Meet Three Women of Urban Forestry
- Julie Fukuda – Supervising Tree Technician
- Natasha Lipai – Operations Administrative Specialist
- Mari Aviles – Tree Planting Coordinator
Who or what inspired you to work in the urban forestry field?
Julie - I was raised in Tokyo, a large sprawling city not known for its tree canopy, but my family lived in a small expatriate international neighborhood nestled under a mature canopy of katsura, zelkova, dawn redwood, Japanese live oak, and ginkgo. My siblings and I climbed trees, and my family had views of mature trees from every window of our home. A large (really!) Japanese maple filtered light through my bedroom window. My mom is a tree lover raised by nature lovers and she grew up on a tree-lined street with backyard access to a nature trail in Euclid, Ohio. Our phone books (remember those?) were always used more for pressing leaves than finding phone numbers. I immediately started planting with Friends of Trees when I moved to Portland in 1990. I completed a BS in biology at Portland State University – if they offered a forestry program I would have enrolled – and my love for trees has only grown since then.
Natasha - I have always loved nature, and growing up near Portland, I have a deep-seated appreciation for seeing trees and green everywhere I look. Then, while volunteering on the Street Tree Inventory as a college student, I learned to take a closer look at trees while practicing tree identification. Then things clicked, and trees became even more fascinating and important to me. I love that there is always something new to learn in the field, and it feels good to be one small part of ensuring the future health of our forest and community. What we do matters.
Mari - I was actually inspired to work in the urban forestry field by my older sister. She’s only a year older than I am but she started working for Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s Youth Tree Team in 2007. She worked first as a youth and then as a team leader to provide establishment maintenance to hundreds of trees across the city. She tried to get me to apply for years and it wasn’t until 2012 that I finally gave in. Most of my career has since been working in the urban forest. I would probably not be where I was if it wasn’t for that push from her.
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
Natasha -This isnot emphasized or practiced enough, but the professional relationships with everyone you work with are so important. I am most proud of the quality of my working relationships with colleagues across Parks and in other bureaus, and in the face of a pandemic and so many stressful changes over the last few years.
What is the top urban forestry challenge that the city faces?
Mari- I would say that one of the biggest obstacles that the urban forest faces is the loss of mature trees. All of the incoming funding for planting will be very instrumental in getting more trees in places where they are most needed. And we need to plant more trees. But it takes decades before young trees mature enough to provide the same level of shade and ecosystem services as a larger, mature tree. The more we can do to preserve trees in addition to planting them, the better we may be able to grow and enhance the urban canopy.
Julie - I still meet people who have never heard the term “urban forestry” and are unfamiliar with the concept that urban trees are an essential resource with specific management requirements. How do we garner support from the community when the community still lacks awareness? When I was a part of the performing group Portland Taiko I remember some in the performing community talking about spreading awareness of the artform so that “taiko” would become as familiar a word as “sushi.” Similarly what can each of us do to help all Portlanders feel connected to our urban forest, to identify as forest-dwellers, and for more people to participate in our collective responsibility to steward this shared resource by preserving trees as well as planting for the next generation?
We are so grateful to Mari, Natasha, Julie, and all the other women that make Urban Forestry great!