Better Ground


Having a champion as an elected official, a department, or a community group at the start is critical for success in integrating tree canopy and urban forests into a community’s policy, planning, programming, and priorities. They can bring in needed partnerships, garner funding, and build collaboration. Often a champion evolves and multiplies as new projects and initiatives are taken on, thus, creating a solid foundation and sustainability.


Megan Dunn

As a lifelong environmentalist, Megan Dunn, the Snohomish County Council Chair, partnered with the League of Women Voters Snohomish County (LWV-Snohomish)—a community champion themselves—to promote trees for resilience in the county. Further inspired by a presentation for the LWV-Snohomish regarding the state’s Evergreen Community Act, she worked with the group to successfully pass a motion proposing new policies for urban tree canopy coverage in the County’s 2024 Comprehensive Plan update, a significant step toward protecting, preserving, and enhancing the tree canopy in Snohomish County.

Phil Bennett

Phil started working at the City of Snoqualmie in Parks Maintenance and immediately started focusing on trees. Not before long, he got grant money to do a tree inventory, an urban forest strategic plan, and a tree canopy assessment to start making the argument for better management of the forestlands. Through a partnership with the King Conservation District, Phil successfully established the Green Snoqualmie Partnership with Forterra and secured major urban forestry program funding through the city’s stormwater utility fees. He officially became the city’s Forester in 2015, and in 2023, was promoted to lead a new division as the Stormwater & Urban Forestry Supervisor.

Tacoma Tree Foundation

The Tacoma Tree Foundation (TTF) was founded by Sarah Low in 2018 as a result of a growing awareness of the interest and excitement that area residents have for trees. The organization was created to educate, support, and coordinate community planting in the Tacoma area, especially with underserved populations. Under the leadership of Lowell Wise and a strong board of directors, TTF is a powerful partner with the city in growing trees for resilience with efforts like planting opportunities from the Community Tree Map and Greening Research in Tacoma (G.R.I.T.) project in the Tacoma Mall Neighborhood.

Considerations about Champion(s)

  • Need to have influence/authority within jurisdiction to implement necessary action. 
  • Formalize commitment for long-term success (beyond their term/tenure).
  • Develop an actionable strategic plan with appropriate responsible parties and timeline encouraging cross-disciplinary and community collaboration.
  • With their influence, they can start building partnerships and help secure funding to develop and analyze tree canopy and urban forest data to establish priorities and community resources.
  • Collaborate with community groups and agencies who can help with messaging and citizen participation that can enhance/support any efforts.

Resource Links by Topic

  • Washington State Tree Equity Collaborative – The first of its kind, this collaborative aims to expand neighborhood tree canopy cover by engaging communities and stakeholders to build more inclusive urban forestry programs across the state.
  • Vibrant Cities Lab – A comprehensive website with research, case studies, and guides that help communities grow a thriving urban forest for all the benefits; includes a toolkit that complements the process and components highlighted here in Trees for Resilience.
  •  APWA Urban Forest Management for Public Works Managers – Guides for public works to approaching urban forestry as part of the infrastructure and essential best management practices for a thriving urban forest.