Award honors Forester Kevin Zobrist and team’s stewardship impact

Pictured with Christie True, director of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, and Dan Upthegrove, King County Council Chair, WSU Extension Forester Kevin Zobrist, center, is a new 2023 King County Green Globe Leader award winner.

In the classroom, the backyard, and deep in the woods, WSU Extension Forester Kevin Zobrist has helped western Washingtonians learn about and protect their woodland environment for more than 15 years.

Zobrist and the Extension Forestry team were honored Wednesday, June 7, with the 2023 Green Globe Leader in Forest Stewardship Award from the King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

The Green Globe Award is King County’s highest honor for environmental stewardship. Presented every two years, the Green Globes recognize organizations and individuals who go the extra mile to protect the county’s environment, manage natural resources, and build community resilience and environmental justice for all.

“Our forests are under a tremendous amount of stress right now, and not just from climate change,” Zobrist said. “When you attend one of our classes, workshops, webinars, or field days, you can learn practical ways to build long-term resilience in your forest.”

The awards were presented in person by Executive Dow Constantine at the Bethaday Community Learning Space in White Center.

Zobrist oversees Extension Forestry in Island, King, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, and Snohomish Counties, providing educational and interpretive programs including forest stewardship “Coached Planning” short courses, workshops on a variety of forestry topics, and individual assistance for landowners. Before joining WSU, he was a research scientist at the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources.

Maintaining forest’s service

“Forests provide a myriad of ecosystem services, from clean air to wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, cultural values, and aesthetic beauty, that contribute greatly to the overall quality of life in King County,” Zobrist said. “Clean water is another major ecosystem service, with forested watersheds in the county providing safe, clean drinking water to 1.5 million people. Maintaining these essential services depends on sustaining healthy, resilient forests.”

The program’s biggest impact on King County has been better natural resource stewardship through education.

“When it comes to caring for forests, people don’t know what they don’t know,” Zobrist said. “The comment I hear most frequently from participants is that they now look at forests with new eyes.”

Learning about forests gets people engaged, and 90% of forest landowners who participate in Extension Forestry programs implement new on-the-ground stewardship practices within a year. They document results that include increased wildlife use and decreased invasive species cover. Loss of forests to development is another concern for the region, and 85% of participants report that what they learned has made them less likely to sell their land to developers.

Zobrist thanked all Puget Sound-area Extension Forestry program coordinators who have worked with him and colleagues over the past dozen years, especially former team members Kelsey Ketcheson and Grace Garrison, who were instrumental in shaping the King County Extension Forestry program

“Our partner agencies also deserve quite a bit of credit,” he added. Funding and in-kind support from the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, King Conservation District, and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources made the program possible. “It wouldn’t be here if not for the support of our partners.”

“We are here for you,” Zobrist tells his neighbors. “We’re not here to tell you what to do. You tell us what your goals are, and we’ll help you identify the best strategies to best meet those goals.”

Learn about forestry outreach programs in the Puget Sound region at the regional Extension Forestry website.