Capitol Campus is about to get greener

WA Governor’s Office
Oct 18 · 5 min read

Visitors will see 100 more trees on Capitol Campus in the coming months as part of a national challenge around celebrating trees and forests. The Department of Enterprise Services planted the Washington state tree — a Western Hemlock — during the rainy kickoff event on Capitol Campus Friday with local leaders and Evergreen State College students standing nearby.

L to R: DES Deputy Director Annette Meyer, State Forester George Geissler, and U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen throw dirt at the base of the newly planted Western Hemlock Tree Friday on Capital Campus. (Office of the Governor photo)

Ten other trees were planted this week through a partnership between DES (in charge of planting and maintaining the trees) and the Department of Natural Resources (in charge of purchasing many of the trees). The project should be completed by next April.

2020 marks the National Association of State Foresters 100th year. To celebrate, each state can complete a unique, 100-themed challenge around trees and forests.

Washington is among the first three states that announced how they will complete the nationwide Centennial Challenge.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed budgets during the legislative session that dedicates money toward various tree and forest projects. The money will help fund a Douglas fir disease study, expand Washington State University fruit tree research and fund $85 million for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The program includes statewide forestland preservation grants.

Inslee also recently proclaimed October as Urban and Community Forestry Month.

“It’s our obligation to be better stewards of the natural world,” Inslee said. “And what better way to do that in our urban spaces than to beautify small plots of earth. Trees stand as a poignant reminder of why we fight climate change.”

Kevin Battin, west campus grounds lead, and Jessica Dorian, west campus groundskeeper, show a newly planted Silberlocke Korean fir at the Southeast corner of the Temple of Justice in Olympia. (Photo courtesy of DES)

Urban forests can lessen the effects of climate change by:

  • Producing oxygen, which improves local air quality.
  • Shading and cooling small areas, which reduces urban heat islands and lowers local temperatures.
  • Protecting smaller wildlife habitat that may be threatened by urban growth or changing environments.
  • Intercepting and filtering out pollutants carried by storm water runoff that would otherwise end up in our waterways.

Three new moons trees will be added to the campus as part of this challenge. The new trees were grown from cuttings from the original campus moon tree, which was grown from a seed that traveled to the moon during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.

A steady drizzle of rain welcomed the planted Western Hemlock on its first day on the Capitol grounds. (Office of the Governor photo)

A main goal of the Centennial Challenge is to plant a variety of tree sizes and ages so that the campus won’t show large gaps in the future once existing trees reach the end of their life cycles.

DES Director Chris Liu said this project will benefit anyone who visits the area.

“We are excited to partner with DNR to bring 100 new trees to the Capitol Campus,” Liu said. “A healthy and diverse urban forest is important here, where thousands of people visit, work and do the business of government.”

DES will use two landscaping plans for the project, both of which are based on the original campus design as well as overall master planning for the campus area.

A crowd made up of DNR officials, DES groundskeepers and employers, Evergreen students, and members of the press, listen to Vicki Christiansen talk about the beauty of Washington landscapes. (Office of the Governor photo)

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said the trees will benefit Washingtonians in a variety of ways.

“The new trees that will be planted not only add beauty to the Capitol Campus, they also clean the air and water, increase biodiversity, and improve physical and mental health,” Franz said. “When we plant more trees in our cities, we create cities that are healthier, cooler and better places to live.”

Many of the trees on campus are more than 100 years old. They were included in the original campus design since they were already part of the existing Olympia neighborhood. According to DNR, some of these “legacy trees” are living several years longer than expected in the urban setting because of efforts to extend and maintain the trees’ health.

The red circles show where DES workers will plant some of the 100 trees on Capital Campus going forward. The Legislative Building, not pictured here, would be at the top left of the map. (Image courtesy of DES)

State Forester George Geissler said it’s time to celebrate our trees.

“We keep branching out,” Geissler said at the event. “We have trees all around us but those trees connect further into our forests and into the wilderness that sustains us. It’s our responsibility to provide the care for these forests.”

Workers will remove two campus trees — Norway Maple trees — in the coming weeks because these legacy trees are rotting from the inside out. Workers will also prune and improve two other Norway Maple trees to extend their lives. Although the trees have some health issues, experts say the problems are currently manageable.

Kailee Moulton (west campus groundskeeper) and Kevin Battin (west campus grounds lead) plant a Douglas fir near the edge of a grove other Douglas firs on Capitol Campus. The trees are more than 100 years old. Planting a new Douglas fir will improve the age diversity of trees in that area so that the landscape gaps aren’t too large when an older tree dies. Battin and Moulton led the effort to develop a planting plan for the first phase of the 100 Trees Challenge. (Photo courtesy of DES)

For the past seven years, Evergreen students have used the area as a learning lab to better understand trees.

As of today, Washington is the only state that will plant 100 trees for this challenge. North Carolina officials announced they will document the forestry work in each of their 100 counties. And Massachusetts organizations will identify 100 unique and significant trees across the state, and label each one a “legacy tree” for its compelling size, age, history, botanical interest or species.

For more information, you can visit the Department of Natural Resource’s website.

Washington State Governor's Office

WA Governor’s Office

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News and updates from Gov. Jay Inslee and his administration.

Washington State Governor's Office

News and updates from Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee and his administration.

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