On Thursday, April 13, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and OSE Director Jessyn Farrell joined the Department of Natural Resources and American Forests at Roxhill Park to launch the Washington Tree Equity Collaborative, a statewide partnership to achieve Tree Equity across Washington State by expanding and fortifying neighborhood tree canopy cover.
The Washington Tree Equity Collaborative aims to enhance urban forestry programs over the next three years, with a focus on increasing tree canopy equity and engaging cities, community organizations, and stakeholders. The collaborative supports projects that boost tree canopy and urban forest health in currently low-canopy neighborhoods, benefiting communities by providing cooling during heatwaves and promoting better human health outcomes. The Collaborative comes after the final 2021 Tree Canopy Assessment revealed the city lost 255 acres of tree canopy since 2016 (an absolute decrease of .5% and 1.7% relative decline), an amount roughly equal to the size of Green Lake.
Local urban and community forestry advocates gathered to hear statements from Mayor Harrell and Director Farrell, along with American Forest President and CEO Jad Daley, Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, and Duwamish Alive Coalition Community Engagement Team Member Willard Brown.
“Trees are critical to our health, climate and quality of life in Seattle, and our most recent Tree Canopy Cover Assessment shows that we have more work to do to protect and grow our tree canopy,” Mayor Harrell said. “Following the data and leading with equity, we’re advancing efforts to reverse this decline and address inequities in canopy distribution impacting frontline communities. Growing canopy cover takes time, but our urgency today reflects a healthier, greener Emerald City tomorrow, which is why I am proud to partner with the Department of Natural Resources, American Forests and leadership from other cities to support our urban forests.”
Seattle is among the first Washington cities to join the collaborative, and Mayor Harrell signed a pledge that will commit the city to:
- Over the next five years, plant 8,000 trees on both public and private properties; plant 40,000 trees in parks and natural areas; and perform maintenance on 40,000 trees.
- By the end of 2023, implement a policy to require three trees to be planted for every healthy, site-appropriate tree removed from city property. The same policy will require two trees to be planted for every tree that dies or is deemed hazardous or invasive.
- By the end of 2024, develop a Tree Canopy Equity and Resilience Plan for achieving Seattle’s tree canopy goals.
Under the agreement, the DNR will look to American Forests’ Tree Equity Score tool to coordinate and enhance urban and community forestry in an equitable way in Washington. The tool reveals that nearly 85% of urbanized neighborhoods in the state lack sufficient tree cover, leaving over 2 million residents with less than half the required tree canopy for their neighborhoods.