Western Hemlock

Tsuga heterophylla

Another commonly-seen tree in the Pacific Northwest forest canopy, at up to 180′ tall the western hemlock regenerates from some of the tiniest cones out there. Their distinctive small, rounded, brown cones are only 3/4″ long and are good identifying features. New needles are bright green, and older needles are dark green with two sharp white lines on the undersides. Hemlock needles are also shorter than those of most other evergreens, and lay flat along the stem. From a distance, the western hemlock has a stockier silhouette than the tall, thin Douglas-fir.

View the western hemlock native plant ID card from WNPS.


The Art of Blackberry: UW Students Transform Invasives into Sculpture

Students in the UW’s School of Forest Resources combined restoration with art for a project in Jon Bakkar’s “Introduction to Restoration Ecology” course.

Amy Lambert, who teaches a class on art and restoration at UW Bothel, led the students in an environmental art project using blackberry canes they cleared from the Union Bay Natural Area. Students from her own class also worked at the site and created their own works of art from the blackberry canes. “The activities were about removing invasive species and transforming the material into sculptural forms,” Lambert says. “In addition, performance art was used to call attention to the historic context of Union Bay Natural Area. By engaging in inventive strategies, students demonstrated their concerns for the natural environment while challenging public perceptions about the role humans have played in shaping the landscape.”

Read more about this collaboration in the UW’s University Week.

Copenhagen: Looking Back

Environmental news outlets (and many other sources) are now awash in reflections on the Copenhagen climate talks that wrapped up last Friday. Who said what? How does everyone feel about it? What are we going to do now? Finding answers to these questions can be overwhelming with all of the information out there. Grist has a great feed on a variety of different types of articles. For those looking to get an idea of what happened, this article is a good start.

Rio de Janeiro, and its parks, drawing global attention

As winter settles into our little corner of the globe, I’m getting excited for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.. Meanwhile, plans are already underway for future Olympics many years down the road.

Having won the bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro is now enjoying a global spotlight in all sorts of ways. In addition to a host of other things that make this city worthy of world-wide attention, it has plenty to be proud of in terms of natural area, as noted on City Parks BlogRio is also home to both the first and second largest forests within an urban area, quite a combination.

Tijuca Forest, the world’s largest urban forest, is known as the “green spine of Rio.” Covering nearly 8,000 acres in the center of the city, it is a hand-planted mountain rainforest, re-planted in the 19th century in an effort to protect Rio’s water supply. Pedra Branca Park, the world’s second-largest urban forest, will be one of the sites for the 2,386 seedlings that will be planted to offset all of the carbon emissions from the 2016 Olympics. “The Rio 2016 Games will act as a catalyst for environmental legislation and programs across the three levels of governmen. All our activities are aligned with the city’s strategic plan for the protection of nature. It’s good to get a head start with this action now, in the application stage,” said Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of Rio 2016 Committee. . . Green Rio Partnership, anyone?

Making Waves

Last month I attended the Partners in Community Forestry conference, hosted by the Arbor Day Foundation, in Portland, Oregon. A common theme echoing throughout the conference was how programs and ideas are making waves and subsequent ripples that extend beyond their own individual realms. At the end of the conference, the attendees were given a small rock with a “make waves” stamp. Right now, my rock is resting on my computer’s monitor, reminding me each day to go out and make a few splashes and ripples.

So, what kind of waves am I making? Since August, I was married amidst a five-day blur of family and friends gathered under large Ponderosa pines, went on a fabulous honeymoon to Corsica, helped my aunt and niece prepare for a move to Norway, surprised my best friend in her favorite Oakland cemetery for her birthday, and baked my first quiche with the fresh eggs from our three chickens, Gizzy, Squeaky, and Bhindi. Those are just a few of the lovely waves in my personal life.

At work, the waves are crashing on our shores daily. As the director of the Green Cities program, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to see the wide range of our work first-hand. Last week, representatives from all five of the Green Cities came together for the first time over a lunchtime brownbag, I was lucky enough to be a guest lecturer for an ESRM (Environmental Science and Resource Management) course at the University of Washington, and we finalized a Joint Venture Agreement with a stellar research team at the US Forest Service and King County. The brownbag was proof that the initial splash of the Green Seattle Partnership created waves and ripples that are now extending to more cities than ever imagined five years ago. The lecture was an excellent opportunity to show students how the basics of ecology and knowledge of forest systems are being applied to real-world projects in our Green Cities efforts; the splash of learning is creating waves and ripples in urban forest restoration. And, finally, the new research that will come from our partnership with the US Forest will surely produce a few waves and ripples for stewardship programs near and far. And, that was all in just three days!

Sometimes I feel like we are pushing a giant boulder, uphill both ways, while other times we are merely lobbing small pebbles. At moments, the work ahead of us seems insurmountable: “You are doing what?” “Trying to remove invasive species from how many acres?” “How are you possibly engaging the community at that level?” These are not uncommon questions. However, each answer is usually followed by a reaction of “how cool” or “wow, that’s amazing”. Those statements help us feel that we are up for the challenge, making small and big splashes each day and sending ripples out into the world along the way.

Happy End of 2009!


Mayors Compare Notes on Climate

Mayor Nickels, shown here planting a tree at Green Seattle Day, is attending the cities summit in Copenhagen

Starting today, around 80 of the world’s mayors and local leaders are meeting in Copenhagen for a five-day Climate Summit for Mayors  to underscore the need for local action and to get together to compare notes.  Copenhagen’s own lord mayor Ritt Bjerregaard talked up her city’s extensive bike lanes but voiced the need to get away from coal power and expand the subway system. New York City has been making efforts to reduce traffic and encourage energy efficiency in buildings, but has met resistance from real-estate interests. Sao Paulo, Brazil has reduced its emissions by 20% since 2005 by generating biogas energy from landfills instead of releasing the waste methane into the air.

An article was published today in the LA Times on the opening of the cities summit, reporting that “last week, the IEA [International Energy Agency]’s executive director, Nabuo Tanaka, said local authorities “have significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” through renewable energy and other means. “Yet relatively few are taking up the challenge,” he said.”

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the founder of the U.S. Mayors climate movement, will be chairing a round-table session on citizen engagement in climate protection, according to another article in Earth Times.

Speaking of citizen engagement in climate protection, think globally of Copenhagen, act locally by volunteering with your nearest Green City Partnership.

Thinking about Copenhagen

photo by Erica Simek

Did you think we were going to let a whole week go by without mentioning it?

Another great article posted yesterday on City Parks Blog talks about the link between cities, city parks, and climate. It’s on the radar in the international conference on global warming going on right now in Copenhagen. “In a session this week there on reducing carbon through public transit, an official from Portland’s Tri-Met spoke of how cities need to be “places where people want to be” for transit to work. A session next Thursday will highlight efforts to create sustainable communities and another from the perspective of U.S. city mayors” (led by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels).

We’re talking about denser, more walkable, livable, better-planned cities. Complete, compact, connected. The City Parks Blog article cites a lot of interesting infrastructure in cities around the country, from St. Paul to New Orleans to Portland to New York.

For more news from Copenhagen, check out Grist’s running commentary, and a graphic representation on who’s at the conference, and what they’re after, from the New York Times.