This City of Boulder, Boulder County program engages youth in climate action while expanding and caring for urban forests

The City of Boulder, Boulder County and several local and national organizations have launched the Community Forestry Corps (CFC). Led by the PLAY Boulder Foundation, this initiative employs young people to maintain city trees and collect data on how trees impact heat and climate change.

The CFC engages youth in two vital nature-based climate actions: planting and caring for trees in under-shaded areas and collecting neighborhood-level heat data to inform extreme heat management strategies. The work will take place in areas across Boulder, Louisville, Lafayette and at Boulder Valley School District school grounds. Participants will work outside, develop important job skills, learn about nature-based climate action and give back to the community.

The city’s urban forest canopy helps mitigate climate change, especially in reducing heat, which poses significant health risks to our community. The city’s past heat mapping work has revealed that canopy cover varies greatly by area of the city, disproportionally affecting low-income neighborhoods and dense urban areas. This program aims to continue this heat mapping work while enhancing community resilience by increasing tree cover in these vulnerable areas.

“We are proud to launch this initiative,” said City of Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett. “With the Community Forestry Corps, we are mobilizing the energy and commitment of our young people to help protect our urban communities from the growing impacts of climate change and extreme heat using nature-based solutions.”

"While this program will visibly green our neighborhoods—cooling them, enhancing biodiversity, and improving mental health and air quality—the greatest return is the investment in our youth," said Boulder County Commissioner Ashley Stolzmann. "We're not just planting trees; we're cultivating a generation equipped to build a healthier, more livable tomorrow."

The nine-week program is made up of Crew Leaders (ages 18-24) and Crew Members (ages 14-18) who will care for newly planted trees and gather heat data using sensors, bicycle-based monitoring tools and other instruments They will also take part in skill-building activities, such as public speaking and data management, to prepare for careers in nature-based climate solutions.

“We are excited to be a part of this initiative,” stated Ghita Carroll, Sustainability and Energy Officer for the Boulder Valley School District. “This program gives our students hands-on climate action experience as well as exposure to a wide range of potential career paths in the rapidly growing field of nature-based climate solutions.”

The CFC, the first program of its kind in the country, includes participants from historically underserved and under-canopied communities. This initiative is part of the Cool Boulder program, launched by the city in 2022.

“PLAY Boulder is excited to be a part of the important work of empowering our next generation in the work of natural climate solutions to combat climate change,” said Angie Jeffords, Executive Director of the PLAY Boulder Foundation. “Along with our partners in the city and county, as well as the brilliant educators with Classrooms for Climate Action, we hope that this inaugural youth corps can make an impact in our community for years to come.”

Learn more about the City of Boulder’s climate work.