The Future of SAF: Darrell Street
April 8, 2020
This month The Forestry Source
features Darrell Street, a PhD candidate at Southern University A&M College’s Urban Forestry and Natural Resources Department. His research focus is on characterizing urban forest ecosystems to quantify their functions and value using state-of-the-art peer-reviewed methodologies and technology, such as iTree Eco Model. Street brings experience as a landowner, small business owner, and park ranger to the field of urban forestry. He earned an undergraduate degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration at Grambling State University. Street joined SAF in 2016 and is a member of the SU-SAF and Louisiana SAF chapters.
In his own words, Street shares the role of mentors who guided him to urban forestry and the value of representation in the forestry profession.
Finding Solutions through Representation
By Darrell Street
Life after high school
After graduating high school, there were limited options for me as a young African American male. My classmates joined the military, but I entered the workforce and matriculated at a local community college to gain additional knowledge and skills. I was inducted into an honor society; however, at that time; college was not a top priority. For the next 10 years, I worked at one of the local factories in Osceola, Arkansas, purchased a home, started a business, and enjoyed the fast life of Memphis, Tennessee, and Mississippi County, Arkansas. Yet it wasn’t satisfying, and I realized that a change was needed to enhance my life.
Discovering my appreciation for the outdoors
In November 1997, I departed my community, friends, and family in Osceola, Arkansas, for Lincoln Parish, Louisiana, to pursue a degree in political science at Grambling State University (GSU). I enrolled in the fall semester of 1999, and in spring 2003, I earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, graduating cum laude. That following summer, I entered the Master’s of Public Administration program at GSU. In this program, I met a lifelong academic mentor, Dr. Alexander Appeaning, a professor in the Public Administration Department and associate vice president of academic affairs. Dr. Appeaning encouraged me to apply for a position with the National Park Service because he noticed my love for outdoors.
I was hired and stationed in Everglades National Park, which is located in South Florida. The rare opportunity to work, live, and play in one of the world’s most diverse wetlands was a mind-changing experience. My hidden childhood passion and appreciation of the great outdoors were fully exposed.
Having firsthand knowledge of the River of Grass (Everglades) ecosystem that is home to alligators, crocodiles, migratory birds, humans, and countless other species that depend on this slow-moving river for survival influenced my awareness of environmental issues and the threats of climate change and its accompanying variabilities as a result of anthropogenic stressors.
Serving in the Everglades National Park’s Interpretation Division allowed me to be the first point of contact for countless visitors, which enhanced my communication skills and ability to communicate environmental issues to diverse groups of citizens, and it was a privilege to serve in the position. Since completing the Master’s of Public Administration program in 2006, I have accumulated more than 14 years of service within Louisiana education, local government, and private industry.
Opportunities found in urban forestry
I am a PhD candidate in Southern University A&M College’s Urban Forestry and Natural Resources Department, a landowner, founder and CEO of Louisiana Minority Landowner Association, and owner of Tiguar Urban Forestry Consulting LLC. My journey in urban forestry and natural resources has required a tremendous amount of perseverance and dedication toward becoming a better citizen. Along the way, I have gained a wide range of personal and professional experiences, and knowledge about urban and community forest ecosystem assessment and environmental issues. I have had the honor of meeting policymakers, foresters, anthropologists, and environmentalists working toward a better understanding of natural forest ecosystems and the environmental issues impacting them. Networking with international and national forestry and natural resources scientists, academic leaders, and the Society of American Foresters (SAF) has allowed me to enhance my communication skills and research and education knowledge.
Through SAF, I’ve learned from and networked with many scientists and professionals. My adviser, Dr. Kamran Abdollahi, an SAF Fellow, connected me with opportunities to become a professional in forestry. These include opportunities to study in China and attend and present scholarly work at national, regional, and state conferences, as well as engage in community tree planting projects with students; construct pocket parks in underserved areas; inventory trees throughout Louisiana; develop publications; and collaborate with community leaders, universities, and other stakeholders. These are just a few of the ways I have worked to connect people to the natural world.