Joyce Altaras (right) helped lead the effort to preserve the west side of Lake Stickney from development. She attended a ceremonial tree-planting with Snohomish County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright (left) at the Lynnwood-area lake Monday as part of Earth Day. (Noah Haglund / The Herald)

Joyce Altaras (right) helped lead the effort to preserve the west side of Lake Stickney from development. She attended a ceremonial tree-planting with Snohomish County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright (left) at the Lynnwood-area lake Monday as part of Earth Day. (Noah Haglund / The Herald)

By 2040, they aim to plant 1 million trees over 2,500 acres

Snohomish County has teamed up with the conservation group Forterra on the Healthy Forests Project.

LYNNWOOD — They seek to return vast tracts of parkland to a more natural state.

Snohomish County has teamed up with the nonprofit Forterra for the Healthy Forests Project. It’s based on a community model that the Seattle-based conservation group is using with 14 cities around Puget Sound, including Everett. This is the first county partnership.

“It’s more than just a tree-planting effort,” said Joanna Nelson de Flores, director of Forterra’s Green Cities Program. “Our goal is to restore the full function of the forest.”

The program would encourage volunteers to host work parties, to remove invasive species and to plant native trees. By removing dense clusters of blackberries, ivy and other unwanted growth, the work also has made urban parks in other cities more inviting to visitors as well, Nelson de Flores said.

Forterra will work with county staff to develop a restoration plan for the years to come, as well as a program to recruit and train forest stewards.

Through the partnership, county officials set a goal of planting 1 million healthy, native trees by 2040. They have identified about 2,500 acres they could target through the community-based approach.

Elected officials celebrated the new project Monday — Earth Day — with a tree-planting event at Lake Stickney County Park north of Lynnwood.

Under a steady drizzle with frogs croaking nearby, County Executive Dave Somers planted a foot-tall (not yet) giant sequoia. The executive spoke of the potential benefits for air and water quality.

“The Healthy Forests Project presents a tremendous opportunity to help move the needle on Puget Sound health,” Somers said Monday, in a prepared statement. “Fostering community engagement will be the key to long-term success for our stewardship of the county’s natural resources.”

Somers first announced the new Forterra partnership during his annual State of the County speech in March. At the time, Somers mentioned a potential pilot project at Meadowdale Beach Park.

Andrea Mojzak, Green Cities manager for Forterra, commended the county for “a really big commitment.”

Everett joined Green Cities in 2012. The city set out a plan to restore more than 350 acres of parkland over two decades. The program has helped improve Howarth, Thornton A. Sullivan and Forest parks, among others.

The Lake Stickney celebration is one of several activities this week to promote environmental awareness.

The County Council on Monday evening expected to pass a resolution about reducing waste. One prong seeks to expand the Evergreen State Fairgrounds’ Zero Waste initiative beyond the annual fair to make it year-round. Others would increase employee education about best recycling practices and expand a policy for environmentally minded purchasing decisions.

The county planned to offer more Earth Day activities from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the County Campus Plaza in downtown Everett.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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