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Seattle Selected as “Role Model City” for International Ecosystem Restoration Cohort 

United Nations Environment Program’s Generation Restoration Collaboration Connects Cities to Improve Habitat 

In recognition of efforts to support ecosystem restoration, the United Nations Environment Program selected the City of Seattle to participate in Generation Restoration, a collaborative initiative of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Seattle, which will be a “role model city,” joins 18 other cities around the world seeking to share best practices to advance urban habitat. Seattle is the only city in the United States participating. 

The Generation Restoration initiative is a two-year collaboration. As a role model city, Seattle will highlight urban forest restoration efforts such as the Green Seattle Partnership as well as other initiatives to preserve natural areas and enhance ecosystem health throughout nearly 500 parks. 

“From planting the next generation of our urban tree canopy to improving habitat for juvenile salmon, the City of Seattle is committed to renewing and protecting our natural areas so they can continue to benefit our communities,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “As a city with vast stretches of shoreline and lush green spaces, we have a unique obligation to restore these ecosystems that are critical to our wellbeing, economy, biodiversity, and resilience to the impacts of climate change. We are excited to join the Generation Restoration initiative and look forward to learning from other environmental leaders around the globe to build the healthy, sustainable, and climate-forward future we want to see here in Seattle.” 

Mirey Atallah, Head, Nature for Climate Branch, Ecosystems Division, UNEP, celebrated this initiative: “Embracing nature-based solutions in our urban landscapes is a commitment to a greener, more sustainable future for both citizens and the urban areas they occupy. Generation Restoration is the guiding light for cities as they endeavor to harmonize with nature, constructing resilient and thriving communities that coexist harmoniously with the environment.” 

“Seattle is known as the Emerald City for its resplendent beauty and natural environment. Our parks and recreation system which encompasses approximately 500 parks and over 6,000 acres is a key part of what makes Seattle a model city for urban regeneration and environmental stewardship,” said AP Diaz, Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent. “Our residents value healthy and thriving ecosystems and have dedicated decades of time and resources to ensure biodiversity thrives in our community, which is why I’m extremely proud these efforts are now being recognized internationally. The City of Seattle is proud to join the 18 other world cites and to be recognized as the only U.S. City to share our best practices and learn from others on how to restore ecosystems in our urban spaces.”   

Ecosystem restoration is key to avoiding global climate catastrophe. Such efforts also support climate mitigation, climate adaptation, economy, food security, water supplies, health, and biodiversity. The United States has committed to restoring 15 million hectares of ecosystems this decade as part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. 

This recognition comes as the city is accelerating investments and partnerships to equitably expand and maintain Seattle’s urban forest, as well as improve tree health and reduce disparities in human health outcomes and heat island effects.  

In September, Seattle was awarded $12.9 million by the U.S. Forest Service to plant trees, create green careers for young people, and restore forested places near schools, parks, and low-income housing. The grant will build on the long history of the Green Seattle Partnership to restore forested parklands, which are threatened by invasive species and the challenges of climate change.  

Earlier this year, Seattle was among the first Washington cities to sign onto a new statewide tree equity collaborative and pledged to plant more than 8,000 trees over the next five years on public and private properties and 40,000 trees in parks and natural areas. Mayor Harrell also issued the One Seattle Tree Plan Executive Order in April directing City Departments to accelerate efforts to expand tree canopy on public land and updated the City’s Tree Ordinance to increase tree protections and provide for more equitable distribution of tree canopy.   

To bolster these efforts, Mayor Harrell’s 2024 proposed budget includes funding to expand the Trees for Neighborhoods program to 1,300 trees planted in 2024 and evaluate siting a One Seattle Tree Nursery to grow trees locally.  

“Trees, outdoor spaces, native plants and fresh water are not just vital for a healthy and connected ecosystem, they build climate resilience, security, and wellbeing within our own communities here in Seattle,” said Jessyn Farrell, Director of the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment. “As Seattle works to achieve 30% canopy cover, the trees we plant today, and efforts we take to improve our urban habitat, will create the urban forest of tomorrow, where future generations can share in equitable access to nature, green spaces, and shade.” 

“As a contributing organization with the Green Seattle Partnership, Partner in Employment is thrilled to see our collective efforts to care for the forests, wetlands, creeks, and shorelines recognized internationally by the United Nations,” said Abidrahman Omar, Program Director of Partner in Employment. “Partner in Employment has created an opportunity where refugee and immigrant youth can participate in the stewardship of environmental restoration programs. This work is critical for all our neighbors as we strive to protect and preserve the natural environment for current and future generations. Our commitment to safeguarding these vital ecosystems supports a range of important goals, such as: promoting biodiversity and conserving endangered species, helping maintain the delicate balance of our local ecosystems. We are honored to be part of this global recognition and remain dedicated to our mission of environmental stewardship. Together, we can continue to make a positive impact on our local environment and contribute to global sustainability efforts.” 

“Neighbors in our local community join our organization in making our park an amazing place for birds and other wildlife,” said Joey Manson, Director, Seward Park Audubon Center. “They bring their family and friends, ready to get dirty and work up a sweat to preserve and protect our environment. In the process, they grow community connections through their shared appreciation and stewardship of this old-growth forest that is part of their neighborhood.” 

Seattle has also been working on habitat restoration on the Cedar River in partnership with the King County Department of Natural Resources. In April, the two agencies completed the Riverbend project, restoring a nearly mile-long segment of the Cedar River to a more natural state and improving salmon habitat and reducing flood risks for people, homes, and infrastructure. 

This recognition illustrates how Seattle is seen as a leader in sustainability initiatives not just nationally, but globally as well. Seattle is also a part of the C40 Cities Urban Nature Declaration collaboration, has signed on to the International Migratory Bird Treaty, as well as the Paris Climate Accords. Joining the Generation Restoration effort with the UNEP continues this commitment to global sustainability efforts by the City of Seattle.