Bill Kincius, Manager of Urban Forestry, Indianapolis Department of Public Works answers our question. Get to know him and his cool job that helps people and nature thrive:
Q: What is your actual job description?
A: I am charged with managing the resources and policies that the City allocates toward care of trees in the Rights-of-Way and other City-owned land such as parks and greenways.
Q: What exactly is urban forestry?
A: My own definition: “The practice of protecting, conserving, maintaining, removing, and planting trees in urban or soon-to-be urban areas.”
Q: Why does Indianapolis need an Urban Forester?
A: The City benefits greatly from the many services that the urban forest provides, and therefore it is important to have someone responsible for protecting and enhancing our forestry assets.
Q: Who do you work most closely with in this position?
A: From an agency perspective, the majority of our time is dedicated to coordination of issues with DPW Operations and DPW Engineering. We have a long list of other governmental agencies and non-profit groups with whom we work on things like capital projects, asset maintenance, code enforcement, policy improvement, information management, public-private partnerships, and education and outreach.
Q: How does someone become an urban forester?
A: There are many paths to becoming a knowledgeable and skilled urban forestry professional, but they all involve a combination of education and experience. The most direct route is to complete a college or university program specifically geared toward urban forestry. Many institutions actually offer a degree in urban forestry. Then the next step is to pursue a career in the field of urban forestry, which can be in many different industries, such as municipal management, private consulting, for-hire tree care and maintenance, institutional grounds management, education and advocacy, utility line maintenance, park management, and non-profit organizations.
Q: Did you know everything about trees before you took this job?
A: Certainly not! Nor do I currently know everything about trees, but that is the challenge: to never stop learning about your profession, and constantly improve your own ability to manage the responsibility that your job demands in the most effective way possible. The individuals who will have the most success against the challenges of a professional career are the ones who never stop learning and continue to apply themselves.
Q: Are you in the field a lot, or do you sit at a desk most days?
A: As the manager of the City’s urban forestry policies and interactions with the public, as well as other agencies and non-governmental groups, I am in the office or at meetings most of the time. When I worked in a smaller community my responsibilities included inspection of maintenance issues and I was able to spend more time in the field. I usually find that I am out in the field for at least a little while each week, which I appreciate as this is a privilege that not many other managers in the City get to enjoy.
Q: What is Emerald Ash Borer?
A: EAB is an invasive insect that first arrived in North America about a decade ago and is steadily causing total mortality of all Ash tree species in the Midwest, including Indianapolis. Currently we are monitoring its progression through the City and working to keep the public safe by identifying and anticipating areas where the infestation is most severe. Unfortunately we do not have enough resources to continuously protect each ash tree on public property, however, certain key locations are being treated through a public-private partnership via a generous donation by a private tree care company.
Q: What are some of the biggest concerns Indy’s tree canopy are facing right now?
A: The biggest concerns are threats from other invasive pests like EAB which have the ability to further reduce our overall canopy. To name a few, Asian Longhorn Beetle and Thousand Cankers Disease could also wreak havoc on the City’s urban forest if they are discovered here.
Q: Are you working on any cool initiatives you’d like to share?
A: We are working on internal process improvements that will give us much better success with the forestry components of DPW’s capital improvement projects. We have received several grants that will allow us to continue collecting data about our urban forest, with the goal being to inventory every public tree that the City manages. We are working with a local university to explore ways to remotely gather data about the overall urban forest.
Do you, or someone you know, have a cool job that helps people and nature thrive? Let us know. We love to highlight awesome work happening all over Indy!