Philadelphia, a Tree City USA community for nearly four decades, is where Howard Neukrug presides at Philadelphia Water. Howard Neukrug is a leader in recognizing the importance of trees to a healthy watershed and to clean drinking water in our cities. Howard serves as the commissioner and chief executive officer of Philadelphia Water — where he’s long enjoyed collaboration with an incredibly strong team — on the U.S. EPA National Drinking Water Advisory Council, and as Vice Chairman of the U.S. Water Alliance.
In 2002, as watershed program director for Philadelphia Water, Howard, with partnership support and contributions from the U.S. Forest Service, completed an urban ecosystem analysis for the Philadelphia metropolitan area which illustrated that the loss of tree canopy cover has a detrimental impact on water quality.
His initiative led to the funding and maintenance of natural areas, and with the leadership of then Mayor and later Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, TreeVitalize was established in 2004, through which tens of thousands of trees were strategically planted.
Neukrug, with the vital support of city agencies, and public and private partners, helped to create Green City, Clean Waters (GCCW), a comprehensive, community enhancing green stormwater management plan that boosts the sustainability and greening goals of Philadelphia’s overarching Greenworks Plan. GCCW’s Green Streets component uses trees to supplement the work of traditional storm drains to manage street runoff, resulting in newly tree lined streets. GCCW trees are multi-taskers as they manage stormwater, enhance air quality, improve property values and beautify Philadelphia neighborhoods
“GCCW is the single largest green stormwater infrastructure program in the nation,” Neukrug noted. “But the realization of the program – and its daily implementation – is achieved through the passion and dedication of Philadelphia Water’s own Office of Watersheds, and the strong partnership and leadership provided by our sister agencies – Philadelphia’s Parks & Recreation and Office of Sustainability. It is a pleasure and honor to have such steadfast support.”
Phil Rodbell, Urban Forestry Program Specialist at the U.S. Forest Service, said, “Howard’s work on the ground and in the halls of government on behalf of trees, watersheds, and green infrastructure has shined a new light on Philadelphia as a livable and lovable city, once again.”
As Howard says, “Trees are not going to solve our problem, but they are part of our toolbox. People tend to like trees more than sewers, if you give them a choice.”
For leading the way in planting and protecting the urban and community forest and ensuring clean, safe drinking water, Howard Neukrug is the recipient of the 2015 Excellence in Urban Forestry Leadership Award. This year’s Arbor Day Award ceremony will be held at Lied Lodge & Conference Center, located at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Saturday, April 25.
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