Protecting the Canopy: An Interview with Bill Toomey

Protecting urban tree canopies from invasive pests is no easy task but that’s exactly what Bill Toomey and the staff of The Nature Conservancy are doing.

Bill Toomey Bill Toomey is a busy man these days. In his role as Forest Health Director at the Nature Conservancy Bill is charged with, among other things, helping to stem the tide of invasive pests that are devastating trees across the country. Today, there are a number of high impact pests that threaten trees in our cities and in our natural forests. One of the most dangerous is the Emerald Ash Borer, the shiny beetle that is thought to have entered the country on cargo ships. Since first being detected in 2002, these pests have destroyed tens of millions of ash trees with no sign of slowing down. “We have so many beautiful trees and forests in our country that provide us with a host of benefits. It’s important that everyone understand the significant threat, and financial impact, posed to them by invasive insects such as the Emerald Ash Borer.” In an effort to stop the next invasive pest from entering the country, Bill is working with federal and state agencies, professional associations and non-profit partners to enhance standards and rules at the borders that will stop the entry of contaminated wood.

Men Measuring a Tree

Large shipments of inbound goods arriving daily make cities highly vulnerable to infestations. With the launch of their Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities program, Bill and The Nature Conservancy are taking an innovative approach to saving city trees, raising awareness, and educating city residents about the signs of infestation. This exciting new program focuses on engaging urban citizens in the care and stewardship of the trees in their community. “These are the folks who see their trees every day and by teaching them what to look for, and how to report it, we can increase our chances of early detection and maybe stop the next big infestation” said Bill. According to Bill, technology has also become an important tool for these city tree advocates. With a host of new apps at their fingertips, volunteers and youth crews can quickly snap a picture of anything suspicious and upload the photo and location to regulatory officials for review.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have helped protect 130 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

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