Coalition Led by Friends of Trees Awarded $12M Community Forestry Grant


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 (
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:

The Eugene Branch

How the Eugene-Springfield team is starting the 2023 season

In Eugene and Springfield, Friends of Trees has been growing a robust community of tree stewards through their community pruning events. They’re about halfway through their slate of seven pruning events, each one with a small but mighty crew of pruners. By keeping these events intimate, each pruner gets plenty of hands-on experience.

“Young tree pruning is the most cost effective thing you can do for an urban forest,” says Eugene Director Erik Burke. “It’s a great experience for volunteers. We have a lot of regulars, and some new folks too.”

The Eugene Springfield team will kick off their season as they always do with another planting along Northwest Expressway on November 4th. This year will be the monumental Phase 10 of this planting project. It’s a prime example of putting trees in places where there’s plenty of room for trees and the benefits they provide. The team is able to plant large species, and also plant shrubs and bulbs to create a multi-level habitat for pollinators and wildlife. As each phase matures it does more and more to clean the air from the expressway and the railroad.

One of the most exciting things happening in Eugene this season will be the expansion of our equity work into high priority neighborhoods. With funding from an EWEB Greenpower Grant, the Bethel, Trainsong, and Far West neighborhoods will each get planting events, increased engagement, and more trees!

“We want to continue focusing our urban tree planting work on equity, sustainability, and resilience,” Erik says. “The Greenpower grant has allowed us to do even more.”

These are just a few of the exciting things happening for our Eugene Team this season. Stay tuned for when we dig in on these topics and more, and visit their event calendar here to join in on the fun!

Get To Know Laughing Planet Cafe

Laughing Planet is donating $1 for every kids smoothie sold to trees + community

When Laughing Planet CEO Franz Spielvogel decided to partner with a local organization, he quickly thought of Friends of Trees. For an entire year, Laughing Planet are donating $1 for every kids smoothie sold in the Portland region to Friends of Trees.

“Keeping it local was a big impetus for this partnership. We asked ourselves: Who’s local? Who does good things?” Franz says. “How could you not love Friends of Trees?”

Having first volunteered for us over 20 years ago, and having planted five trees in his own yard, he knows first hand the impact that trees can have on a community. He even volunteered as a summer inspector.

“I’ve turned a little bit into a tree nut,” Franz says. “When you walk down a street without trees, it’s shocking. It can sound a bit cheesy on a bumper sticker, but trees are the answer.”

Because Friends of Trees’ mission aligns with the values of Laughing Planet, Franz is excited that the partnership can expose more people to the benefits of planting trees, especially young people, which is why kids’ smoothies are at the center of the partnership.

“I witnessed a mother and daughter in the cafe talking about the importance of trees. When you teach the kids while they’re young, they’ll care about trees for life.”

“Planting trees is super awesome!” Franz says. “I remember all the trees I’ve planted and I love to go back to see how they’re doing.”

A Sense of Place

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.

This year, Chase Huntley joined the team as an Education Specialist working with the Chemawa Program. He 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.

“Because these students are at a boarding school, I wanted to make sure we got outside as much as possible,” Chase says. “There’s so many benefits to being outside, including getting to know the land.”

One of Chase’s goals is for the students to shift away from the Western perspective that considers people and nature as separate. From the point of view of Indigenous people, people are intricately involved with nature. “Every plant has a purpose, not just ecologically but also culturally,” he says.

Much of the classroom study considered how Indigenous people have a role in shaping the land. Weekly themes included wildlife, water, restoration, environmental justice, plants, and careers, all with the Indigenous perspective.

Students were able to build a sweat lodge, and make arrows out of willow branches. Some of the hands-on work included blackberry removal and managing other invasive species. They also worked on mulching, planting native plants, and general maintenance.

“I wanted the activities to be student-led and it turns out they really enjoyed blackberry removal, Chase says. “But not just for something to do—we made sure that we understood the why behind what we’re doing.”

Chase is excited about the momentum the program has. His goal for this year was to build a strong foundation and develop partnerships, something he’ll continue doing next school year.

“I want to get more input from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde,” he says. “There are so many resources on the land that we can study. And I want to get off the campus more too, so that we can see even more of the area.”

With more guest speakers and more field trips, students can continue to connect the dots to the big picture and develop a sense of place connected to the larger watershed and indigenous lands in the area. Students will also train as crew leaders for the first time since before the pandemic, providing them with opportunities to participate in more green space and neighborhood planting events in Salem as both volunteers and crew leaders.

“There’s so much potential with this program,” Chase says. “It all starts with focusing on the place and its importance to Indigenous people.”


In honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day, and in celebration of all we do together to make our world greener and healthier for all, Friends of Trees is celebrating for the entire month of April–and here’s how you can join in!

We have $17,000 in Earth Month Challenges from Portland General Electric, Laughing Planet Cafe, Cafe Yumm, Level Beer, Deschutes Brewing. Donate here, your donation will make 2x the difference!


Wednesday, April 26, 6-8p.m. ~ Level Beer, northeast Portland

Friends of Trees benefit night at Level Beer on April 26. On the 26th all Level locations are donating 100% of proceeds from their Earth Day beer to trees + community (that’s us ;). We’ll be on site at Level’s northeast Portland location from 6 to about 8 (we’ll be based in the Annex), we’ll host a tree walk among the trees and shrubs we planted there this season + we’ll have some trees & plants to give away.

  • VOLUNTEER! Check out our event calendar for volunteer opportunities.
  • Earth Month fundraisers for Friends of Trees!
    • Until October 2023 Laughing Planet Cafe is donating $1 from every kids smoothie!
    • On Earth Day, April 22, Cafe Yumm is donating 10% of all proceeds from ALL Oregon locations – WOW!
    • Every Tuesday in April, Deschutes Brewery Portland is donating $1 per pint sold to Friends of Trees throughout the day. Thanks to Deschutes for being our Earth Day Oregon partners this year!
    • And in Eugene, for the entire month of April Alesong Brewing will be donating 25% of all revenue from bottle and draft sales of Rolling Mist, a farmhouse ale made with Sitka spruce tips foraged from the coast – wow, what an ale!


Earth Day, Saturday, April 22:

  • Friends of Trees annual shade tree sale. Large stock trees at discounted prices! Learn more here.
  • Native Tree & Plant Giveaway at Happy Valley Park. Are you a Clackamas County resident? Would you like a free native plant or two? Come visit us at Happy Valley Park (13770 SE Ridgecrest Rd, Happy Valley, OR 97086 ) between 9:30am & 12:30 pm – four plants per household and first come, first served! Thanks to our sponsors The Arbor Day Foundation and State Farm Insurance for the plants!

  • Stay tuned to our social media channels for some EXTRA special content. (Instagram / Facebook).
  • Visit our YouTube channel for some tree walks & talks with Friends of Trees staff + friends.

Check back, this page will be updated throughout April!




This year during Earth Month, we’re celebrating Community Climate Action. What’s Community Climate Action? It’s planting trees, together, and so much more.

Tackling climate change goes hand-in-hand with community action. At Friends of Trees, we’ve heard from countless volunteers about how planting trees makes them feel more connected to trees, more observant of trees’ health, and more eager to care for them. We’ve witnessed time and time again how a volunteer begins with tree planting and goes on to engage further with environmental issues, including combating climate change. It’s a ripple effect that can begin with a single tree.