Since 1991, the DNR Urban & Community Forestry Program has only had two, full-time permanent employees. We supplemented our staffing over the years in different ways, such as pursuing grants to fund special project coordinators, hiring contractors with pass-through funding, and even hiring some existing DNR staff for part-time or temporary work.

Flashback! A photo of the Urban and Community Forestry Team from 2017

Garth Davis with the Spokane Conservation District and DNR State Lands Forester Jeremy Porter are two such people currently on our team whose contributions I’m so grateful for. People like Garth, Jeremy and others who have come before them have been important to our success, yet each program manager before me knew this program could reach far greater heights if only we could increase the number of full-time permanent staff.

At the time when my predecessor Linden Lampman was transitioning to retirement in early 2020, one of the last things she worked on was a plan to add a third, full-time staff member to our team. My former position of Urban Forestry Specialist would be split into two distinct roles: Education/Outreach, and Technical Assistance. Position descriptions were drafted for each of those jobs; the Education/Outreach position was advertised first.

Our staff member Daria Gosztyla conducting a recent site visit at Vista Park in Wahkiakum County

We then hired Daria Gosztyla as our Urban Forestry Projects and Outreach Specialist in April, 2020 and since then, she’s proven herself an invaluable member of the team. Coincidentally, Daria’s first day with our program just happened to also be my first day as the new Program Manager. Soon after we tried to post our technical assistance job, but financial concerns due to the pandemic led to a DNR hiring freeze for non-essential positions.

Fast-forward several months, and we posted the Urban Forestry Specialist position as soon as we were authorized to do so. I want to thank everyone who applied for the job. We had a very competitive pool of applicants, each with very unique backgrounds and skillsets. After a rigorous screening and interview process we selected Jess Lloyd from New Haven, CT as our new Urban Forestry Specialist (See “Faces of Urban Forestry: Jess Lloyd” in this edition to learn more about her). Jess officially started with our program in mid-August and we are very excited to have her on board. In these few short weeks I’ve been pleased to see how quickly she is getting up to speed. Jess is naturally inquisitive, a major asset as she seeks to learn all she can about our constituents, their needs, and the ecology of our state.

The implementation and roll-out of E2SHB 1216 (Evergreen Communities Act, as we like to call it) will eventually add even more staff, but I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the hiring of the first new position to expand our team since the program’s inception. This milestone will help create momentum and set the tone for the important work to come. Jess, Daria, Jeremy, Garth and I have our work cut out for us to implement the new state funding, but we are already a great team, and I have no doubts we can all succeed together.

Side note: As I reflect on where this program has been and where we need to go, I feel the need to remind myself that accomplishing anything new can seem like it takes forever. It’s easy to visualize a successful outcome when there is much to be excited about, but it’s also hard to forecast the bumps in the road you’ll encounter along the way. Our program has a lot of new and big work to do. We are grateful to all of you—for your support and your patience—in equal measure. 

Thanks everyone for your commitment to urban forests and your continued readership of Tree Link.