The Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership has awarded its Mira Lloyd Dock Partnership Diversity Awards to Kiasha Huling of Philadelphia and Shauna Yorty of Lancaster. The women were recognized for their conservation work and community building in under-represented portions of their cities.
“The Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership wants to honor those working in historically excluded communities in Pennsylvania,” said Brenda Sieglitz, manager of the partnership coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). “Both Kiasha Huling and Shauna Yorty have demonstrated that they support their communities through engagement, outreach, and environmental conservation and are excellent candidates to help the partnership in its mission to plant ten million trees for Pennsylvania.”
The partnership presented the awards to Huling and Yorty during the Pennsylvania Forestry Association’s (PFA) virtual annual symposium and meeting on Thursday.
The PFA presented its Mira Lloyd Dock Award to Marci Mowery. She has actively worked as the President of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, leading growth and expansion of an organization that positively impacts state parks and forests.
Under Kiasha Huling’s stewardship, the non-profit group UC Green, along with 650 volunteers, and over 1,200 residents have planted 5,000 trees, putting West and Southwest Philadelphia neighborhoods on the path to wellness, safety, and social cohesion.
A survey in west Philadelphia showed higher instances of asthma among children and higher instances of seniors reporting to emergency rooms for heat related illness in summer months. “It was a pretty obvious relationship between those physical health events and trees,” Huling says.
Urban trees provide cooling shade and windbreaks that reduce energy costs in all seasons, provide noise buffers for quieter neighborhoods, and reduce air pollution that improves air quality. Studies have also shown that trees make city-dwellers happier, healthier, and more connected to their communities.
A licensed social worker, Huling attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice where she received a master’s degree in Social Work. The focus of her work has been around medical social work and public health.
Huling says UC Green focuses on the value of planting trees and fostering healthy communities, starting with how they are planted. “We plant trees together with residents,” Huling adds. “Our two annual tree plantings are 100 percent volunteers and neighbors planting trees for neighbors. It brings us a little bit closer together.”
Shauna Yorty lives and works in the diverse, low-income, and predominantly refugee and immigrant Mussertown neighborhood in the southeastern quadrant of the City of Lancaster.
She collaborates with the City of Lancaster, local businesses, and diverse community groups to coordinate volunteer events and expand the community garden’s footprint.
The garden was started 10 years ago through Church World Service, which works with immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, so they would have a way to get acclimated to the neighborhood, other people, and to grow their own food.
Yorty is certified in Permaculture, has organized large-scale mural events not far from the garden and hosts education and volunteer events to engage and educate her community.
“It’s like a web of connection that is really cool, and the different languages makes it really cool because it is a big mix,” Yorty says. “Half the time I don’t know what anybody is saying, but they do.
“It’s a lot of movement and energy and diversity,” she adds. “It’s like being in a forest that is really healthy. It’s a healthy ecosystem with all the biodiversity.”
As part of the Mira Lloyd Dock Awards, Huling and Yorty will receive $5,000 worth of trees and supplies each, to help advance their efforts.
“This award was created to honor the spirit of Mira Lloyd Dock, who pursued urban beautification and forest conservation at a time when women or people of color were not welcomed at the decision table,” Sieglitz said.
Mira Lloyd Dock is recognized as the first Pennsylvania woman to lead the way in forest conservation. She was an advocate for Penn’s Woods and in 1901 was appointed to the State Forest Reservation Commission by Pennsylvania Governor William Stone. The Commission’s goal was to purchase tens of thousands of acres of clear-cut forest that were abandoned by logging companies.
CBF launched the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership in 2018, focused on Pennsylvania’s Clean Water Blueprint and with a goal of planting 10 million trees for Pennsylvania.
The partnership is a collaborative effort of groups representing national, regional, state, and local agencies, conservation organizations, watershed groups, conservancies, outdoors enthusiasts, businesses, and individuals.
Collective efforts by the 200-member partnership and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources have added more than three million trees along local streams and in urban settings since the campaign launched.
Pennsylvania groups will plant an estimated 300,000 trees this fall and aim to plant 800,000 during the upcoming spring season.
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