This article is by Ben Thompson, Urban and Community Forestry Program Manager. Written on May 11, 2021.

I come to you this month with very good news:

THE EVERGREEN COMMUNITIES ACT (ECA) HAS BEEN PASSED BY THE STATE LEGISLATURE AND WAS SIGNED INTO LAW BY GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE ON MONDAY, MAY 10, 2021!

The bill also appears in the legislative budget at its full, proposed amount of nearly 2.7 million dollars—all dedicated to the future of urban forestry in Washington State.

I have to admit I’m a bit dazed right now. Considering the history of the ECA and the unprecedented challenges we all faced during last year, it seems strange to be staring down a success as large and important as this one. It’s just remarkable.

The DNR Urban & Community Forestry Program began in 1990. Seventeen years later in 2007, the idea for the ECA was born, and program staff began convening partners and penning the words that would become law in 2008. Funding for the ECA was pulled back a year later due to financial impacts of the housing market crash, and the ECA has been unfunded ever since. 

DNR submitted an updated version of the ECA to the state legislature last year, though it never received a vote before the legislative session ended. Yet, here we are one year later—celebrating. So many people have poured so much of their energy into the ECA at every step of its journey. This is a huge win for urban forestry and Washington, and we have truly done it together.

At the top of my mind is a maxim the DNR UCF program has passed on among staff for decades, which, to paraphrase, says that, “if we ever need our constituents to rally on our behalf and speak up in defense of our program, they would jump at the chance to do it.” 

I am so proud this has proven to be true.

During one particular public hearing in the State Senate, more than 150 people signed in to mark themselves in favor of the ECA passing. To put this in perspective, the ECA is a relatively small bill, but this is a level of advocacy usually only seen for the biggest bills considered by the legislature. This is an incredible response. Our people—so many of you—showed up for us in a very big way.

Thank you for believing in our program.

Thank you for speaking up and making your voices heard!

Thank you for being awesome partners.

Thank you, thank you and thank you.

It cannot be said enough, for there are so many of you who deserve so much credit.

This is your moment, but it’s our time to get to work. At DNR, we are developing an implementation plan so that we can be ready to hit the ground running once the funding comes through.

There are some core obligations of the ECA, including the statewide inventory of urban forests; equipping cities with ordinances, management plans, tree inventories, and canopy analyses; and, developing the Evergreen Communities recognition program. That said, there is some flexibility in how our program will be structured and how we will execute the funding. I will have more to share with you about activities and funding amounts once we can work through more of those details around implementation.

This is a watershed moment for urban forestry in Washington. We are on the cusp of a radical shift in how we operate and what we can provide to our constituents by way of grants and technical assistance. Washington cities and towns will now have a great many more opportunities to enhance their urban forests, which benefits everyone.

We literally could not have done this without you, and I can’t wait to get back to you with more specifics on where we go from here.

Congratulations to all of you, and thanks again!