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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Meet 1 of only 4 City of Milwaukee women arborists

Susan Bence
Novicki was part of a Milwaukee department of forestry team that introduced adults to tree climbing early this month.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson recently announced the city was awarded $12 million in federal funding to add to our urban forest. The city will focus on planting trees in neighborhoods that lack canopy cover.

READ Milwaukee lands $12 million to boost urban forest

The city will focus on planting trees in neighborhoods that lack canopy cover. There are about 70 arborists and apprentices on Milwaukee's forestry team that will tackle this work, and only four of them are women — Hannah Novicki is one of them.

Susan Bence

What pulled you into your field?

Novicki studied land use management planning along with soils and GIS at UW- Stevens Point. It was only after she graduated, Novicki realized she did not want to spent her entire work day inside staring at a computer screen.

Her job search started with a short stint working at a Wisconsin state park and then she discovered the field of forestry.

"This was an apprenticeship. So it was one of the first ones; actually, I'm pretty sure in the US. So, I'm one of like the first people in the state of Wisconsin, or like 11th to be like a certified journeyman by the state," Novicki says.

The apprenticeship requires about 9,000 hours or 4 1/2 years during which Novicki completed various tasks such as lift work, tree planting hours, and tree climbing.

Novicki learned about Milwaukee's century old nursery that features its original greenhouses.

"Where trees are planted and grown. Flowers that are used for Summerfest come from there too," Novicki says.

She not only learned about the workings of the nursery, Novicki earned her CDL (commercial driver license) and took a tree risk assessment course at MATC.

Novicki's day to day on the job

"The really fun thing about this job, and I think that's why I really love it, is that you can be on something different every day. So like transition period right now I could be in a lift bucket for a couple of days or we're gonna start planting so you can be on a planting crew. You could be trunk dropping," she says.

In the future, Novicki would hopes to move up into a position on the managerial side of urban forestry. She says the possibilities are endless. Yes, she realizes that could mean sitting at a desk.

"But I'm talking years from now, maybe when I'm closer to retirement," Novicki says, "dealing like with construction, working with, you know, trees and, you know, zoning and stuff, which is kind of more what I was went to school for in a way. So there's opportunities which I think is great about this place."

Source of inspiration

Novicki and fellow arborist xx at Arbor Day tree planting event at xx School.
City of Milwaukee Forestry Division
Novicki and fellow arborist Dustin Batterman at 2019 Arbor Day tree planting event at Woodland School. Novicki says the kids were overjoyed when they were given saplings to take home.

Novicki especially loves working with school groups.

She hopes to inspire them, but says children have already inspired her.

Novicki thinks back to her training. It required a lot of hours of tree climbing.

"That's the thing - I'm not the best climber, but I'm a hard worker ... I was just having a bad day, I was just down on myself and had on all my gear and was trying to get from one tree to another ... I'm like crying because I was just doing so bad," Novicki says.

Just then, a group of little girls walked by on their way to school.

"They're like are you a girl and I'm like, yeah. And they're like, do you do what the boys do? Yeah. And they're like, oh, wow," Novicki recalls.

Novicki says the girls admiration gave her the extra push she needed that day.

"You can do anything," Novicki called out to the girls.

Questions about the urban forestry arborist apprenticeship program:
Call 414-286-3751 or email staffinginfo@milwaukee.gov


Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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