By Yashar Vasef, Executive Director, Friends of Trees
The first planting event of the season always sets the stage for me and opens me up to all the connections that can happen when you bring people together. My first event this year drove that home and more. Friends of Trees helped put on a land tending event at Portland Community College – Rock Creek in partnership with Indigenous community groups and other local partners.
Together, we worked to restore what had been a cow pasture on campus at PCC back to an oak wetland. Working with Wisdom of the Elders, the Five Oaks Museum, and Kimimela Consulting gave us the chance to learn about the history of the land and call back to what the original stewards of the lands would have planted. We planted evergreen huckleberry, beaked hazelnut, and of course, Oregon white oak. Once these plants get established, Indigenous communities will be able to forage this land.
More than planting, the day was all about connection.
I met one of our crew leaders, Emily, who has been volunteering with Friends of Trees since she was young. She spoke to me about how much she’s loved getting to see the plants and trees she’s planted grow over time. The event felt truly intergenerational, from one of our long-time crew leaders to a student who saw the land tending event on the school calendar and told me that she couldn’t have been happier to come join.
It was the first planting event for our PGE Project Zero intern Jose. Meng Vue, the Green Space specialist who led this awesome event, talked to me about how Jose is passionate about nature and youth education and that he’s brought such a positive energy to our team. His hard work hasn’t just helped us grow plants, it’s helped our team and our projects flourish too. It was awesome to see him learn the ins and outs of hosting a community event.
I got to spend quality time with Adrienne Moat, the Workforce Development Manager at Wisdom of the Elders and a board member at Friends of Trees, whose support and guidance is so valuable. One of the PCC professors I met told me how important it was for BIPOC people to get together and plant side by side. I felt that too, especially as I connected with several people there over our immigrant backgrounds. These are the sort of deeper conversations made possible by having community planting events like this, and it’s something that I really cherish.
At the start of every season, I’m reminded that getting my hands in the dirt is so spiritually cleansing for me. Sharing that feeling with others makes it feel even better.
This fall, an 11-member coalition led by Friends of Trees was awarded a $12 million Urban and Community Forestry Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) grants. The grant will fund the engagement of low canopy neighborhoods included in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 initiative, which will bring resources to communities most impacted by climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards.
The driving theme of the IRA Project is coalition building.
Coalition building goes hand-in-hand with Friends of Trees’ mission to grow community by planting and caring for trees and natural areas together. While we are proud of our past and existing partnerships, this new project is an unprecedented opportunity to take our approach to partnering to the next level by more meaningfully and responsively collaborating with community stakeholders. This includes carving the time and capacity to connect as project partners and people.
We are so excited to work closely with our partners on this project: APANO, Black Parent Initiative, City of Gresham, City of Portland, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Connecting Canopies, Depave, POIC, Verde, and Wisdom of the Elders. We’ll be spotlighting each of these partners over the next year as we work together on a coalition model that moves us forward as a community team. It’ll be a big, complicated effort, but one that is certainly worth taking on so that we can build a more equitable urban forest.
The efforts toward this community coalition made the IRA coalition possible. And it’s become abundantly clear that it played a significant role in securing this transformative coalition grant that’s unprecedented for Friends of Trees! Learn more about the project here.
Friends of Trees | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information:
Friends of Trees: Yashar Vasef, Executive Director; [email protected]
Please contract coalition members for more information about their organization’s specific project role and activities (details below)
Portland, Ore. (9-14-23) — An 11-member coalition led by Friends of Trees was awarded a $12 million Urban and Community Forestry Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the Inflation Reduction Act grants. The grant will fund the engagement of low canopy neighborhoods included in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 initiative, which will bring resources to communities most impacted by climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards.
The partner coalition includes APANO, Black Parent Initiative, City of Gresham, City of Portland, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Connecting Canopies, Depave, POIC, Verde, and Wisdom of the Elders. The $12 million award will direct funds to these partners and Friends of Trees across five years. This is a partial award, as the original request was for $17.5 million, and the details of the award have not yet been provided.
The coalition’s proposal includes funding for community forestry work including tree planting, natural area restoration, post-planting care, community education, opportunities for direct community input and participation, and workforce training.
“This award is a validation of community tree planting as a model,” says Friends of Trees Executive Director Yashar Vasef. “Especially in the face of intensifying climate change, authentic community partnerships have a huge part to play in growing and maintaining our urban forests.”
The project includes:
- community tree planting (training and engaging volunteers) to plant up to 2,300 street and yard trees and 21,000 native shrubs in neighborhoods and natural areas, specifically in identified equity areas: East Multnomah County, West Eugene, and Springfield
- robust post-planting care, including watering, mulching, and natural area maintenance
- community education
- opportunities for direct community input and participation
- workforce training
In addition to community tree planting and tree care, thousands of additional trees and native shrubs will be planted and cared for by coalition partners through other methods.
“This project represents a tremendous investment in growing our community’s canopy,” Vasef says. “That means engaging the community in efforts to both plant and care for trees.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA’s Forest Service is awarding more than $1 billion in competitive grants to plant and maintain trees, combat extreme heat and climate change, and improve access to nature. Friends of Trees’ partner application is one of 385 proposals that were accepted across the nation.
In addition to affirming the effectiveness of the community tree planting model, this award demonstrates that policymakers are listening to the science. It’s widely accepted that trees play a vital role in combating climate change and providing public health benefits. A recent study using 14 years of Friends of Trees planting data associates neighborhood tree planting with fewer deaths.
“This isn’t just the coalition’s award, this is our communities’ award,” says Vasef. “This coalition represents a broad, diverse cross section of our communities, and these communities will be directly involved with, and will directly benefit from, this project.”
Friends of Trees (FriendsofTrees.org)
Friends of Trees inspires people to improve the natural world around them through a simple solution: Planting Trees. Together.
Friends of Trees was founded in 1989 by a local community member who loved trees and started planting them in neighborhoods. Today, Friends of Trees is a nationally recognized, regional leader in improving the urban tree canopy and restoring sensitive natural areas—through programs delivered by thousands of volunteers. Friends of Trees has planted 945,000+ trees and native plants in neighborhoods and natural areas in six counties across two states in the 35 years since its founding. Learn more about The Friends of Trees Way.
Please contract coalition members for more information about their organization’s specific project role and activities:
- APANO: Duncan Hwang, [email protected]
- The Black Parent Initiative: Leigh Bohannon, [email protected]
- Columbia Slough Watershed Council: Max Samuelson or Heather King, [email protected]; [email protected]
- Connecting Canopies: Theresa Huang or Derron Coles, [email protected]; [email protected]
- Depave: Katya Reyna, [email protected]
- City of Gresham: Tina Osterink or Sarah Cagann, [email protected]; [email protected]
- City of Portland: Mark Ross, [email protected]
- Rosemary Anderson High School/POIC: Leigh Rappaport, [email protected]
- Verde: Jasmine Co or Amandeep Sohi, [email protected], [email protected]
- Wisdom of the Elders: Adrienne Moat, [email protected]
With Verde, Friends of Trees put on its first Spanish-language led event
While planting trees at a home on Going Street in Northeast Portland, Bella reminded her mother Maria that she wanted to speak Spanish for the entire event. Her mom smiled, and continued her question to Crew Leader Ana in Spanish. Everyone on this particular crew was bilingual, but they embraced the spirit of the event and led with Spanish.
While Friends of Trees has had Spanish-led crews at past events, this planting was the first ever event to be led in Spanish. Friends of Trees partnered with Verde to plan the event and recruit volunteers.
“It was our first ever opening announcements in Spanish, our first Crew Leader huddle in Spanish,” said Neighborhood Trees Senior Specialist Andrew Land, the planting lead for the event and one of the several Friends of Trees staff who speaks Spanish.
The event’s Crew Leaders were all Líderes Verdes, a Verde program supporting the leadership development of Cully’s Latine community. Crew Leaders like Ana organized planters, distributed tools, and demonstrated planting techniques entirely in Spanish.
“We get a lot of people at our events who are bilingual, but I love that we flipped it on its head and led with Spanish,” Andrew said. “It allows us to put Spanish speakers squarely in their comfort zone.”
When a crew showed up to plant at a tree recipient’s home near Fernhill Park, the homeowner happily dusted off her Spanish skills to talk with the crew.
The event was smaller and more intimate than most of our neighborhood plantings, but it still made for a lively and productive morning. Four crews planted 32 trees, and celebrated over a pozole lunch.
“We wanted to keep it small to make sure it went smoothly,” Andrew said. “It went great, and hopefully this is the first of many Spanish events.”
This planting is part of the Clean Air Canopy project. When a NE Portland glass plant reached a settlement with Oregon DEQ related to compliance with their air quality permit, a portion of the penalty contributed funds to approved local environmental projects, including planting trees. Friends of Trees, with partners Verde, Cully Association of Neighbors, and Cully Air Action Team, have focused on making sure these plantings are beneficial and inclusive to the communities they serve.
Con Verde, Friends of Trees realizó su primer evento dirigido en español
Mientras plantaba árboles en una casa sobre Going Street en el noreste de Portland, Bella le recordó a su madre María que quería hablar español durante todo el evento. Su mamá sonrió y le pasó su pregunta a la líder de equipo, Ana, en español. Todos los integrantes de este equipo en particular eran bilingües, pero adoptaron el espíritu del evento y lo dirigieron en español.
Si bien Friends of Trees ha tenido equipos dirigidos en español en eventos anteriores, esta siembra fue el primer evento dirigido en español. Friends of Trees se asoció con Verde para planificar el evento y reclutar voluntarios.
“Fue nuestro primer anuncio inaugural en español, nuestra primera reunión de líderes de equipo en español”, dijo Andrew Land, especialista principal de Neighborhood Trees, líder de siembra del evento y uno de los varios miembros del personal de Friends of Trees que habla español.
Todos los líderes del equipo eran Líderes Verdes, un programa de Verde que apoya el desarrollo de liderazgo de la comunidad latina de Cully. Los líderes de equipo como Ana organizaron las sembradoras, distribuyeron las herramientas y demostraron las técnicas de siembra completamente en español.
“Tenemos muchas personas en nuestros eventos que son bilingües, pero me encanta que le dimos la vuelta y lo dirigimos en español”, dijo Andrew. “Nos permite poner a los hispanohablantes de lleno en su zona de confort”.
El evento fue más pequeño e íntimo que la mayoría de las siembras en nuestro vecindario, pero aun así fue una mañana vivaz y productiva. Cuatro equipos sembraron 32 árboles y celebraron comiendo un pozole.
“Quisimos mantenerlo pequeño, para asegurarnos de que todo saliera bien”, dijo Andrew. “Salió genial, y espero que este sea el primero de muchos eventos en español”.
Esta siembra es parte del proyecto Clean Air Canopy. Cuando una planta de vidrio del noreste de Portland llegó a un acuerdo con el DEQ de Oregón en relación con el cumplimiento de su permiso de calidad del aire, una parte de la sanción aportó fondos para proyectos ambientales locales aprobados, incluyendo la siembra de árboles. Friends of Trees, con los socios Verde, Cully Association of Neighbors y Cully Air Action Team, se han enfocado en asegurarse de que estas siembras sean beneficiosas e inclusivas para las comunidades a las que sirven.