Intersector Briefing: Protecting trees and forests through partnership

BlogImage_ArborDayTomorrow is Arbor Day — a day dedicated to celebrating the role of trees in our lives and promoting tree planting and care. Trees are incredibly important, both at a small-scale, local level where trees have an impact on individual wellbeing (a study found that people living in greener urban areas displayed fewer signs of depression or anxiety) and globally, as healthy forests can play a significant role in mitigating climate change (forests have the potential to absorb about one-tenth of global carbon emissions projected for the first half of this century). In honor of Arbor Day, we dedicate this month’s Intersector Briefing to trees, exploring the key role of public-private collaboration in protecting and restoring trees and forests.

Reforestation of Parks in Seattle
This case study from The Intersector Project’s Case Library profiles the Green Seattle Partnership, whose goal is to restore 2,500 acres of forested land by 2025. In 1994, the City of Seattle and the Parks Department began to notice something wrong with trees in city parks. Research found that Seattle’s 2,500 acres of forested city parks were at risk from invasive plants such as English Ivy, Himalayan blackberry, and bindweed. In 2004, experts projected that within 20 years about 70 percent of Seattle’s forested parkland trees would be dead. Previously, park-goers, non-profits, and government agencies worked to remove invasive species independently. Rather than helping the problem, however, these piecemeal efforts placed an undue strain on the city’s existing resources. Saving the parks required a shared effort involving community members, experts in forestry, and the departments that held park resources. The Green Seattle Partnership formed in 2004 with the aim of arming citizens to help the city’s trees in partnership with the Department of Parks, Public Utilities, and the Office of Sustainability and Environment. This case was published in 2014, but the Green Seattle Partnership is still very active — see its website for more details.

In 2007, NYC Parks announced its goal of planting and caring for one million trees in New York City. In 2015, it reached that goal two years ahead of schedule, with the help of a public-private partnership with the non-profit New York Restoration Project (NYRP). According to coverage in amNewYork, the Parks Department planted 750,000 trees in parks and on the streets, while NYRP planted 250,000 trees on private and public properties that weren’t part of the Park Department’s jurisdiction. For more on the initiative and the benefits of trees in urban areas, see “How 1 million trees can change a city” in Next City.

The missing link in protecting forests
This blog post looks at the importance of forests in the 2016 Paris Agreement — noting the “explicit recognition of the key role that forests … could play in reducing global warming pollution” — and discusses the potential of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a U.N. program that aims to use forests for climate action. The author notes that in the last 10 years, 90 percent of funding for REDD+ programs has come from public sources and concludes that “business leadership should better align corporate and government policies to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.” He urges more active collaboration between public and private leaders “in assessing the implications of the Paris Agreement when developing and implementing countries’ nationally determined contributions” and the development of “public-private partnerships that create and improve the enabling conditions necessary to attract private sector capital.”

Landmark forest conservation program on pace to restore and protect more than 540,000 acres
Forestland Stewards is a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and International Paper (IP) to protect and enhance ecologically important forest lands in eight southern states. IP recently renewed its five-year commitment to the successful initiative, which, in its first four years, has funded 44 projects that have restored, enhanced, or protected more than 190,000 acres of forest. “The Forestland Stewards Initiative has achieved tremendous success by bringing together business leaders, landowners, public agencies, and conservationists to restore and protect some of the most iconic forests in the United States,” said Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO of NFWF.

Forest Plan Revision: Collaboration Guide V.3.2
This planning document was created for the national forests in Region 5 of the USDA Forest Service “to promote a clear and consistent process across the region for public engagement in each Forest’s assessment and revision process. … The goal of collaboration during Forest Plan revision is to develop forest plans that are responsive to the interests of the forest, agencies, and the public.” While the guide was created for this specific purpose, it may be helpful for any environmental partnership seeking to engage the public in its collaborative efforts.