TACOMA, Wash. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forterra NW, the City of Tacoma, Tribal and community partners celebrated USDA’s support for Forterra’s Forest to Home vision. Forest to Home aims to return lands to Tribal stewardship and transform industrial timber practices and the housing supply chain to benefit forests and local BIPOC communities by reducing the climate impact of residential and commercial construction.
“Realizing a vision of housing that is affordable, longstanding, well built, carbon sequestering that supports Tribal restoration and stewardship of lands with local supply chains that provide meaningful jobs and futures for rural communities is a swing for the fences,” said Michelle Connor, President and CEO of Forterra. “This grant will allow us to have climate-smart commodities that tie together our most rural communities and Indigenous and traditional environmental knowledge with the heart and soul of neighborhoods like Hilltop.”
USDA will invest up to $20 million in this program, part of a nation-wide investment of nearly $3 billion in climate-smart projects by the agency. Forest to Home is one of 70 projects chosen out of more than 450 applications in the first phase of funding. The Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities projects are pilots that will create market opportunities for American commodities produced using climate-smart production practices.
“USDA wanted these proposals to consider equity and Forest to Home is a great example of an applicant working with partners to achieve that goal. It integrates the need of the local community, works with Tribal landowners and thinks about ways to do climate smart in a way that is responsive to community and responsive to concerns about equity,” said USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie.
Forest to Home seeks to create a local supply chain that supports BIPOC and rural communities throughout Washington state. This model can be replicated regionally and nationally. Forest to Home will bring together early adopters of climate-smart forest practices that will maximize carbon sequestration. Lightly harvested timber will be used to build housing and commercial space for historically marginalized communities that have faced decades of disinvestment using methods that are less carbon intensive than traditional construction practices. It’s a triple bottom-line of social equity, responsible forest management and economic development.
“We are so excited about what’s happening in Tacoma and this partnership is giving us an opportunity to further our goals,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “The project being developed for this land will include hundreds of ownership and rental units. That’s critical because building community and housing like this one on Hilltop near great transit, where people can live their lives without really needing a car, close to work, schools, and services, entertainment and parks is one most climate friendly things we can do.”
Partnerships are essential to the success of this pilot. Other major partners include the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, Yakama Nation Cultural Resource Program, Abu Bakr Islamic Center, RJ Group, Aspect Structural Engineers, Gordian Knot Strategies, Sustainable Northwest, Zaugg and Whitehorse Timber, Snohomish County, Town of Darrington, Port of Portland, Roslyn Downtown Association, Town of Hamilton, City of Tacoma and X-Caliber Rural Capital.
“By embracing global best practices and integrating what we learn with local industry leaders, we stay true to our commitment to advance sustainable and affordable building,” said Tobias Levey, Vice President of Transactions at Forterra. “Together, with our partners, we are building toward a triple bottom line of social equity, responsible forest management and economic development through Forest to Home. USDA’s investment will help create a scalable, replicable model to transform the way we manage our forests and how we build our buildings.”
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Forterra is an unconventional land trust that works across Washington’s communities and landscapes, from the ranches and shrub-steppe of the Yakima basin, to the estuaries, farms and forests of Washington’s coast, reaching more than 100 counties, cities, towns and rural communities. Working cooperatively with people and nature, Forterra drives land stewardship, management and planning; innovative programs and policies; farming and forestry approaches; community ownership opportunities; and development solutions. Visit forterra.org.