Washington State Establishes Collaborative for Tree Equity
Nonprofit American Forests and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have announced a statewide collaboration for Washington that will focus on achieving tree equity by improving urban tree cover.
The partnership, called the Washington Tree Equity Collaborative, will spend the next few years working with cities, organizations and other stakeholders to form programs and initiatives that boost tree cover in neighborhoods all around Washington.
To determine and track tree cover, the Washington DNR will use data from the Tree Equity Score tool, provided by American Forests. The tool is designed to show tree cover in communities and takes socioeconomics into account. Currently, it shows that more than 2 million people in Washington lack more than half of the necessary tree canopy to support neighborhood needs.
“We must invest like never before, in order to ensure our most vulnerable communities have cleaner air and are better protected from extreme heat,” Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said in a statement.
As Grist reported, the Washington Tree Equity Collaborative could utilize the $6 million of funding provided to the state for urban forestry by the Inflation Reduction Act to further tree equity in the state. Earlier this week, the Biden administration also announced $1 billion in grants available nationwide to expand access to green spaces for underserved communities, and this money could also help further the Washington Tree Equity Collaborative’s goals.
“Research shows that trees and green spaces improve physical and mental health outcomes and create new economic opportunities,” Homer Wilkes, USDA undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, said in a statement on the federal grants. “They also enhance community green spaces and support lasting community relationships and engagements. These funds will enable us to bring these benefits to disadvantaged communities across the nation, and to support new partnerships with a diverse array of organizations.”
According to American Forests, tree cover is most frequently lacking in lower income communities impacted by harmful redlining policies, while wealthier neighborhoods often have higher tree cover.
This lack of tree cover can lead to long-term negative impacts for public health. Communities with more tree cover can benefit from lower blood pressure, reduced stress, reduced feelings of depression and lower numbers of heat-related illnesses. More trees also offer economic benefits, like providing tree-related careers for the community.
Seattle has already signed on to the collaborative, becoming one of the first in the state to do so. Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has pledged to plant 8,000 trees on public and private properties, plant 40,000 trees in parks and natural spaces and help maintain 40,000 existing trees over the next five years. The mayor also pledged to implement tree-planting policies to replace trees that are removed or that die moving forward and, by 2024, to develop a Tree Canopy Equity and Resilience Plan for the city.
Tacoma has also joined the collaborative, as have nonprofits based in Spokane and Bellevue. Additional cities and organizations can get involved by establishing targets to increase tree cover, setting tree planting goals, getting involved with community outreach about the initiative or helping with research.
Subscribe to get exclusive updates in our daily newsletter!