Innovative Pilot Project Seeks to Grow a Forest More Resilient to Climate Change

An innovative pilot project will replant portions of logged land now owned by Seattle City Light to grow a new forest that could be more resilient to climate change.

Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and its partners – City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and the Northwest Natural Resource Group — received a $140,000 grant to reforest portions of the Stossel Creek area in the Tolt watershed northeast of Carnation. The grant money is being provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society through its Climate Adaptation Fund, a program supported and established by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“Stossel Creek presents a unique opportunity to test innovative, new habitat restoration methods designed to increase resiliency to climate change for Western Washington forests,” said Jon Hoekstra, executive director of the Greenway Trust.

A volunteer from Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust clearing invasive brush.

Trees on the 154-acre site were harvested by a private land company in 2012. Since then, the site has experienced new plant growth, but with few trees. Invasive species have taken hold in some areas. City Light purchased the land in 2015 as part of its Endangered Species Act Early Action Plan to conserve and enhance habitat for steelhead.

Crews and volunteers will reforest the site with native conifer species, such as Douglas Fir and Western redcedar. Instead of using only subvarieties that are native to Washington, this project also will include trees sourced from southwestern Oregon that are better adapted to warmer temperatures and drier summers.

“The climate of the Stossel Creek area is projected to be similar to southwest Oregon’s by the end of the 21st century,” explains Crystal Raymond, a climate adaptation specialist who helped secure the grant while she worked for City Light. “Therefore, the trees adapted to southwestern Oregon are expected to be better suited to the Stossel Creek site as the climate warms. By increasing the tree genetic and species diversity, the site’s resiliency to climate change will increase over time.”

Work to control invasive plant species and site preparation at Stossel Creek will begin this spring and planting new trees will begin in the fall. After planting, the team will have several opportunities to monitor success and share lessons learned from the project.

This pilot project will inform future climate-adapted restoration practices for lands owned by City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and other owners in the region. The long-term goal of the reforestation effort is to establish a diverse forest that will be adapted to the climate of the mid to late 21st century.

Recently, KING 5 visited the site to cover the project. Click here to watch the story featuring City Light’s Denise Krownbell.

National Electrical Safety Month: Power Lines on Trees

 

Some would say that spring is simply the most delightful time of the year here in Seattle (and frankly, it’s hard to disagree!). As trees and shrubs begin to blossom, it may be tempting to go outside and start trimming. Before you break out the shears, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind. We reached out to City Light’s arboriculturist and resident tree buff Heidi Narte for tips on how to keep your pines, maples and family safe around power lines.

 

Here are a few of Heidi’s handy safety tips:

  • Keep kids safe – make sure their play activities don’t include trees near power lines. Trees touching power lines may become energized, causing a dangerous situation for kids climbing in them, swinging in them or otherwise playing in them.

 

  • Heading out into your yard to prune trees and shrubs? Make sure you, your tools and the branches you want to prune are a safe distance from power lines. If the branches you’re pruning or your tools make contact with a power line, you could receive an electrical shock injury which can result in significant burns or even death. Branches, tools and you should be at least 10 feet from distribution power lines and 21 feet from high voltage transmission lines.

 

  • See a tree or branch touching a power line? Trees touching power lines may be energized and safety hazards. If you’re not sure whether a tree could cause an issue, give us a call and we’ll check it out!

 

If you have questions about power lines near trees, email SCLVegetation@seattle.gov or call (206) 386-1733 to check in with an arborist. For more information on how to keep your trees safe around power lines, check out the latest issue of Light Reading!

Seattle City (spot)Light: Heidi Narte

Heidi Narte has always loved trees. As a child, she climbed them. As a teenager, she spent hours hanging out in them. So, it’s no surprise she joined City Light in 2014 as an Arboriculturist. It’s also no surprise that, in honor of the recently celebrated Arbor Day, we’re shining the (spot)Light on her.

A native Washingtonian, Heidi grew up on Bainbridge Island, but resides in Burien where she enjoys its thriving sense of community. “I love the community spirit in Burien. We have so many events,” Heidi said. “My favorite is the Burien UFO festival. There’s a band, costumes, prizes. It’s a lot of fun. In Burien, we find any excuse to get together, shut down the main street, listen to live music, dance, and have a good time.”

Heidi received a B.S. in Urban Forestry with Environmental Restoration focus from the University of Washington and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Seattle University. In this week’s (spot)Light, she talks about her role at City Light, her latest hobby of birdwatching (she loves Ospreys) and her passion for the environment.

Heidi in her natural element

“I think the quality of life here in Seattle is amazing. The nature is fantastic. My latest hobby is birding. I’m often tooling around, going for walks with my binoculars. I birdwatch all over. Some of my frequent spots include my neighborhood, Discovery Park, and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Skagit County has some pretty wonderful places to watch birds too. I also enjoy puttering in my garden, taking photos, hiking, and bicycling.”

“Most people know our division as Vegetation Management. We coordinate pruning the trees back from powerlines so they won’t interrupt service or be a safety issue. The City of Seattle has a requirement that for every tree we take down, we plant two. We do two plantings (spring/fall) and perform a lot of outreach to different neighborhoods. I love our Urban Tree Replacement program and our customers love it, too. I often hear them say, ‘you’re giving me a tree?’ And we say ‘yes!’ I think it’s just a win-win for everyone. For us. For our customers. For the environment.”

“When deciding where to plant, we look at historically underserved communities. We examine the census data to see where it might be economically a little harder for folks to buy a tree. We select trees that won’t grow too tall and get into our powerlines. I also try to find trees that have some habitat benefits for pollinators and birds and look at species that are not overrepresented in the city (like cherry or maple trees) to try to build diversity in our tree population.”

“I feel really good about the work that I do. It fits in well with my personal mission statement: To make the environment a little better than when I got here…to improve it without being insensitive to the needs of humans. I want to be a voice for nature that can’t speak for itself—places, critters, and plants.”

Thank you Heidi for taking such important care of our environment and for your significant contributions to the utility!

Seattle City (spot)Light: David Bayard

This week’s Seattle City (spot)Light shines on David Bayard, the supervisor for the Powerline Clearance group in City Light’s Transmission and Distribution.

David is responsible for vegetation management along 1,770 miles of overhead lines in the City Light service area and beyond. He has worked at City Light for five years, and he came to the utility with an undergrad degree in English from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR and a master’s degree in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA.


City Light’s David Bayard in a tree-climbing competition, April 2016

I got out of school with a English degree in Romantic literature and couldn’t land a job in that field, so I started climbing trees. I began working as residential arborist in 2000. I liked being outdoors and didn’t see myself in an office. I knew I wanted to be physically active with something related to the environment.

I got a job with a tree company and moved out to San Francisco from Boston a year later. Every time I’ve moved I have been able to find a job in arboriculture with no problem. I realized it was something I could do sustainably and got interested in arboriculture as a career.

The focus of my grad studies was ecotourism, but when I got out of grad school in 2008 the global economy crashed. Development agencies and non-profits were firing people left and right. So I moved with my wife to Seattle in 2010 and got a job at Seattle City Light.

When I came into City Light’s vegetation management program, the program wasn’t advancing as quickly as the industry was changing. I saw places where I could stick my nose in and get involved, and eventually my boss created a supervisory position. I applied for it and got it.

A big driver for me has always been connecting people to their environment in a way that is meaningful and impactful to them. When I moved to Seattle in 2010, I had this idea to bring people up into the trees. I started a recreational tree-climbing company, got a business license and started lobbying the Parks department to let us operate as a concession for the public. The Parks department has the biggest and best trees in Seattle.

Now we do one climb a month, April through October. That day is often the best day of the month for me. I get to spend the whole sharing this gorgeous, awe-inspiring 110-foot red oak in Volunteer Park. We bring people up 50-60 feet. It’s very empowering, especially for young people and people that have a fear of heights. They ascend under their own power, so they can look around and think ‘I did this!’ When folks come down, it’s just smile after smile.

Being in the forest and surrounded by trees has its own feeling. There is something different about it. We connect to the natural world through trees in a way that only happens when that connection is alive. Trees are living, breathing things. They have communities. They are directly involved in their neighborhood. And they are huge.

I know that people will never forget their climbing experience, and the hope is that they draw on it when it comes time to vote on land use or decide where to put their money or resources towards conservation.

Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission Position Opening

The City of Seattle is looking for a new Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) member to fill Position #4. This position is for a hydrologist or similar professional, preferably with expertise in the study of natural drainage, climate or air quality, or a combination. This position is appointed by the Mayor, and confirmed by City Council, for a renewable, three-year term starting December 1, 2014 and extending through December 1, 2017. Applications are due Monday, November 10, 2014.

To be considered, please email a letter of interest and resume to Sandra Pinto de Bader. To send a paper submittal, address it to: Sandra Pinto de Bader, Urban Forestry Commission Liaison, Office of Sustainability and Environment, City of Seattle, 700 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1868. PO Box 94729, Seattle, WA 98124-4729.

The nine-member UFC consists of a wildlife biologist; an urban ecologist; a representative of a local, state, or federal natural resource agency or an accredited university; a hydrologist; a certified arborist; a representative of a non-profit or non-governmental organization; a representative of the development community or a representative from a non-city utility; and an economist, financial analyst, or Washington State licensed real estate broker.

The City of Seattle set the bold goal of achieving 30 percent tree canopy cover by 2037 to increase the environmental, social, and economic benefits trees bring to Seattle residents. The Seattle Urban Forest Stewardship Plan (UFSP) is a comprehensive strategy for increasing Seattle’s tree canopy cover to meet the 30 percent target. The UFSP lays out goals and a broad range of actions to be implemented over time to preserve, maintain, and plant trees as well as restore the public forested areas remaining in the city. The Urban Forestry Commission was established in 2009 by Ordinance 123052 to advise the Mayor and City Council on policy and regulations governing the protection, management, and conservation of trees and vegetation in the City of Seattle. Commission meetings are held twice a month on the first and second Wednesdays from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Commission members generally must commit approximately 10 hours per month to Commission business and serve without compensation.

For more information, please contact Sandra Pinto de Bader, Urban Forestry Commission Liaison, at (206) 684-3194 or via email at Sandra.Pinto_de_Bader@seattle.gov