Working to restore our urban forest

re-posted from the Parkways blog

Awe-inspiring forests are part of the heritage and appeal of our city. They make our lives better by providing places to play, rest and contemplate. Half of Seattle’s city parkland is forested natural areas.

Helping to care for Seattle’s urban forest is the Green Seattle Partnership (GSP). The GSP is a unique public-private venture that works in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation to promote a livable city by re-establishing and maintaining healthy urban forests.

With funding from the Seattle Park District, the GSP is helping to plant native trees and shrubs, restore parkland, organize volunteer events, and more. Some accomplishments this year include:

  • 364 GSP volunteer events
  • 5,039 volunteers
  • 16,830 volunteer hours to support our urban forested parkland restoration program
  • 22.42 acres of restoration
  • Planted 21, 240 native trees and shrubs

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Green Infrastructure Can Help Save Our Salmon

 

Salmon are a cornerstone of our cultural identity in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Salmon are vital to our economy, our environment and our sense of place. The health of our native salmon runs has been identified as an indicator of the overall health of Puget Sound and local streams. Scientists have been researching the connection between declining salmon populations and urban stormwater pollution. These scientists have discovered a major threat to the health of our salmon but they have also discovered a simple solution that mitigates the impacts 100% of the time.

As our human population grows, so does the magnitude of pollutants released into our waterways. Large quantities of contaminants such as metals, petroleum-derived compounds like oil, grease, vehicle exhaust, and detergents accumulate on our roadways and parking lots where there is no absorption. Every time it rains, these containments are washed directly into storm drains and into our creeks, lakes, the Duwamish River, and Puget Sound. Researchers have now found a direct link between polluted urban stormwater runoff and salmon mortality.

A recent straightforward study exposed salmon to stormwater runoff from a local highway.  In every case, the salmon died within 4 to 6 hours. The conclusion was clear: stormwater pollution is lethal to salmon. However, the study also tested a potential solution. When researchers first filtered the highway runoff through a column filled with a soil mixture and then exposed the salmon to this cleansed water, they survived 100% of the time.
Filtering water through a living, plant-soil system is the basis for green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). The City of Seattle has listened to the science and determined this is a direct influence we can have on Puget Sound. By using GSI we can help to improve water quality and prevent more contaminants from reaching our waterways. For this reason, we have set an ambitious goal to accelerate the use of green infrastructure in our city and are also supporting regional green infrastructure efforts.

The Washington Nature conservancy created a great short video highlighting this research. You can find the video at http://www.washingtonnature.org/cities/solvingstormwater

For more information on the research: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653514014805

For more info on what the City of Seattle is doing with GSI visit our webpage: http://www.seattle.gov/environment/water/green-stormwater-infrastructure

 

Seattle’s equity and environment agenda aims to flip the script for social justice

Reposted from Resource Media

April 25, 2016

The Duwamish is Seattle’s only real river. It is also the city’s only Superfund site, and it’s a doozy, a complex mishmash of contaminated mud and sediment from years as Seattle’s main industrial artery. People live along the Duwamish, lots of people. 60 percent of these residents are people of color. According to a report by the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition:

“Duwamish Valley residents are more likely to live in poverty, be foreign born, have no health insurance or leisure time, and are more likely to be sick. Georgetown and South Park residents have up to a 13-year shorter life expectancy (at birth) than wealthier parts of Seattle.”

So when Seattle Mayor Ed Murray came to banks of the Duwamish on the morning of Earth Day to announce Seattle’s new equity and the environment agenda, he was standing on ground zero for the connection, or far too often, the disconnect between social justice and environmental protection. As 2014’s Green 2.0 report outlined in stark terms, mainstream environmental groups remain predominantly white, both nationally, and here in Seattle. Jose Vasquez, the Director of Programs for the Latino Community Fund and a resident of the Duwamish Valley put it this way. “We are the first to be impacted and the last to be included.”

Of course this troubling gap between impact and inclusion is sometimes explained away by the baseless claim that people of color don’t care as much about the environment as white people do. If the consistent polling that shows the exact opposite to be true isn’t enough to crater that myth, the array of dedicated activists standing behind the Mayor when he announced the agenda presented a penetrating image of the real face of environmental change. Jose Vasquez said, “Today, we are flipping the script.”

The people doing the script-flipping are people of color who lead by working in and advocating for their communities. Their organizations often struggle to get funding, especially when compared to mainstream environmental groups. That is one of the discrepancies the people standing behind the mayor have been wrestling with for the last 12 months.  They were part of a Community Partners Steering Committee that worked many hours to draft Mayor Murray’s ambitious agenda. At a high level, the agenda seeks to address inequities in the environmental health of the places people of color live, inequities in city-level decision making, inequities in the opportunities people of color have to participate in efforts to make their communities safer and more just. Running through all the agenda items is an idea that amounts to common sense. People bearing the brunt of a problem like poor water quality or inadequate open space or barriers to civic participation usually have some of the most insightful and specific solutions.

I saw that principle in action first hand when Resource Media participated in the latter part of the agenda development as a mainstream ally group. During one of the opening exercises, both the mainstream and people of color (POC) led groups were asked to list ideas for addressing environmental justice inequities in Seattle. The ideas from the POC led groups were specific and actionable. The ideas from the ally groups, including my own, were flaccid platitudes by comparison. It drove home a lesson for me that was very much on mind as I watched Mayor Murray on the banks of the Duwamish, flanked by the people who can actually make his agenda come to life if we give them the resources and support they need and deserve. As the Mayor himself said “We need to create environmental leaders who look like this city.” Based on my experience working with his steering committee, we already have them if we choose to listen.

Written By: Scott Miller, CEO of Resource Media

Two Projects Announced to Help “Green” Georgetown

At Seattle’s Arbor Day celebration a few weeks ago, the City celebrated the 30th anniversary of being a Tree City USA. Cities receive a Tree City USA designation for meeting high standards on tree care. Mayor Murray was on hand to reaffirm that Seattle is committed to maintaining and growing our urban forest and ensuring that everyone enjoys the benefits.

Mayor Murray also announced two innovative tree planting projects to help improve air quality and green infrastructure gaps in Georgetown. The first project is a pavement removal and tree planting of three blocks of street trees along Corson Avenue. This pilot project came together very quickly with significant contributions from Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Public Utilities and Office of Sustainability & Environment staff.

Additionally, Seattle’s urban forestry team worked with Cedar Grove to pull together a project that will amend poor soils and plant street trees along E Marginal Way to help buffer residential and industrial areas. Cedar Grove will donate 100 cubic yards of compost for the E Marginal Way pilot and has been a great partner in this effort. With a facility in Georgetown, Cedar Grove recycles some 45,000 tons of Seattle’s organic waste annually. Seattle’s food and yard waste will soon be nurturing trees and helping to clean the air in in Georgetown, creating a closed loop system.

In the next month, Seattle reLeaf’s Trees for Neighborhoods project will be planting 1,000 trees with Seattle residents around their homes. The Seattle Department of Transportation will be planting trees in Georgetown, Rainier Beach, Roxhill, and Arbor Heights. Seattle City Light will be planting in Beacon Hill. And Seattle Parks and Recreation will be hosting the annual Green Seattle Day, in which volunteers are mobilized to remove invasive species and plant new trees in the natural areas of our parks.

Volunteering for Green Seattle Day  is a great way to keep the Arbor Day spirit throughout the fall. There is still time to sign up!

Recruiting New Members for the Urban Forestry Commission

Photo by SDOT

The City of Seattle is looking for two new members to serve on the Urban Forestry Commission. The positions available are:

  • Position #3 – Natural resource agency or university representative
  • Position #8 – Development community or Non-City Utility Representative

The Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) advises the Mayor and City Council on policies and regulations governing Seattle’s urban forest. The UFC meets on the first and second Wednesdays of each month and is staffed by the Office of Sustainability & Environment.

The ten-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; an economist, financial analyst, or Washington State license real estate broker; and a Get Engaged young adult.

More information on the Urban Forestry Commission is here.

Applications are due on December 4, 2015. These positions are appointed for a renewable, three-year term starting upon appointment and extending through December 1, 2018.

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