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Tree Pittsburgh spruces up city's 'urban forest'

| Friday, June 29, 2012, 12:19 a.m.
Taishawn Daniels, 14, of Homewood, clips the roots of a seedling tree while Jawuan Pippens, 17, of Homewood waits to transfer it to a larger pot at the Tree Pittsburgh Tree Seedling Nursery on Thursday afternoon, June 29, 2012. USDA Deputy Undersecretary Butch Blazer and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl would later visit the nursery to discuss Pittsburgh's efforts to expand its urban forest. Gwen Titley | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
USDA Deputy Undersecretary Butch Blazer and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl observe Junior Green Corps participants transferring tree seedlings into larger pots on Thursday afternoon, June 29, 2012. Blazer and Ravenstahl went on to speak at the nursery, emphasizing Pittsburgh's effort to grow its urban forest. Gwen Titley | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
USDA Deputy Undersecretary Butch Blazer and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl speak with the executive director of Tree Pittsburgh, Danielle Crumrine, about the seedling nursery. Blazer and Ravenstahl went on to speak at the nursery on Thursday afternoon, June 29, 2012, emphasizing Pittsburgh's effort to grow its urban forest. Gwen Titley | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A group dedicated to making sure Pittsburgh trees are as healthy as they can be wants to give the city a leafy green makeover.

Tree Pittsburgh on Thursday outlined a plan to protect and improve what it calls the city's “urban forest.”

“It's extremely important to care for the health of trees in urban areas,” said Deputy Undersecretary Butch Blazer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who was in Pittsburgh for the announcement. “And that's not an easy thing.”

The nonprofit Tree Pittsburgh, depending on how much money it can raise, aims to:

• Eliminate the disparity in where trees in the city are located.

Danielle Crumrine, executive director of Tree Pittsburgh, said tree canopy covers 42 percent of the city but most of it is over hillsides and parks. Low-income neighborhoods have fewer trees than more upscale ones, she said. The group wants to start a program to encourage homeowners to plant trees on private property.

• Increase the city's biodiversity. Most of the city's trees, Crumrine said, are maple.

• Improve public education of what it takes to keep trees healthy. Crumrine wants to schedule seminars where residents can learn what to look for in tree diseases and pests; and encourage the city to adopt a maintenance plan so each large tree in the city gets inspected and trimmed every seven years.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Blazer joined teens at Tree Pittsburgh's Seedling Nursery in Homewood as they transplanted seedlings in a symbolic show of the city's commitment to the cause. Their work was part of the Junior Green Corps' Operation Better Block, which aims to prevent the spread of neighborhood blight in Homewood.

“It's nice to see how the city of Pittsburgh is supporting this effort,” Blazer said.

Bob Bauder and Megan Guza are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

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