President Bravman announces plan to reforest campus front lawn

Will Metzler, Contributing Writer

On Nov. 5, University President John Bravman announced that the University will begin to transform the front lawn between the Malesardi Quadrangle and Moore Avenue to a forested state, similar to the grove behind Roberts Hall. The plan, which will take multiple years to carry out, aligns with the University’s stated commitment to sustainability laid out in the University’s Strategic Plan for 2025.

Bravman explained in an email to faculty that the plan was brought to his attention by members of the Lewisburg chapter of the Green New Deal. As part of the national Sunrise Movement, Green New Deal Lewisburg works to promote sustainability and environmental responsibility on campus. On Sept. 20, the group came together to carry out a climate strike that exhibited impressive turnout.

The idea to reforest the front lawn of campus first materialized during the summer, as the climate strike was in its planning stages. Later in September, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies & Sciences Andrew Stuhl and Associate Professor of Anthropology Clare Sammells met with Bravman as representatives of Green New Deal Lewisburg to present the plan.

“President Bravman was equally as excited as we were and, like many, had previously considered alternative uses for the front lawn,” Stuhl said. After a successful meeting, faculty from facilities and an outside consultant began working on artistic renderings to be presented to the Board of Trustees in October.

Sammells shared in this excitement: “I am delighted that President Bravman and the Board of Trustees have agreed to consider a plan to reforest our ‘front lawn’ with trees and native plants. This is an important step towards transforming the relationship our campus has with our local ecosystem.”

Bravman expressed in his email to faculty that there were some concerns regarding the impact of the plan on the “iconic viewshed” of the lawn and questions about the magnitude of the project. Bravman acknowledged that “the project would take many years to complete as we could not transplant mature trees.”

Nevertheless, both faculty and students have shown enthusiastic support. In fact, a petition published in The Bucknellian as a Letter to the Editor last week calling for the University to take action on environmental sustainability gathered 940 signatures. 

Yet, even though many are pleased with the decision, there is still a demand for further action among students and faculty. “This is the first step into turning Bucknell into a sustainable learning laboratory. I emphasize first step, because this cannot and will not be the last,” Cheyenne McKinley ’20, member of Green New Deal Lewisburg, said. For McKinley and the rest of the chapter, getting the University off of fossil fuels is the priority.

“We are in the midst of identifying the next steps of our strategic plan. Our colleagues in Facilities have done the research on the technical side of moving off the fossil fuel cogeneration plant. It can be done,” Stuhl said.

Although how the University will reach carbon neutrality continues to be debated, what all parties agree on is that the change will not happen overnight. Stuhl explained that the plan to reforest the lawn moved quickly as a result of near-universal support for the plan. This to Stuhl signals that “there is a shared vision among staff, faculty, students, and President Bravman about how to create new experiences for teaching, learning, and civic engagement around the building of clean energy infrastructure.”

While reforestation is not the full answer, it is the starting point for building an environmentally conscious campus. “The reforestation plan ought to be a launching pad for what we do next,” Stuhl said.

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