A new initiative announced today by Executive Dow Constantine will increase tree canopy, protect trees that are absorbing carbon now, and prepare local forests for climate impacts. It's part of his proposal for the updated Strategic Climate Action Plan.
Executive Constantine joins partners from Washington Trails Association and Rainier Prep for 3 Million Trees kickoff at King County’s new urban park in North Highline.
King County Executive Dow Constantine on Earth Day joined community partners to kick off 3 Million Trees, an initiative that will plant, protect, and prepare a combined three million trees throughout the region by the end of 2025.
The initiative is part of Executive Constantine’s proposal for the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan, which includes strategies to cut greenhouse gas emissions countywide in half by the end of this decade. Under 3 Million Trees, King County will plant 500,000 trees, accelerate land conservation to protect intact forestland this is absorbing carbon today, and prepare forests for warmer, drier summers that are occurring as the result of climate change.
“Earth Day is a moment for reflection, for inspiration and, most importantly, for action, which is why we are kicking off 3 Million Trees today,” said Executive Constantine. “We will build on the momentum of our successful 1 Million Trees initiative to achieve even more ambitious goals: increase urban tree canopy, protect forestland that this absorbing carbon now, and prepare forests for climate impacts.”
King County Parks’ Volunteer Program staff can assist residents and organizations that want to participate in the initiative. In addition to tree planting, volunteer coordinators organize events to remove noxious weeds and provide educational opportunities.
Executive Constantine kicked off the initiative with partners at a new urban park in unincorporated North Highline that King County acquired in 2020. King County crews, along with Friends of the Trail and Dirt Corps, have removed more than 7 tons of debris and truckloads of invasive species from the once-neglected greenspace. Native spring vegetation – including Pacific waterleaf and trillium – once covered by invasive Himalayan blackberry and ivy are coming back to life now that they have room to grow. The protected greenspace is beginning to offer better habitat for birds, pollinators, and wildlife in addition to offering public health benefits in a neighborhood that previously lacked access to open space.
3 Million Trees has three categories
- Plant: Plant 500,000 trees countywide with an emphasis on tree canopy in communities where there is the greatest need and where tree planting can improve salmon habitat.
- Protect: Accelerate efforts to protect forestland, conserving 6,500 acres – the equivalent of 2 million trees – that at are already absorbing and storing CO2 and contributing to clean water and healthy habitat.
- Prepare: Prepare 1,000 acres of forest – the equivalent of 500,000 trees -- to be more resilient under a changing climate with warmer, drier summers. These management actions include removing noxious weeds and thinning forests in some areas to create more room for healthier trees to thrive.
King County and partners surpassed the goal set in the previous Strategic Climate Action Plan to plant one million trees by the end of 2020. For 3 Million Trees, planting will be informed by a heat mapping project conducted by King County and City of Seattle to identify which areas are experiencing the most harmful effects of rising temperatures.
While tree planting provides shade and contributes to cleaner air and water, removing noxious weeds is also critical to restoring local forests. Ivy, for example, can weigh down a tree, making it more susceptible being downed during a windstorm. Invasive knotweed takes in more soil nitrogen than native shrubs, leaving significantly less of this critical nutrient in the soil for other organisms. And all noxious weeds reduce space for new trees that are needed to replace old trees as they decline and fall.
Healthier forests, more equitable access to greenspace
3 Million Trees aligns with several other King County initiatives, including the Land Conservation Initiative that Executive Constantine launched in 2016 to protect 65,000 acres of the highest conservation value open spaces and help ensure that each resident has access to greenspace. It also contributes to King County’s 30-Year Forest Plan, a shared vision for increasing forest canopy, improving forest health, confronting climate change, and achieving clean water and healthy habitat.
Preserved forests continue to absorb and store the carbon that contributes to climate change while naturally filtering pollutants that are in the air. Pacific Northwest forests are among the best in the world at storing carbon because native tress have long, productive lifespans.
A University of Washington class is conducting a health impact assessment of King County’s new urban park in North Highline to help King County Parks maximize the human health benefits and mitigate any unintended consequences. Washington Trails Association is working with the community to design and build a trail in the new park.
The King County Council is expected to vote on the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan in May.
- 3 Million Trees
- VIDEO: 3 Million Trees kickoff
- 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan
- Land Conservation Initiative
- 30-Year Forest Plan
- Clean Water Healthy Habitat
Earth Day is a moment for reflection, for inspiration and, most importantly, for action, which is why we are kicking off 3 Million Trees today. We will build on the momentum of our successful 1 Million Trees initiative to achieve even more ambitious goals: increase urban tree canopy, protect forestland that this absorbing carbon now, and prepare forests for climate impacts.
For more information, contact:
Chad Lewis, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 206-263-1250