Friends of Trees


TREEMAIL: News from Friends of Trees


Students at Chemawa Indian School connect with the Indigenous relationship to the land.

Friends of Trees has been partnering with the Chemawa Indian School, a Native American boarding school in Salem, for over eight years on a program designed to provide opportunities for students to build knowledge and skills that could lead to careers in the environmental field. Chase Huntley, an Education Specialist working with the Chemawa Program, developed a syllabus around general conservation ecology and restoration, and how it connects to bigger ideas.

“It’s really important to make things culturally relevant,” Chase says. “Communities have always had a relationship to the land to the water. So I wanted to focus on the place we’re at and how it’s important to Indigenous people.”

The course is a combination of classroom, field study, and hands-on activity. The seven high school students in the class are all from different groups around the country, so much of the local land and its history was new to them. Chase hosted guest speakers to talk about Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) specific to the Kalapuya and other nearby tribes.

Chase’s goal for this year was to build a strong foundation and develop partnerships, something he’ll continue doing next school year. “There’s so much potential with this program,” Chase says. “It all starts with focusing on the place.”

Read more about the education program at Chemawa here.

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Our youth programming creates opportunities for young people to engage with nature

Getting youth excited about trees and green spaces is one of the best parts about our work. Friends of Trees engaged over 250 young people through youth programming this season!

“I had kids coming up to me and saying, ‘this is your job?!’” Green Space Specialist Kaitie Benedek says of her time planting with 5th, 6th, and 7th grade classes from CF Tigard Elementary School and Fowler Middle School. High school students from Cascade Education Corps (CEC) helped lead the plantings. With elementary, middle and high schoolers working together and people walking by in the park offering encouragement, the plantings at Dirksen Nature Park and Woodard Park had a wonderful intergenerational feel to them.

That spirit of connection and mentorship was present at Oregon Trail Elementary too, where forestry students from the Sabin-Schellenberg Center helped facilitate a full day of hands-on environmental education.

“When you get students involved in learning about the environment, appreciating the place and engaging with it, they’ll take those lessons home and share them.”

-Meng Vue, Green Space Specialist

Green Space Specialist Harrison Layer works closely with students from Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center (POIC), a nonprofit that connects high school youth with career training, including partnering with Friends of Trees. POIC students train as crew leaders and lead Friends of Trees plantings throughout the season. Working with the POIC crew for an entire season means that you can see amazing growth in skills and confidence.

“One of the students referred to this program as ‘unlocking’ new places for them to know and appreciate, much like a video game,” Harrison says. “I loved that!”

Learn more about our youth programming here!

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Reflecting on another successful 2022-23 season

The Eugene-Springfield team had their final event on May 6th and with hardly a break has already started their summer watering routine. Still, they’ve taken time to reflect on the successes of the 2022- 2023 planting event season. It was a season characterized by more bicycles, new relationships, and emerging leaders.

“We had the most consistent group of new crew leaders this season. This new cohort quickly rose to lead alongside our veteran CLs. It’s great to have that consistency at planting events.”

-Eugene-Springfield Program Manager Taylor Glass

The team also worked to expand the use of bicycle crews at planting events. Partnering with PeaceHealth Rides, we had three events with multiple bicycle crews.

With the 2023 Greenpower Grant from Eugene Water & Electric Board, the Eugene team looks forward to further expanding its planting program in areas that need trees most. The $50,000 award will fund the expansion of their Neighborhood Tree program to all areas of Eugene with low tree equity scores.

More season highlights here!

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Partner Spotlight: 3’s For Trees!

Daimler Truck North America, the Portland Trail Blazers, and Friends of Trees just celebrated the NINTH SEASON of the 3’s For Trees Program. For every three-pointer made, three trees get planted! In the 2022-23 season, Blazers made 1,056 three-pointers, translating to 3,168 native trees and plants added to the Sandy River Delta and Gateway Green.

Over 100 Daimler Truck employees participated in this year’s planting event on a Sunny Friday in April. Friends of Trees staff led the installation of thousands of plants and trees, while Blazers Dancers cheered on planters with the help of Blaze the Trail Cat and Douglas Fur, the Bigfoot Blazer mascot eager to see more trees added to his stomping grounds.

The Blazers’ and Daimler Truck’s continued support of Friends of Trees has increased over the 9 years of 3’s For Trees, growing a partnership dedicated to providing the benefits of trees to the community.

“Sustainability is an important part of our culture at Daimler Truck North America, and we are continuously working to benefit our community and reduce our overall carbon footprint. We’re proud to partner with the Trail Blazers and Friends of Trees to support the 3’s for Trees program.”

-Drew Backeberg, senior vice president of aftermarket, Daimler Truck North America 

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This season saw plenty of fresh faces on the Friends of Trees staff. These new folks have added so much value to the team, each bringing a unique approach and a deep passion for trees and community. Our staff are more than just their jobs. Who wants to teach a class on dog training? Who loves to play music? You can learn more about all our staff on our Beneath the Bark page! 

Among the new team members is Deputy Director Megan Van de Mark!  Megan recently returned to Friends of Trees after a 3-year hiatus. During her time away she worked for Portland Audubon as the co-manager of the Backyard Habitat Certification Program. In her previous time with Friends of Trees she coordinated their SW Washington tree planting and tree care efforts.

In her new role as Deputy Director, Megan works closely with Executive Director Yashar Vasef to help develop and implement the organization’s strategic plans and policies while providing organizational leadership and direction. Megan is drawn to collaborating with the diverse communities that make up our region in order to build all the stories of our urban forest. Her favorite tree? Well, there can’t be just one, but she does love an Oregon white oak.

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Show love for your tree with a Friends of Trees yard sign!

Do you have a tree from Friends of Trees in your yard or planting strip? We want to celebrate your tree and the benefits it provides with a beautiful yard sign! We want people to know how important trees are to their communities, and to see the impact that Friends of Trees and its supporters have made throughout western Oregon and southwest Washington. Visit here to learn more and get in touch.

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Friends of Trees

The #FriendsofTreesWay is planting trees—and so much more!

(503) 282-8846: Portland office

(541) 632-3683: Eugene office


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Learn more about how Friends of Trees greens our region + grows community through checking out other issues of Treemail here