05 Feb 2010, Posted by Mark Buscaino in Future Forward, 0 Comments

Future Forward – Mark Buscaino

Mark Buscaino describes his Helsinki trip as a portal that opened his eyes to urban forestry in other places. “Here’s a country where they have been planting over decades, over centuries to maintain the wooded environment in their cities,” says Buscaino. “I was amazed at the lengths they go to make sure tree plantings are successful, right down to assuring adequate space for rooting volume.”

In such staff of the City of Helsinki Public Works Department as project manager Elina Nummi and field arborist Sami Kiema, Buscaino experienced a ready curiosity about non-profit programming and Casey Tree’s educational outreach. “There’s strong interest in our community engagement, our communications and comprehensive mapping (Casey Trees maps and documents all its tree plantings). Helsinki doesn’t currently program much in the way of public activities, but when they do, they’ve experienced enormous response.”

The May 2009 seminar hosted by the Embassy of Finland presented Helsinki/Washington viewpoints on raising environmental awareness to an audience of District government representatives, Casey Trees citizen foresters, a volunteer group of 750 citizens trained in urban forestry techniques. Elina Nummi from the Public Works Department of Helsinki and Kaisa Pajanen and Johanna Joutsiniemi, from Helsinki’s Environment Center spoke and engaged the audience in discussion, as did key staff from Casey Trees. “It was wonderful to have an opportunity to involve our volunteers and show them firsthand the breadth and depth of our resources and global engagement. They plant trees but don’t get to often see the broader view. The most important effective tool is the exchange of people; you have to get people working together, it’s very powerful.”

To that end, Armi Koskela, a student studying communication and community engagement, and Sami Kiema will be coming to DC for 3 months in spring 2010 to work with Casey Trees to better understand the nonprofit’s approach. Armi will work with Casey Tree’s education department which promotes urban forestry awareness and education through a diverse collection of lectures, workshops, demonstrations, celebrations, and tree walks. Sami will be working directly with field crews.

In the future Buscaino would like to see select staff go to Helsinki to further share ideas on how Casey Tree activities can be modified to bring the Helsinki community in and heighten awareness of the Public Works Department’s urban forestry activities. “Non-profits hire young idealistic folks, and when you have an organization built of people like that, you can make an incredible difference. We’ve got a 10- year road map of successes and failures to share, and I look forward to more.”

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About the writer

Mark Buscaino Executive Director, Casey Trees Mark Buscaino
Growing up just outside New York City, Mark Buscaino's relationship with trees and the environment began exploring the nearby woods and river and his teenage landscaping and lawn mowing business. Following undergraduate studies in business administration, he found himself reconnecting with his love of nature and the environment in the Peace Corps in West Africa. Working first in animal husbandry in Benin, he saw an opportunity to start up the country's first forestry program. He trained volunteers, starting trees from seeds, and launched a national movement of village-operated nurseries. "It drove me nuts that aid organizations said farmers could not produce trees from seeds," says Buscaino. "They were farmers, they grew corn and all kinds of things from seeds. I couldn't understand why they just didn't take the nursery to the villages and that's what I did. Now if you go back to that area in Africa, you see plantations all over the place and all those plantations have been put down by the villagers themselves." Buscaino's passion for connecting the community with trees continues in his work as Executive Director of Casey Trees, a nonprofit organization that restores, enhances, and protects the tree canopy of the nation's capital. The former National Director for the Urban and Community Forestry Program at the USDA Forest Service knows firsthand the importance of exposing young people to green career opportunities and stewardship. "Very few people get into this profession," says Buscaino. "Our Summer Urban Forestry Internship Program gives local community-sponsored high school opportunities they normally would not encounter until mid-way through a college career." In Helsinki, he looks forward to seeing the city's interface with nonprofits, and the city's planning in terms of the green spaces, the environment, and the laws that support these efforts. "Europe is fascinating for any urban forester. They have done a lot more to plan their development in a cohesive fashion than we have in the United States. That fascinates me because it's almost as though they're a thousand years down the timeline, and we can learn so much. "


The Public Works Department of the City of Helsinki is responsible for the planning, construction and maintenance of streets and green areas in Helsinki as well as for parking control. The planning, construction and commissioning of city premises are also part of our duties. Our aim is to create a durable, beautiful and functional city to meet the needs of residents, companies and the capital.

Project manager Elina Nummi, Public Works department, Streets and
Parks Division will host Mr Buscaino's stay. Ms Nummi (in the picture in her Auntie Green outfit) is in charge of developing and coordinating voluntary work, environmental education, campaigns and sponsorship in park environments.

We will introduce Mr Mark Buscaino to ongoing work and research on trees in Helsinki, the extensive central park forest areas for recreation, offer him a glimpse of the education provided by our Nature School and show him our beloved nature reserve in the centre of Helsinki, (link: Viikki www.gardenia Mr Buscaino will share his expertise in tree care with our arborists and gardeners during a half-day seminar.

Ms Nummi will visit Washington DC in May and participate in an educational event organised by Casey Trees as "Auntie Green". The City of Helsinki will donate a poster called "Our Friend the Tree" to the schools of DC.

The Public Works Department, City of Helsinki