Happy New Year!

Beginning January 11, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources will be lead by a new Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz. Welcome Commissioner-elect Franz!

For the uninitiated, the Commissioner of Public Lands has a big job: generate revenue for public schools from timber harvests, leases, and other activities on public land; regulate the timber, shellfish and surface-mining industries; fight wildfire throughout the state; and protect the health of forests, rivers, wildlife and other natural resources. These are the biggies but the list of agency responsibilities runs far deeper.

Hilary’s campaign focused on supporting local communities. She is interested in engaging DNR’s constituents with greater public outreach and education, and she aims to broaden the agency’s role as a leader in climate change mitigation.

All of that sounds well-aligned with what we do here in DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry program.

For starters, the DNR Urban Forestry team specializes in public outreach and education. We also offer grants, training and technical assistance to Washington’s cities and towns to help them achieve their own natural resource management goals. Our Urban Forestry Restoration Project provides job skills training to young people and veterans while helping cities remove invasive weeds, restore natural areas, and overcome daunting workloads of deferred maintenance in their urban forests.

Research from the University of Washington and other institutions unveils how nature in cities improves public health and well-being and can boost economic indicators of community success. Other research on ecosystem services demonstrates how healthy urban forests sequester carbon, mitigate stormwater, prevent erosion, reduce the urban heat-island effect, conserve energy, purify the air, protect wildlife habitat and improve quality of life in cities and towns.

Every waterway that DNR works so hard to protect in the uplands eventually flows through one or more of Washington’s cities. Our work in communities helps protect the integrity of our environment and DNR’s stewardship efforts across all landscapes.

The urban and community forestry team looks forward to working with our new Commissioner and the Washington Community Forestry Council, as together we provide leadership to create self-sustaining urban and community forestry programs that preserve, plant and manage forests and trees for public benefits and quality of life throughout Washington state.

To our new Commissioner and all the readers of Tree Link, I hope that each of you are as excited as we are for a 2017 that is healthy, prosperous and green.

By Linden J. Lampman, program manager, DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program