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Alyssa Keehn Special to The Skanner News
Published: 28 March 2013

The Green Seattle Partnership is recruiting volunteers to help restore Seattle's urban forestland. Volunteers are needed to remove invasive plants, plant new trees, and maintain and monitor restoration sites.

The partnership, founded in 2004, is a unique public-private collaboration between the city of Seattle and Forterra, the state's largest conservation and community building organization (previously known as Cascade Land Conservancy).

The partnership's main effort is a 20-year plan to restore 2,500 acres of forestland throughout Seattle (roughly the equivalent of restoring 2,500 football fields of land). Thousands of volunteers are needed in order to reach this goal.

The Forest Steward positions that are now open for application involve more leadership than the average volunteer position. Stewards are responsible for coordinating volunteer restoration events and activities within a specified parkland, as well as developing annual site restoration work plans. 

"We ask for an average of planning and prepping one event a month," said Mark Mead, a senior urban forester for the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to Seattle Parks' plant ecologist Michael Yadrick, new Forest Stewards "will either support existing forest steward sites or start their own."

The areas of Seattle that need Forest Stewards the most are the southern and central parts of the city.

"Right now we're not seeing people working in those areas, so this year we're spending resources to increase outreach in those areas," said Mead.

To qualify as a Forest Steward, applicants must attend the Green Seattle Partnership Orientation, attend three training events per year, and coordinate and lead at least four volunteer events per year. Stewards must be able to maintain a positive working relationship with staff, volunteers, donors and community supporters. They will manage event and material requests, sign-in sheets and work logs.

Those applying for the position will preferably have experience coordinating and leading volunteer events, as well as experience working with or teaching youth and young adults. A knowledge of forest restoration and invasive species removal practices is another desired qualification.

"Most Forest Stewards have some prior forestry experience and generally request to manage a parkland near their own home," Mead said.

Forested parklands are defined as parks that have more than 25 percent tree canopy coverage. These greenbelts help keep the city clean through reduced storm water runoff and erosion. According to data from Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle's forestlands provide the equivalent of a $1 million benefit to the city annually in stormwater management.

In addition, forests improve air and water quality. The presence of forestland boosts adjacent property values by up to 15 percent. , according to SPU? Other benefits of maintaining urban greenbelts include providing wildlife habitat, buffering noise, making attractive communities and reducing global warming. 

Seattle Parks and Recreation first established a forest restoration program in 1994, when city leaders officially recognized trees as "assets," part of the city's infrastructure to be maintained with planning and budgeting.

The Green Seattle Partnership sees restoring green zones as vital to maintaining a high quality of life in Seattle. Parks and greenbelts make the city a more desirable place to reside and spend time, and contribute to a happier, healthier populace.

The partnership's 20-year strategic plan estimated that in the next 20 years, more than 250,000 people and 47,000 households will be added to the current population size.

One of the greatest challenges facing the city, the report said, is how to accommodate this growth while maintaining livable communities.

Seattle forests have been on the decline since the 1850s, when early European settlers began clearing trees for human purposes. 

Members and volunteers of the Green Seattle Partnership are looking to restore the damage that nearly 200 years of urban development have caused forests in the Emerald City.

"The work that we're doing today, the investment in our time and labor, will create a legacy for generations to come," said Yadrick.

To volunteer as an urban Forest Steward, apply online through Green Seattle Partnership's website, www.greenseattle.org.


(ALYSSA KEEHN  is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)


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