Greg McPherson - Helping Us to "Share the Shade"

By Torin Dunnavant

If you have attended a Tree Davis event that our board president, Dr. Greg McPherson has been at, you’ve been a part of a special ceremony. Greg has everyone come together in a group, raise their arms and shout “trees…Trees….TREES….TREES!!!!!” to the heavens, as a way to imbue community love into the newest members of our urban forest. Greg truly is a special man, and his love for urban forest is unparalleled. So when thinking about who we could talk about this year as we get close to the annual Big Day of Giving, we decided to focus on Greg, our own Big Dog.

Greg has dedicated his career to urban forests. After receiving his Ph.D. in Urban Forestry, he taught at the University of Arizona and co-founded the non-profit Trees for Tucson. In 1991 he joined the USDA Forest Service (USFS) as lead scientist on the Chicago Urban Forest Climate Project. A few years later he moved to Davis to establish the first USFS urban forest research unit in California. He partnered with UC Davis faculty on the new 

program in Environmental Horticulture and Urban Forestry. Many of his former students are now industry leaders. Greg has a publication list longer than your arm and his research, creating measurable assessments that quantify and monetize the benefits that trees bring to our cities, has been invaluable to the urban forestry world. Because of Greg’s research, states, cities, and organizations have been able to justify the need for more trees in our cities. Thanks to him, billions of dollars have been invested in growing robust urban forests across the country and especially within California, because we can justify their benefits from carbon sequestration, air quality improvement, energy savings, stormwater management, and on and on.

Another important part of Greg’s work with the USFS focused on the concept of “Climate-Ready Trees.” He sought trees that would likely thrive in future climate scenarios – basically creating the urban forest that will be best for our region 50 years into the future. These are trees that are uniquely tolerant to future drought, pest and disease threats. Once Greg joined our board Tree Davis integrated Climate-Ready Trees species into our plantings. Nearly all of the 1,000 trees that we planted in the City of Davis over the past four years were Climate-Ready, thanks to Greg’s efforts and the efforts of other great scientists in that program such as Drs. Alison Berry (UCD) and Natalie Van Doorn (USFS).

Given his tireless efforts throughout his career, it would have been easy for Greg to hang up his metaphorical – and actual – shovel and take a break from urban forestry. But laying back is not a virtue that Greg possesses, so as soon as he retired in 2018, he redoubled his commitment and joined the Tree Davis board. He became our board president in 2020. As a longtime Davis resident, it made great sense for Greg to bring his voluminous knowledge to be applied to the city and the region that he loves. He is passionate about a variety of our programs, but our Memorial Grove and Tree Tribute program has a special place in his heart. Through Greg’s guidance, we have nearly completed the Memorial Grove in West Davis, and we have our eyes on a new location in Davis where loved ones can be honored with newly planted Climate-Ready trees and plants.

We are extremely fortunate to have Greg as a member of our board. He’s one of thirteen fabulous board members that have committed themselves to ensuring Tree Davis’ success. Along with our faithful volunteers, we are the primary advocates for our urban forest. And so, with Big Day of Giving around the corner, we ask that you support our work, continue the momentum that Greg and others have created so that we can accomplish the vision that Greg has for us, to “Share the Shade” across Davis and the region.

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