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News / Clark County News

Vancouver to use $300K grant to employ youth to plant trees, fight climate change

By Lauren Ellenbecker, Columbian staff writer
Published: October 11, 2023, 5:09pm

Vancouver may employ young people to tend to local trees as it fights climate change.

The city will use a $300,000 federal grant to fund seasonal positions for adults to lead groups of youths and young adults in tree planting and maintenance for five years, while also introducing them to job opportunities in the green sector. Recruitment for the new positions will begin in spring 2024.

As summer temperatures become hotter, the need to thoughtfully — and equitably — craft Vancouver’s tree canopy is becoming critical for public health, said Nicole Walters, Vancouver Public Works communication manager. A community’s collection of trees can be compared with a city’s other infrastructure, such as roads and water systems.

Trees provide fresh air, clean water and cool shade, particularly where summer heat is intensified by paved streets and concrete buildings. But intensifying climate stressors are making trees susceptible to disease and pests, prompting foresters to plant heat- and drought-tolerant species.

Vancouver’s slice of funding is part of a $1.5 billion nationwide investment to expand urban tree canopies and provide equitable access to nature. The program, created through the Inflation Reduction Act, will grant $6 million to local governments, educational institutions, nonprofits and state agencies across Washington.

Only 19 percent of Vancouver has a tree canopy. That’s roughly 6,000 acres – equivalent to 4,600 football fields worth of cover, according to the city’s latest tree inventory.

City officials drafted a new management plan that proposes growing Vancouver’s canopy to 28 percent by 2047 – roughly 3,000 acres of new cover.

Meeting that canopy goal involves planting 124,900 new trees by 2047, requiring many helping hands for Urban Forestry and Naturespaces, a city program focused on ecosystems under towering trees. Once planted, young trees require consistent maintenance for the first five years – mostly in the form of irrigation during the summer, Walters said. The number of stands that need monitoring will spike as Vancouver reaches its canopy goals.

For more information about the city of Vancouver’s urban forest and planting events, visit www.cityofvancouver.us/government/department/public-works/urban-forestry.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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Columbian staff writer