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WMAction helps Northampton with urban forest canopy
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Four WMA students spent seven hours Sept. 13 working with an arborist, forester and professor.

WMAction helps Northampton with urban forest canopy

Wilbraham & Monson Academy’s WMAction took volunteering to a rare level Sept. 13.

Not only did Coach John Lombard and four of his team members generously donate their time off campus, but they worked side by side with and learned from people regarded as experts in their respective field.

For seven hours, the WMAction members collaborated with an arborist, forester and professor in Northampton regarding the city’s current and future tree situation.

“Trees might be our simplest low-hanging fruit for cooling off urban centers that have urban hot zones - that means people are using less electricity, using less fossil fuels, and that will have a direct way in how to slow down our, what seems like an inescapable, path we’re on,” Coach Lombard said. “We’ll pass two degrees warming fairly soon, and if we pass six degrees, it’s incompatible of human life as we know it.

“Trees are critical background for our future survival.”

WMAction’s James Sabatino ’16, Sally Qiu ’16, David Zhang ’17 and Samantha Pajak ’15 surveyed 5-7% of the city’s trees that are within 10 feet of a street. The group used an i-Tree application.

Coach Lombard was involved in a similar activity for his WMA-sponsored Global Educator Grant, where he went to Toronto and met with forestry leaders on how to help with that city’s carbon footprint. With a 40% urban forest canopy rating, Toronto is regarded as a world leader in that area.

“This was a unique volunteer project for a high school student,” Coach Lombard said. “There was a lot of intellectual engagement, working with software, and working toward something that’s very important for the city of Northampton.

“Having an academic, real world component to that volunteering was very exciting, and it also had an activist component.”

Sally worked alongside a professor from the University of Massachusetts, measuring various trees regarding their type and size.

“The researcher taught us how to use the i-Tree application,” Sally explained. “At first I thought it was going to be very hard to use because it’s such a sophisticated app, but it’s actually very easy as long as you know how to do it.

“The opportunity to work with a professional let me learn . . . it was like taking a university lecture.”

Coach Lombard said the sample size WMAction helped provide will help the city of Northampton determine how many more trees it will need to improve the urban forest canopy.

“The value of homes goes way up when they have tree-lined neighborhoods,” Coach Lombard said. “There’s a rule of thumb: for every dollar spent on a tree you get four dollars back.”