Welcome to the Forest Flyer, an occasional news update from the United States Forest Service International Programs Africa and Middle East Team. To view previous issues of this newsletter, please  click here . For more information about our programs, contact Kathleen Sheridan, Assistant Director, at kathleen.sheridan@usda.gov.
Across the world, people are seeking open space, forests and parks to cope with the impacts of COVID-19. Large parks and natural areas have become refuges for maintaining physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.

Natural resource managers are adapting their practices and protocols to help people maintain social distancing and to protect public spaces from increased use.

In New York City, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service personnel use a Stew-MAP database to track the activities of local stewardship groups -- from kayaking groups to environmen tal justice groups -- and to help them raise their visibility and make connections.

The Stew-MAP database can also show how local groups are responding to the COVID crisis and offering support through conservation-minded activities -- from bird counting, to low-impact trail walking, to connecting farmers to buyers for their produce.

Stew maps and related tools highlight stewardship gaps and overlaps, enhance citizen monitoring projects, promote broader public engagement with on-the-ground environmental work, build effective partnerships among stakeholders involved in urban sustainability, and promote climate change adaptation efforts.

Find out more by clicking to the right.
Stew-MAP: Stewardship Mapping & Assessment Project

The Stewardship Mapping & Assessment Project (Stew-MAP) has compiled information on hundreds of local citizen groups that are involved in stewardship actions in their local communities. Groups that have submitted information to a Stew-MAP survey...

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Growing Green Cities
In the Middle East and North Africa, passionate natural resource activists are greening their cities through urban agriculture, rooftop gardens, innovative waste management solutions, and community engagement.

The U.S. Forest Service recently brought together a group of individuals from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, and the West Bank to learn about urban environmental initiatives in Cairo, Egypt and to generate ideas and inspiration for how to expand and enhance urban programs in their home countries.

The Green Cities Study Tour  included an intensive week of site visits and discussions with local NGOs, businesses, and community activists working to make Cairo a green city. With guidance from the U.S. Forest Service and local specialists, each participant returned home with a unique action plan to implement in their own cities.

Topics covered over the week-long study tour included multi-sectoral partnerships, urban revitalization, economic viability and sustainability, women’s empowerment, and youth engagement and education.

At the end of the week, participants established a regional network to continue the sharing of ideas and resources. All participants have plans to build momentum around urban greening in the Middle East and North Africa.

Visit our Green Cities Study Tour web page to learn more.
Growing Green Cities

Above, Green Study Tour participants visit green rooftops and discuss innovating greening solutions for urban landscapes.

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"The study tour in Egypt was a special opportunity to look closely into the several options we can apply in Lebanon, based on concrete examples proving that these concepts are not a form of westernization or illusions only found in developed countries, but an answer to basic needs found in every city," said Julia Hani, project coordinator with the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative

Conservation Aware Children Save Grey Crowned Crane Chick
The Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA) is dedicated to protecting Rwanda’s threatened species and engaging with local communities to do so. They have recently established Umusambi Village, a refuge for Grey Crowned Cranes where Kigali residents and visiting groups can experience green spaces and learn about conservation. Umusambi Village and RWCA prioritize community engagement and education as key components to sustainable conservation. That approach is already showing results, even in the time of COVID-19.

A group of children who had participated in RWCA’s community outreach program recently approached an RWCA volunteer named Jacques with news that they had found a Grey Crowned Crane chick wandering alone in their neighborhood. The children had learned the importance of protecting endangered Grey Crowned Cranes and wanted to make sure the special bird found safety.

Together, the children and Jacques captured the chick and called RWCA for advice. Jacques then took the lead in reintroducing the chick to its family and monitoring it to make sure all was well.

The story illustrates how RWCA's community engagement and education model is working. Communities across Rwanda are becoming more aware of and involved in conservation efforts.
Above, a team of U.S. Forest Service experts on wetland ecology, engineering, and tourism work with the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association to transform a degraded wetland outside of Kigali into an educational center and sanctuary for Grey Crowned Cranes, called Umusambi Village. Umusambi welcomed its first group of 51 rescued cranes to their new home at the end of 2019 (see below).

The sanctuary is now an ecotourism destination and green space for Kigali residents and domestic and international visitors.
Green Space for Health