Become a Forest Steward!


Yoyo and Ben

Are you interested in taking your involvement with your local Green City to the next level? If so, consider becoming a Forest Steward! Forest Stewards are super-volunteers who adopt specific sites, where they plan restoration activities and organize work parties. It is a great opportunity to get hands-on experience and training with all aspects of ecological restoration while connecting with your neighbors.

Take it from Sara Noland, an Everett Forest Steward. For her, the role’s perks include the “feeling of accomplishment, being outside, [and] meeting others who care about parks.” She also shares with us these wise words:

Forest restoration is an act of optimism, patience, and love. It takes a lot of time and sweat…but it’s amazing how much a group of volunteers can accomplish in just a few hours working together.


As part of becoming a Forest Steward, most Green Cities host orientations where you can learn the basics of ecological restoration, volunteer management, and the Green Cities program. Attending one of these orientations does not commit you to becoming a Forest Steward – they are open to anyone interested in learning more about the program.

Be sure to attend the orientation in the city that you wish to be active in, as the information presented will be city-specific. See the list below for all upcoming local orientations. We hope to see you there!

Everett – June 2, 9am-12pm at Forest Park. Contact Green Everett!

Kirkland – March 24, 10am-1pm at McAuliffe Park. Sign up here!

Redmond – April 14, 9am-12pm at Farrel-McWhirter Park. Sign up here!

Seattle – Orientation will be held in late summer. In the meantime, check out our general information on becoming a Forest Steward here!

Snoqualmie – March 24, 9am-12pm at the Snoqualmie Valley YMCA & Community Center. Sign up here!


If you don’t see your city on the list, then no orientation has been scheduled yet. But keep an eye out for updates and come volunteer at some of our delightful restoration events this spring!


Green Cities Partnerships 2018

In 2018, the Green Cities program begins its 14th year! Conceived in 2004 by Forterra and launched in the City of Seattle, the Green Cities Partnerships have now grown to nine participating cities. From Everett to Puyallup our efforts seek to help communities regain, restore and reconnect with green spaces and critical landscapes in their community.


There are three goals of the Green Cities Partnership Program:

  • Improve the quality of life, connections to nature, and enhance forest benefits in cities by restoring our forested parks and natural areas
  • Galvanize an informed and active community
  • Ensure long-term sustainable funding and community support

A Green City Partnership brings together local government agencies, community members, businesses, schools, non-profit groups and all who are concerned about a healthy environment.

The partnership creates and implements community-based stewardship of our land resources. The results are a land base that provides maximum ecosystem benefits. These benefits include reduction of flooding, mitigation of climate change, increased wildlife and biodiversity, improved air quality and cleaner water for humans and salmon.

Forterra’s Green City Partnership provides a comprehensive program for cities to address the growing needs for green infrastructure and a way to help implement their Comprehensive Plan, Stormwater Management activities, Park and Recreation Plans and other efforts that directly impact the sustainability and livability of their community.

Underling all of our efforts is the desire to connect Green Cities to one another (e.g., fill in the Gaps on the map). Creating this dynamic and interconnected series of Green Cities will help to reverse some of our past mistakes, bring communities closer together and provide more opportunities for community members to get outdoors and be in nature.

The People

The foundation of the Green Cities Program are the people. Through community engagement and volunteerism, Green Cities has involved more than 77,000 individuals throughout our Puget Sound. These volunteers have provided more than 1.1 million volunteer hours in our local parks and public green spaces.

There are many entities who rely on volunteers to accomplish goals of restoration, but the Green cities program is unique in that we engage volunteers to complete the work, but we also help them to be more connected to one another and to nature. Whether it is a college biology class achieving their service hours or a business providing volunteers for an MLK Day of service, there is never a shortage of dedicated volunteers.  We see our program as going beyond pulling ivy or planting new cedar trees. Of course the program’s goal is make the experience of volunteering rewarding and informative, but we hope individuals come away from the experience with and understanding of the “why” this work is important. Tying it to the ‘big’ picture always receives a positive response from volunteers and helps them feel connected to nature and to their community. We all want to feel valued and connected.

Another unique element of our program is that many sites have regular and ongoing work parties. Metro Parks Tacoma for instance has several sites with monthly volunteer events. This provides volunteers an opportunity to see positive change on the landscape that is a direct result of their work over the course of a season, 5 years or event 20 years. It provides a way to more deeply engage in the effort.  It also helps them connect and understand to the difficulty of this work.

Finally, there are numerous resources online for volunteers to learn more about the Partnership (e.g., what is the best ways to remove English Ivy from trees or what is the Target Habitat for a certain site). This all provides and interactive environment where volunteers can engage as much or as little as they desire.


The Partnership
Dedicated city staff, non-profit organizations, colleges, local K-12 schools, numerous businesses, conservation districts, Port of Seattle, the Port of Tacoma and many more have all come together to ensure that there is a sustained commitment to the long-term health of critical landscapes across the Puget Sound region.  Currently, nine cities participate in the Green Cities Program and include: Seattle, Everett, Kirkland, Redmond, Snoqualmie, Tukwila, Kent, Puyallup and Tacoma.

Each of these cities have developed a 20-Year Plan that provides the vision, goals and implementation strategies to restore a certain amount of acres in their community. This 20-year Plan also provides cost estimates, maps of all lands and condition of those lands, as well as a structure to establish a Habitat Steward Program. The 20-Year Plan provides the key guiding document to achieve the desired results.


Land Restoration Goals and Activity
Together, our collective goal stands at approximately 9,000 acres of land to be enrolled in restoration by 2037. We are about 25% completed, with a little more than 2,000 acres enrolled in restoration activities.  The big disclaimer is that every few years we add another Green City and the targets grow. In 2018, we are already confirmed to add the cities of Burien, SeaTac and Des Moines. Only time will tell how many acres these cities will seek to enroll. Do you care about healthy green spaces in your community? Do you want to be the next Green City? Contact us.



Native plants To restore these 2,000 acres, partners have planted more than 900,000 native plants. Our goal is to source plants locally and use plant palettes that help us mimic the lowland Puget Sound forest or other target habitats appropriate for the area. From small ground covers like Trillium to the mighty Western Red Cedar, our goal is to reintroduce the diversity of species and structure that have been lost in recent decades.


Invasive To get to a point where these planting can occur the remove of large areas of invasive plants is necessary. Here in the Puget Sound we deal with countless invasive species, seemingly more than any other part of the country. The most pervasive plants include English Ivy, Himalayan Blackberry and Scotch Broom. Others include; Knotweed, Reed Canary Grass, Archangel, Thistle, Creeping buttercup, Policemen’s Helmet, English Holly, European Hawthorne, Garlic Mustard, Butterfly Bush, Morning Glory, Herb Robert, Poison Hemlock and many more.


Over the years we have develop standards or Best Management Practices (BMP’s) that guide the removal of invasive plants and provide guidance on how to create a planting plan and how to install new native plants.

Why do we do the work we do


By now everybody has committed to memory the list of ecosystem services provided by a healthy environment, from wildlife biodiversity to reduced asthma rates in children, a healthy environment is critical to our well-being.  

The ability or act of providing a service (e.g., clean air) by elements of nature is called ecosystem services. As we become more in tune with our environment and gather a deeper understanding of her functions, systems and outputs we can learn how to work within those parameters. On a very simple level we try to mimic nature and keep some semblance of her dynamics. This is the primary activity of the Green Cities Partnerships. However, this can be difficult because the only constant in nature is constant change. Whether it is a natural disturbance like a lightning strike that opens up the canopy in a forest condition or a man-made disturbance like logging, the natural world is constantly adjusting and readjusting itself. This is often called dynamic equilibrium. The key factors in dynamic equilibrium is how intense and frequent the disturbance is, and the ability of natural elements to recover from this disturbance.

In the urban landscape we are faced with many additional challenges than disturbance as part of the dynamic equilibrium process. One of the biggest challenges is the edge effect. Almost all of our natural areas and green spaces are surrounded by private property. All of these properties, private and public, usually have large areas of invasive plants like Scotch Broom, Himalayan Blackberry or English Ivy. All three of these invasive plants are easily spread by seed. So even though we can spend hours and hours removing these invasive plants from our sites, the wind, bird dispersal or other wildlife will quickly drop seeds back onto our restoration site. It has been determined that a Scotch Broom seed can remain dormant in soil for 100 years, just waiting for an opportunity to sprout. This makes long-term maintenance in the urban landscape mandatory for all restoration work. We can never truly walk away from a property and say it is complete. We can, hopefully get to a state of dynamic equilibrium where the native habitat is healthy enough to recover from most disturbances and only on an infrequent basis (e.g., every 5 years) will we have to return for minor treatments. We will dive more into the state and equilibrium of habitat in later blogs

Habitat Stewards
Simply stated, Habitat Stewards are volunteer leaders in their community. Unique to the Green Cities Partnership is our dedication to training and involving our community members for leadership roles. The Habitat Steward Program is for those volunteers who want to go beyond the three hour work party and take on all aspects of the restoration of specific sites. In other words these habitat Stewards adopt a site and guide all management aspects. Habitat Stewards are trained in how to run an event, conduct outreach, technical aspects of restoration, speaking in front of a groups, and all tracking protocols.


Currently, there are 220 Habitat Stewards in the nine Green Cities.  Many Green Cities hold orientations and initial trainings annually, others will do a training as needed. Contact us to find out more about the Green Cities Habitat Steward Program.

Please come back soon to read more blogs, in the coming months we will blog about specific plants and wildlife, introduce you to target Habitats and highlight some of our work across the Green Cities network.


More than 1,500 volunteers converged at area parks and natural areas during the months of October and November for Green City Day celebrations across the Puget Sound area. Seven cities participated.  This year marked two milestones: the oldest Green City, Seattle, is celebrating its 11th anniversary and, Tukwila and Snoqualmie officially launched their programs.

A total of 6,459 native plants were planted, 49,395 square feet of invasive plant material was removed and 45 cubic yards of mulch was spread. This work was completed by 1,575 volunteers who clocked a combined total of 4,734 volunteer service hours. Volunteers came from all over the region and represented high school Key Clubs, Boy Scouts of America, elementary school students, area colleges and businesses including eBay, Homegrown, Brooks, REI and Boeing to name just a few.

Green Cities Days are part of the Green City Partnerships representing the cities of Seattle, Redmond, Kirkland, Everett, Tukwila, Snoqualmie, Kent, Puyallup and Tacoma. These cities have a goal to restore 9,000 acres of forested parks and natural areas while building community through stewardship.

“Our goals are for a sustainable, volunteer led program where our natural open spaces are improved and healthy, with invasive species eradicated from those areas and thriving native trees and shrubs have reassumed a dominate role in our forest composition,” says Chris Beale of the City of Puyallup.

Restored forested parks and natural areas mitigate urban flooding, helps clean air and water resources, provides home for wildlife and allows people to connect with nature.

For more information about the Green City Partnership, visit the partnership’s founding organization Forterra.

Green Tacoma Day: Held October 1 at 9 sites across the City. Green Tacoma had 130 volunteers who planted 80 native trees and shrubs, including several large trees at Titlow Park. Volunteers also removed 2,500 square feet of invasive plants and spread 25 cubic yards of mulch.


Green Kent Day: Held October 22 at Morrill Meadows Park. With beautiful sunshine as the backdrop, 123 volunteers removed more than 32,000 square feet of invasive plants, planted 102 native shrubs and spread more than 20 cubic yards of mulch.


Green Everett Day: Postponed for one week due to the predicted storm of the century, Green Everett Day was held on October 22 and boasted 80 volunteers who planted 477 native plants and spread more than 300 cubic yards of mulch.


Green Redmond Day: The event on October 29 attracted 109 volunteers at three parks. While the wind and rain tried to dampen spirits, students from John James Audubon Elementary School and other volunteers planted 708 native plants.


Green Kirkland Day: Even wind and rain could not stop the 115 dedicated volunteers at Green Kirkland Day. Held on November 12 at 4 city parks across Kirkland, volunteers removed 3,232 square feet of invasive plants and planted 630 native plants.  Lynn Zwaagstra, Kirkland Parks and Community Services Director, reflected on how the “work by volunteers shows a tangible impact.”


Green Puyallup Day: The second annual Green Puyallup Day was held on November 5.  This year the event expanded from 1 site to 3 with more than 60 volunteers removing invasive plants and planting native trees and shrubs. A total of 11,000 square feet of invasive blackberry was removed and 170 native plants were added to the understory habitat at Meeker and Silver creeks.


Green Seattle Day: Held on November 12 across 15 sites, Green Seattle Day attracted 958 participants. More than 300 volunteers descended on Camp Long.  Over the course of 3 hours, volunteers planted an amazing 4,392 native plants.


In addition to the official Green City Days above, the cities of Snoqualmie and Tukwila held special inaugural events to kick off their Green City Partnerships.

Green Tukwila and Duwamish Alive: Working side by side with the Duwamish Alive Coalition, two sites in Tukwila attracted 158 volunteers and planted more than 1,000 native plants. More than 5,000 square feet of invasive plants was also removed and 100 cubic yards of mulch was spread.

In Snoqualmie two restoration events were held that attracted 46 volunteers, removed 3,600 square feet of invasive plants, planted 54 native plants and spread 300 cubic yards of mulch.



Dry, dry summer

sunWe plant hardy, native plants in all of our restoration projects. In addition to playing important roles in our healthy forests, these species evolved to the conditions in the Northwest, and for the most part can thrive with a lot less intensive care than most plants. However, even these tough guys are struggling in this summer’s unusually hot, dry weather.

If you spread wood chip mulch at a volunteer event this spring or winter, right now our plants are saying a giant thank you. Like a natural buffer against extreme conditions, mulch helps slow down evaporation of water from soil, keeping plants wetter, cooler, and happier during dry weather. (Amazingly, mulch also keeps the ground warmer during cold winter days!) In many of our restoration sites, we are also implementing emergency watering measures to help extra-vulnerable new plantings from this past winter to survive the next months.

If you see your plants at home starting to wilt in the heat and dry weather we’ve been having, or worse yet, developing brown, dry tips or leaves, read on. Here are some things you can do to help your plants survive the summer:

Keep close watch: this summer has been much drier than usual, so pay a little extra attention and keep an eye out for signs of drought stress. You may need to water more often, especially if you have new plants that were recently planted. But remember that your neighbors will all be watering their plants more too, so follow the rest of these tips to conserve our water resources. As a bonus, you’ll be watering more effectively for your plants, too.

Water early, or water late: Watering your plants during the heat of the day will cause you to lose a lot to evaporation. Watering in the early morning, or late evening, when the sun is low and air temperatures are cooler, will allow more water to soak into the soil and get to your plants.

Water close to the ground: Instead of spraying high above plants, where it will quickly evaporate into the hot, dry air, point the watering stream as close to the soil as you can. Water slowly to allow it to soak into the soil instead of running off the surface. Soaker hoses, drip-irrigation setups, and tree watering bags can also help a lot.

Water deeply: a lot of water, slightly less often, is better then a little water more often. Water gets deeper down into soil and encourages plants to grow longer, stronger roots.

Think about shade: Very young plants that are having an especially tough time might benefit from partial shade covers made from lightweight cloth, narrow wood lattice, or old window screens.

More mulch! Something to cover the ground, like wood chip mulch, straw, or even gravel can help slow water from evaporating out of the soil. Mulch is your best friend for conserving water and helping your plants at the same time.

thisiswhatmulchlookslike Colman Mulch 2

Let us know what works for you, and good luck!


Happy Native Plant Appreciation Week!

NativePlantWeekIntro_(2)Why do native plants make our hearts skip a beat? So many reasons, we’re taking a whole week to tell you about it. Stick with us on the blog this week, as Forterra’s Stewardship staff pens a love letter to the plants that help us do our best work.

To understand the importance of native plants, imagine you go to the supermarket one day, planning to buy all of your basic food and household essentials, but when you walk in all they have is turnips. And you don’t even really like turnips. And then you go in another week and there’s nothing at all.

That’s what it’s like for native wildlife when invasive plants take over a landscape, pushing out the wide array of native plants that called it home: plants that flower and fruit at different times of the year, produce food that can be stored, and even provide shelter. Invasive plants grow so aggressively that eventually, they’re the only thing around. Some wildlife might manage eating invasive blackberries or nesting in ivy, but those plants may only be available for part of the year, and many species may not be able to get by at all.

But wildlife is only one part of it. The key is variety. Our native plants evolved together over hundreds and thousands of years, and they’ve adapted to co-exist so that no single one dominates. Instead they make a beautiful patchwork quilt of trees, shrubs, and smaller plants, each contributing its own bounty to the landscape. Some are great at feeding wildlife, others clean our waterways, keep steep slopes or sand dunes from falling apart, or capture carbon in the atmosphere. Best of all, they can thrive here without needing to be watered or fertilized—they’ve already been doing so for millennia. All of these awesome qualities allow native plants to blanket our wild places and urban jungles with the wide variety of life that is necessary for a healthy and sustainable environment.

Native plants are also a living part of the history of the Northwest. First Nations people depended on the plants that have grown here throughout their history, and their traditional uses reflect a deep knowledge of the natural history of the land and its plants, called ethnobotany. Learning about it is a fascinating way to understand native plants while connecting to the history of this place at the same time.

Throughout the rest of this week, we’ll be focusing on different fun and interesting aspects of native plants each day. Stay tuned and let us know what you think! We hope it inspires you to dig in with us at a volunteer project or plant some native plants in your own yard.

Check out these other posts from Native Plant Appreciation Week :
* The radiant red-flowering currant
* Ode to the western hemlock
* Small, green superheros for salmon
* “Lakes” of blue camas


Green Seattle Partnership recognized as a game changer

We’re excited to announce that the Green Seattle Partnership will be getting this year’s “Community Game Changer” award at Forterra’s Awards Breakfast on May 19th!

group shot with fistsThe Community Game Changer Award recognizes that a sustaining and sustainable renaissance and restoration of our city green spaces require visionaries who think beyond traditional, narrowly defined scopes and missions; collaboration and partnership among a broad coalition of people – from government agencies to organizations; from schools to businesses; and the hands-on hard work and green thumbs of devoted community volunteers. This Forterra award to the Green Seattle Partnership celebrates 10 years of outstanding service and dedication to Seattle’s parks and natural areas—a game-changer in our community that is now a nationally acclaimed and regionally replicated model.

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Within the Partnership as a whole, Forterra is recognizing the contributions of the following standouts: Mayors of Seattle Greg Nichols, Mike McGinn, and Ed Murray for their vision, leadership, and ongoing commitment to green space and the idea that citizens who dig in and get their hands dirty are a very good thing for the health of our communities. Seattle’s Offices of Sustainability and the Environment, Public Utilities, and Parks and Recreation, GSP’s dynamic founding partners, for joining Forterra in launching the Green Seattle Partnership, advancing the importance of place-making, and furthering a ‘living’ project that has now enrolled over 1000 city acres into restoration – and along the way brought together residents of all ages and neighborhoods. Stewards and volunteers for their generosity in giving 722,500 hours in volunteer time to plant 169,000 trees in order to maintain ecologically balanced green spaces and provide for quality of life in the city of Seattle.

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If you would like to attend the breakfast to see the award presentation, click here for more information. If you are a volunteer, put “Green Seattle Partnership” as your table captain.


Celebrate First Creek and the Puget Sound during Salishan Green Days

first creek“Puget Sound Starts Here” – We have all seen this phrase marking our street storm drains. Yet how many of us really know what this means or how true this phrase really is? There are few things quite as beautiful as the Puget Sound and it is one of the many things that make this region such a great place to live. However, beneath the outward beauty is a dirty reality that often goes unseen: Annually, 14 million pounds of toxic chemicals enter Puget Sound waters , and this doesn’t just come from waste discarded directly into the Sound.

The Puget Sound is like a circulatory system, with rivers and creeks moving water to the Sound, like veins move blood to our hearts. This means that the things that go into these creeks and rivers matter later down the system when they reach the Puget Sound – including invasive species that grow along shorelines, garbage carelessly tossed on the ground, and especially the chemicals of urban life that travel through storm water runoff.

May is Puget Sound Starts Here month, with the hopes of encouraging individuals to do their part to keep the Sound healthy. Following this spirit, the Green Tacoma Partnership is hosting the first ever Salishan Green Days. Next week Green Tacoma, in partnership with the Salishan Association, The Tacoma Housing Authority, the City of Tacoma, and Forterra— will be running events focused on the health of First Creek in Tacoma. First Creek is an important storm water fed creek that flows into the Puyallup River, and eventually the Puget Sound. The creek is culturally significant for the Puyallup tribe and was once known to be laden with salmon; it has since been heavily impacted by surrounding development and infested with invasive species.

Salishan Green days will be May 29th– 31st, with different events each day. All events are free, family-friendly, and full of exciting activities:

Thursday May 29 : First Creek and Puget Sound Need Our Help
Salishan Family Investment Center (1724 East 44th St, Tacoma, WA)

Learn more about this important community asset through hands-on activities and presentations! Enjoy free snacks and fun giveaways.
Spanish and Russian interpreters provided.

Friday May 30th: Composting, Recycling, and Garbage…Oh My!
Salishan Family Investment Center (1724 East 44th St, Tacoma, WA)

Learn the ways of proper recycling and play a little Garbage Bingo. Enjoy free snacks, fun giveaway items, and prizes for our Garbage Bingo winners!  Spanish, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese interpreters provided. 

Saturday May 31st : First Creek Restoration and Clean-up Event 
East T St and East 39th St, Tacoma WA

Join us to help restore First Creek by removing invasive weeds and trash. Stick around after for a light lunch and fun giveaway items. Spanish and Russian interpreters will be provided.

To learn more and register for these events, click here.
Questions?  Contact: Jennifer Chang