USDA Forest Service

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Pacific Northwest Research Station
333 SW First Ave.
Portland, OR 97204

(503) 808-2100

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Green Cities Research Alliance
Urban Natural Resources Stewardship

Sustainable cities through science, policy, and action


Research and assessment projects are now in progress. Click on any title to learn more.


Forest Ecosystem Service and Values  

Forest Ecosystem Services and Values

Knowing baseline conditions is important for long-term management to conserve and enhance urban forest health. Using multiple tools and procedures, project collaborators (including local government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and universities) are doing forest assessments and will use such information to calculate and communicate the ecosystem services that are provided by an urban forest system. pdf


Study Goals

Bullet. Understand the function and structure of regional forest canopies, and estimate monetary values for ecosystem services provided by urban trees.

Bullet. Apply i-Tree Eco at three scales: the city of Seattle, King County parklands, and an urban-to-wildland gradient along the Green-Duwamish River watershed.

Bullet. Improve forest assessment tools for use in King County and other Pacific Northwest communities.

View Seattle’s Forest Ecosystem Values: Analysis of the Structure, Function, and Economic Benefits Report

Forest Landscape Assment Tools  

Forest Landscape Assessment Tools

King County, like many local jurisdictions, has strategically acquired numerous forested parcels through long-term open space preservation initiatives.  Most of these forest lands were logged, often multiple times, and appropriate reforestation efforts were often not done. Few sites have forest stewardship plans, and most need adequate forest inventory or assessment. The first need for long term forest stewardship that conserves and enhances forest health is to gather and establish baseline forest conditions. pdf

Study Goals

Bullet. Conduct forest assessment on over 25,000 acres of King County managed open space forest lands distributed across 150 park sites,

Bullet. Establish baseline data that describes forest conditions per site and system wide,

Bullet. Identify key forest conditions that may need corrective and restorative actions,

Bullet. Develop long term forest stewardship recommendations for King County managers,

Bullet. Develop rapid forest assessment protocols that can be replicated on other public lands,

Bullet. Identify opportunities to collaborate with public & private agencies on forest stewardship.

Forest Landscape Assment Tools  

Stewardship “Footprint” Analysis and Ecosystem Recovery

Fiscal shortfalls in local government and environmental resource agencies restrict their capacity to address ecosystem needs. Environmental stewardship is emerging as an ecosystem recovery strategy. The full scope and scale of stewardship is not known. This research seeks to uncover and aggregate the hundreds, if not thousands, of stewardship efforts in the Puget Sound region. pdf


Study Results

Bullet. Initial efforts, focusing in the Seattle area, identified nearly 700 organizations.

Bullet. The emphasis of these organizations appears to be frequently urban-based, with nearly half conducting environmental restoration in urban space. 

Bullet. Goals of the organizations, as represented by their mission statements, display a focus on stewardship in pursuit of not only ecological, but human community and social outcomes.

pdfs/CivicEnvironmental Stewardship Motivations  

Stewardship Organization Mapping “StewMap”

Volunteer-based stewardship is an action strategy for ecosystem recovery and management. Yet we do not fully understand the scale and scope of stewardship. A geospatial representation of each organization's stewardship “territory” will be shared on a publicly accessible online platform. Knowledge about the entire stewardship “footprint” can support better planning and focus of projects. pdf


Study Goals

Bullet. Publish a stewardship map in a publicly accessible format that allows a range of users to view organizations’ stewardship territory and contact information.
Bullet. Add geographic tags to existing organizational survey data.
Bullet. Create a data format that makes additional ecological or social analysis possible.

Bullet. Reveal the impact of stewardship organizations on people and the land.

Stewardship Footprint Analysis and Ecosystem Recovery  

Environmental Stewardship Organization Network Analysis

It is important to understand the relationships and networks that link stewardship groups and organizations. A comprehensive assessment of the number, types, and linkages between organizations can help land managers and communities develop projects that improve ecosystem health and function. pdf


Study Goals

Bullet. Identify stewardship organizations first in the metro Seattle, then greater Puget Sound areas.

Bullet. Understand how these organizations network and share resources.

Bullet. Learn how to build organization capacity for environmental stewardship programs.

Bullet. Provide data for comparative studies in the other urban areas.

Stewardship Footprint Analysis and Ecosystem Recovery  

Civic Environmental Stewardship Motivations

More and more citizens and organizations are working on behalf of the environment. Volunteers at stewardship events throughout the metro Seattle area are being surveyed to learn more about stewardship motivation, satisfaction, and project contributions. Results will help us to understand how to better recruit, retain, and support the thousands of people who contribute their time and effort. pdf


Study Results

Bullet. Compiled data on volunteer stewards background, volunteer history, and demographics,

Bullet. Compiled data on volunteer stewards motivations, satisfactions, skills and contributions, and personal health outcomes,

Bullet. Aggregated and synthesized data to produce best practices materials that will aid organizations in their efforts to support and foster environmental stewards,

Bullet. Collaborated with public and private agencies and organizations in urban areas, and

Bullet. Advanced public awareness of stewardship efforts and further conceptual understanding of their existence and value.

Stewardship Footprint Analysis and Ecosystem Recovery  

The Economics of Stewardship

We are developing an accounting system to economically value volunteer participation in stewardship activities. Assessments include the contributions made by sponsoring organizations, the costs associated with traveling to and from events, and the value of contributed consumable and durable goods, as well as the value of volunteer labor. pdf


Study Results

Bullet. Documented and valued contributions provided by volunteers and hosting organizations to stewardship events.

Bullet. Results suggest that contributions by volunteers and hosts are significant; the combined costs associated with the 17 sampled events were approximately $35,700.

Bullet. These efforts represent a small subset of the more than 1,000 volunteer environmental stewardship activities that take place annually in King County.

Stewardship Footprint Analysis and Ecosystem Recovery  

Measuring Watershed and Climate Impacts of Stewardship

The most promising solutions for addressing environmental issues, particularly in urbanized areas, will include social-ecological research. This pilot study will investigate the relationship between citizen-based environmental stewardship activities and ecosystem-scale change, using the Green-Duwamish watershed as a case study. pdf


Study Results

Bullet. Motivations for monitoring included: internal policies and guidelines, regulatory requirements, and demonstrating progress to volunteers and funders.

Bullet. Status of monitoring efforts are unevenly distributed and often unsystematic. There are inconsistent methods used, making data sharing difficult and costly.

Bullet. Sparse connections between upland-focused and aquatic-focused organizations.

Bullet. Lack of collaboration between lower and upper watersheds.

Residential Location Choices and Natural Resources  

Urban Foraging: Gathering and Stewardship of Nontimber Forest Products(NTFPs)
Urban forests and greenspaces are valued for their many ecosystem and community benefits. The purpose of this research is to investigate the roles that NTFP gathering and stewardship practices play in the development and management of healthy forest ecosystems in Seattle, Washington. pdf


Study Results

Bullet. More than 433 plant and 53 fungal species are gathered—195 of these are native species

Bullet. People of all ages, income classes, and ethnic groups participate in gathering

Bullet. Gathering is an enduring cultural-ecological practice with historic roots in Seattle

Bullet. The top 4 utilitarian reasons for gathering are: food, medicine, arts & crafts, and fuel

Bullet. Non-utilitarian reasons include: connect with nature, social ties, and quality of life

Bullet. Gatherers’ stewardship practices include: pruning, tending native species, selective harvesting, mindfulness, reciprocity, and ceremony

Residential Location Choices and Natural Resources  

Residential Location Choices and Natural Resources

This project will collect information about the factors leading to growth and development along the wildland-to-urban interface (with focus on suburban and exurban areas). Results will explain the role of natural amenities in residential location decisions and explore variation in environmental interactions. pdf


Study Results

Bullet. Access to outdoor recreation opportunities and natural amenities were rated among the top three factors when deciding to move to a community.

Bullet. Suburban communities rated scenic views as most important factor in choosing a home, while exurban and rural areas rated outdoor recreation opportunities as most important.

Bullet. The most frequently visited outdoor places visited were closest to the residents’ home location. Suburban residents frequented more developed spaces such as playgrounds and paved trails while rural residents frequented more natural areas. Exurban residents frequented both types of parks.

Green Cities for Good Health  

Green Cities for Good Health

In recent decades, new science about the environmental benefits of urban trees and green spaces (such as air and water quality improvements) has been widely communicated. Nearly 40 years of research also provides evidence about how urban greening aids human health and well-being and makes cities more livable. A research review is now available on the Web and provides evidence for why nearby nature is essential for all who live, work, and learn in urban environments. pdf


Project Goals

Bullet. Provide evidence-based tools.
Bullet. Create additional outreach products such as briefing sheets, presentation slides, PSA’s, and YouTube videos.
Bullet. Explore economic valuation approaches.
Bullet. Begin development of an i-Tree Community benefits analysis tool.

Green Cities for Good Health  

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership

The Green-Duwamish watershed is an ecologically, economically, socially, and jurisdictionally diverse watershed in the Pacific Northwest. It drains over 664 square miles (including marine water area) and stretches 93 miles from the port and industrial core of Seattle, Washington through urban, urbanizing, and agricultural communities in the foothills of the Cascades, to the wilderness at the crest of the mountains in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. We propose the Green-Duwamish watershed as an Urban Waters Federal Partnership site. The intent of the partnership is to reveal and characterize common ground, facilitate engagement across a range of potential watershed actors, inform strategies and help to implement the tactics in these plans, and capture findings that lead to adaptive actions over time. The proposed partnership will coordinate with the Puget Sound Federal Caucus (PSFC) and the Green Cities Research Alliance (GCRA) to demonstrate tactical implementation of locally identified priorities pdf


Project Goals

Bullet. Promote clean urban waters

Bullet. Reconnect people to their water-ways

Bullet. Use urban water systems as a way to promote economic revitalization and prosperity

Bullet. Encourage community improvements through active partnerships

Bullet. Focus on measuring results





Contact for Information:

Kathy Wolf, Research Social Scientist; USDA Forest Service and University of Washington






US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Last Modified: Thursday,31July2014 at15:18:58CDT

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