July 12, 2008

Conference Focuses on Trees: Coast Conservation Efforts to Be Honored

By Kat Bergeron, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Jul. 12--Trees are vital to a healthy community, a point driven home as coastal counties face storm rebuilding and new development.

So when Bay St. Louis writer and artist Ellis Anderson convinces people to literally hug trees, and when a town like Pass Christian hones its tree friendliness, the Mississippi Urban Forest Council takes note.

They will join Gulf Coast Conservation Corps, credited with planting 30,000 trees, and a dozen other Coast people and organizations singled out for statewide awards during the July 22-24 Mississippi Green Infrastructure and Urban Forest Conference in Hattiesburg.

The conference, open to the public and community leaders, offers workshops by five national experts on "community forestry," the new term for urban green spaces and trees that surround where we live, work and play.

"This is a chance to learn the newest trends for any community interested in emphasizing 'green,'

" said Donna V. Yowell, council executive director.

"We're bringing in the experts to help the Coast and the rest of Mississippi focus on the use of natural resources, green spaces and trees in all developments and buildings, whether commercial, residential or governmental."

Yowell said one of the biggest challenges is the 90 percent federal government cuts in urban forestry grants municipalities and states have depended on in the past.

"The future of community forestry is going to be based on local leaders and property owners," she said. "That's why this conference and what it teaches is so important."

About the conference What: Mississippi Green Infrastructure and Urban Forestry Conference

When: July 22-24; awards banquet 6 p.m. July 23

Where: Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center, 124 Hardy St., Hattiesburg

Sponsors: Mississippi Urban Forestry Council, Mississippi State Extension Service; U.S. Forestry Service; Mississippi Forestry Commission and others.

Price: $65 per day or $125 for entire conference. Banquet is $25.

Workshops: Jim "Father of Urban Forestry" Coder; James Urban, green infrastructure; Bucky Abbey, landscape codes; Ed Blake, land ecosystems; Malcom Guidry, tree appraisals.

Coast awards: Best Tree Campaign, Ellis Anderson, Tree-Hugging Pride; Katrina Tree Recovery Award, Hancock County Chamber of Commerce; Urban Forest Masters Awards, 525 trained and the 2008 winners are Joe Ravita, Melanie Walrod, Joe Loftus and Maureen and George Rayborn; Corporate Award: DuPont DeLisle; Best Arborists, Rob Crawford of Long Beach and Joe Currie, formerly of MSU Extension Service; Best Civic Group, Gulf Coast Conservation Corp.; Tree Friendly Town, Pass Christian.

Details: msurbanforest.com; 601-672-0755.


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