On a hot, sunny day in Pittsburgh, a couple dozen teenagers were tending to tiny seedlings at Tree Pittsburgh's Tree Seedling Nursery in Point Breeze. They were there as part of Operation Better Block's Jr. Green Corps, an initiative that provides Homewood youth with structured activities in an effort to impact their physical environment, equip them for leadership roles in the community, and provide them with an opportunity to explore green collar jobs and careers.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Butch Blazer joined Tree Pittsburgh and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at the seedling nursery. He said such initiatives are in line with the Obama Administration's goal for youth.
"How can we, the federal government, work with the city, work with local organizations like Tree Pittsburgh, work with a lot of your non-profits to create wonderful opportunities for our young people?" said Blazer.
People from Tree Pittsburgh, city government and others accompanied Blazer on a tour of several Tree Pittsburgh sites. They included the Southside Riverfront Trail, Mount Washington overlook, and Allegheny Commons. Blazer said the efforts to revitalize and maintain urban forests are important, especially in light of recent data that more and more Americans live in urban areas.
"Most of us here understand the importance that trees have on the psyche of humans," said Blazer. "It's extremely important that we have trees in our urban areas."
Tree Pittsburgh also outlined details of its Urban Forest Master Plan for the city of Pittsburgh. The plan is a road map, providing detailed information, recommendations, and resources needed to effectively and proactively manage and grow the urban forest.
"The focus of the plan really is how to expand the size and condition of the city's tree canopy," said Tree Pittsburgh Executive Director Danielle Crumrine, "and when we talk about the urban forest, we mean trees that are growing in your alley, trees in your yard, trees on our hillsides and our parks, it's all the trees in the City of Pittsburgh."