Commissioner Franz Announces $8 Million in Urban Forestry Grants
News Date: 
February 29, 2024

More than 40 communities from Seattle to Spokane slated to get funding for urban trees

More than $8 million will be used to plant trees in communities across Washington as the Washington State Department of Natural Resources announced the 45 recipients of the agency’s largest Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program ever.
The record-shattering dollar amount is 14 times bigger than the previous single-year record of $550,000 and is nearly three times the total grants awarded by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for urban and community forestry projects since 2008.
“Access to clean air, shade, and green spaces should be a basic human right, but the fact is that throughout our state, lower-income communities and communities of color more often live in neighborhoods with more concrete and asphalt, and too few trees,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “We need to bring the same urgency we brought to our wildfire crisis to our efforts to ensure everyone lives in neighborhoods with adequate tree canopy. Trees and tree equity are essential for our quality of life. As temperatures rise and economic disparities widen, trees are no longer a nice-to-have, they are a must-have.”
Neighborhoods with adequate tree canopy cover can be as much as 14 degrees cooler during our worst heat waves. Where there is heat, there is death, such as when more than 100 people lost their lives to the 2021 heat dome.
DNR received 122 applications requesting more than $23.5 million. Due to the overwhelming number of applications, more than half of which came from areas of poor environmental health and low tree equity, DNR chose to allocate an additional $1 million of Climate Commitment funding into the grant program, increasing its share to $3 million. The remaining $5 million is Inflation Reduction Act money awarded to DNR by the USDA Forest Service in 2023.
The number of grant applications that focused on equity and environmental justice mark a paradigm shift in how Washington approaches urban and community forestry. DNR only received one equity-focused UCF grant application in 2019; staff reviewed more than 65 applications with an emphasis on equity and environmental justice for this offering.
All 122 applicants will be invited to join the Washington Tree Equity Collaborative – the first statewide tree equity initiative in the country. Created in partnership with American Forests, the collaborative counts the city of Seattle as a founding member and aims to achieve true tree equity in every neighborhood across Washington.
“We are grateful to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources for providing funding to identify opportunities to increase our tree canopy in historically underserved neighborhoods like Roxbury, South Park, SoDo, and west Capitol Hill where foliage and shade are most needed," said Seattle Department of Transportation Deputy Director Rodney Maxie. "Trees improve our health and environment and make our neighborhoods more pleasant places to live so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of our urban forest and green spaces."
Though the grant funds will go to benefit projects in every region of the state, five projects located in Tacoma and are slated to receive more than $1.3 million to improve tree equity and enhance urban tree canopy in the largest city in Pierce County.
“We are honored to be working with DNR, the City of Tacoma, and many other partners to empower community members to plant and care for trees,” said Lowell Wyse, executive director of the Tacoma Tree Foundation. “We applaud our state, federal, and local governments for recognizing urban forestry as an urgent environmental justice issue and delivering resources directly to communities that need trees the most. Public-private partnerships like this are essential for getting more folks involved in the transformative work of urban and community forestry.”   
Tacoma neighborhoods average tree canopy coverage of about 20 percent, well short of the goal of 30 percent set in the city’s comprehensive plan. Local projects set for grant funding include a collaborative effort to plant street trees along walking routes near schools and drafting of an urban forest management plan by Metro Parks Tacoma.
“As we plant more trees and preserve those that we have, we recognize that partnerships have always – and will continue to be – vitally important,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “Commissioner Franz and the Department of Natural Resources are leaders in this important work, with the establishment of Washington state’s first Tree Equity Collaborative. Tacoma has been a participant in the Tree Equity Collaborative since its inception. We remain committed to advancing our shared goals around improving tree coverage in our urban environments.”
This grant cycle also marks the largest investment DNR has made in urban and community forestry projects led by Tribal partners.
The Kalispel Indian Community of the Kalispel Reservation is slated to receive more than $165,000 for tree plantings in Airway Heights and Cusick. The Spokane Tribal Network was selected to receive $166,000 to create a community forest that demonstrates Tribal food sovereignty.
“Connecting our people with our plant foods and medicines is our passion,” said Spokane Tribal Network Director Penny Spencer. “Now, we are making the moves to meet the community in the places of greatest alignment with their values and ideals, as well as ours. This is great.
Additional quotes from leaders of organizations selected to receive funding:
“The City of Port Townsend is excited and beyond grateful to be selected for the Urban and Community Forest grant opportunity. Our project was built around developing community engagement and a strong partnership with the Port Townsend School District. This project will demonstrate the feasibility, methods, and benefits of restoring a diverse mix of native trees in public parks in the City of Port Townsend. We believe strongly that Port Townsend and our project will be a model for a community and parks collaboration that focuses on climate resilient urban forests. Thank you for this opportunity.” – Michael Todd, facilities and parks manager for Port Townsend.
"King Conservation District is excited to continue our vital community-based forest restoration and afterschool conservation programs in Burien, while expanding to the City of SeaTac. This grant furthers our longstanding partnerships with the cities of Burien and SeaTac and continues an innovative approach to urban forestry, addressing pressing environmental challenges while empowering community voices in green spaces.” – Rosa Mendez, executive director of King Conservation District.
“As new realities of the impacts of climate change continually emerge, Audubon recognizes the role that trees and urban canopy coverage will play for birds and people. This investment will help Audubon elevate climate resiliency in local communities that have suffered from the negative environmental outputs of racist policies and fiscal neglect.” – Joey Manson, Director of the Seward Park Audubon Center.
Will Rubin
Communications Manager
Cell: 360-764-0854