Design & Sustainability on

Working for Better: Forterra

— By: The Team at Nau

What’s a keystone place? It’s anywhere that plays a vital role in a region’s long-term livability, sustainability and equity. From wildlands to urban parks, working farms to old-growth forests, Seattle-based Forterra work simultaneously across these landscapes to conserve, secure and seed these keystone places for the benefit of all the people who rely on them.

 We caught up with Forterra’s Susannah Hale and Lindsay Fromme Hanna to learn about their current efforts, including a project to save 6,700 acres along the Hood Canal, and a carbon offsetting program they started with Pearl Jam.

Blog header photo of Port Gamble Forest shot by Brian Kilpatrick.

What is Forterra?

Susannah: Forterra works to secure iconic, rural and urban landscapes. What we call keystone land, in the north and the western region of the state of Washington.

Lindsay: We started out as a land trust 25 years ago, and we still do traditional land conservation. But we also do a lot of other sustainable development, especially in our urban communities.

How do you pursue change?

Lindsay: We do a lot of land conservation, but we also do a lot of direct community engagement. We have a lot of projects where the sole intent is to work with communities to bring them into the planning and policy making process. And we also do advocacy statewide. So we’re really working at multiple levels.

‘Chosen-One’ shot at Owyhee-Plataeu by Marc Adamus

Many people, when they hear about sustainability, first think about more natural environments. But Forterra takes a broader approach, including urban and rural places. Why is that?

Susannah: Our goal is to conserve, secure, and seed livelihood in the communities that we work. So, for example, secure: we recently secured some of the last old growth forest in King County, along Titicade Creek and Blethen Lake. It will never be resold or developed. Then, conservation: We’re conserving 35 hundred acres of forest land with the Port Gamble Forest Project that has been used as timber production for the last 160 years. So we’re trying to conserve it, and then return it back to an actual natural forest. And then, an example of seeding livelihoods, we have launched a 10-million-dollar social impact fund that is helping to raise money to secure places within our urban spaces for affordable housing or other projects that make our communities what they are.

You mentioned Port Gamble: you’re working to protect 6,700 acres of forest, wetland and shoreline there on Washington’s Kitsap Bay. Why is this area so important?

Susannah: It’s an opportunity to save an enormous forest. This forest will be four times the size of Central Park, in a booming Seattle. This is the fastest growing city in the United States: we’re taking in 1000 new residents a month, and they want access to outdoor space. Today, on the trails off I-90, you go out there and you can do high fives all the way up the trail these days. So people are looking for access to open space and recreation.

There’s going to be a 200-acre mountain bike park in the forest. There are tons— over 25,000—users, including a lot of local use. And there are lots of events that already happen at the forest. There’s one called Biketoberfest. There’s youth high school teams. Botanist clubs. From an economic standpoint, we have people from Canada, and five different states coming for a mountain bike race called The Stottlemeyer 30/60. So, it’s kind of an incredible project.

Port Gamble Forest. Photo by Brian Kilpatrick

What role do you think business has in creating change?

Lindsay: It’s really powerful when peers take a leadership stance in pursuing sustainability because it encourages others to get on board. We’re very closely partnered with private industry on our programs like our Evergreen Carbon Capture Program, where we’re providing the opportunity for businesses to calculate their carbon footprint and contribute to a local program that offset carbon. And I think that’s a really important role for a business to play and for consumers to recognize when they’re choosing which businesses to support.

How did the Evergreen Carbon Capture Program get started?

Lindsay: It was born out of a partnership with Pearl Jam.

Really? That’s pretty cool.

Lindsay: Yeah. Pearl Jam approached us in about 2009 and wanted to mitigate the emissions from their world tour. And so we created a custom restoration and tree planting project for them right here in Seattle, basically to sequester the emissions that they were going to produce from their world tour. And so from that Evergreen Carbon Capture was born and the program has been in existence now since 2010. And since then we have planted over 33,000 trees.

Evergreen Carbon Capture program. Photo by Forterra

How can people get involved?

Lindsay: We have tried to make it as easy as possible for people to get involved. We have a carbon calculator on our website and there’s a version for both for businesses and for individuals. People can just go on and calculate their operations if they’re a business or calculate their household’s impact if they’re an individual. And then they can easily choose to participate by just following the link and making a contribution online.

Susannah: And for Port Gamble, we have until July 31st to raise just under a million dollars. So go to and make a donation. It’s $2,500 an acre, but we’ve had three dollar donations up to 500,000 dollar donations. And they have all made an impact—every dollar that we don’t raise is forest land left at risk of development.

Is there anything else you’d want to share with our readers?

Lindsay: I guess I would just share that it costs less than people think to plant a tree. People are always surprised: if you take one flight across the country, it’s one ton of carbon, and our carbon rates are $7.50 per ton. It’s really not that much, but I think people don’t often off set their carbon footprint because they think it’s going to be really expensive. Often times people are surprised at how little it’s come to, but if everyone made a small contribution, we could plant a lot more trees and make a much bigger difference.

To learn more about Forterra, or to make a donation, visit To learn more about how Nau funds organizations like Forterra through our Partners for Change program, click here.