of Systemic Racism in Urban Environments

Planting Healthy Air

Urban Nature for Human Health

Green Cities, Good Health

Be Safe Outdoors

Nature, Outdoor Experiences, and Human Health

© 2019 USDA Forest Service Urban Forestry South, All rights reserved.
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