Get To Know Connecting Canopies

This coalition creates new pathways into the green workforce

In January, a new cohort will begin Friends of Trees’ Adult Urban Forestry and Restoration Training Program, a 10-week curriculum and internship designed to increase career opportunities for underrepresented communities in the urban forestry and natural area restoration fields. Many of those participants come to us through Connecting Canopies, which offers a 9-month training in urban forestry and restoration to BIPOC young adults. Their time with Friends of Trees is one piece of that training, focused on a community approach to planting trees.

Connecting Canopies is a coalition formed by the Blueprint Foundation, the Urban Greenspaces Institute (UGI) and The Nature Conservancy with the goal to create a more equitable canopy cover in the Portland metro region and beyond. Their approach is twofold. First they want to address many of the financial and policy barriers that keep many people from access to trees and their benefits. UGI analyzes tree codes and policies, both to open up conversations with government entities and to select project sites based on where trees are most needed.

Second, they want to increase community knowledge and reduce barriers to trees and green infrastructures by providing access into the green workforce for BIPOC communities. Their workforce development program creates real world opportunities for participants by placing them with five training partners over the course of the program.

“When people work in the forestry or restoration field, their skills and knowledge trickle down into their community,” says Theresa Huang, Partnerships & Planning Manager at the Urban Greenspaces Institute. “We’re hoping that this will help the community keep the trees that they have and encourage them to plant more.”

In addition to working with Friends of Trees on community forestry and restoration, these 12 trainees work with the Portland Fruit Tree Project to learn about planting and caring for fruit trees, with Meadowsweet Gardens to learn about landscape design, and with Audubon and Ash Creek Forest Management to learn about habitat restoration.

“Getting into the field is really hard,” Theresa says. To overcome some of those barriers, trainees are paid for their time. Connecting Canopies was started to be community led and center community voices, so that these BIPOC trainees are able to enter a workforce that they were typically left out of.

For Theresa, the partnership with Friends of Trees makes perfect sense. “When you think about community forestry, you think about Friends of Trees,” Theresa says. “They’ve nurtured so many people who have grown to love trees.”