Rachel Malarich is in Charge of the Largest Urban Forest in the US

Malarich’s new role as City Forest Officer for Los Angeles will help the city plant 90,000 trees by 2021.

25.11.2019 | by Christy Romer
Photo from Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
Photo from Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

Los Angeles (LA) has an ambitious plan to slow the climate crisis: plant 90,000 trees over the next two years. And, the city has just employed Rachel Malarich to ensure it happens.

Malarich is LA’s first ever City Forest Officer, a new post created by Mayor Eric Garcetti as part of the city’s Green New Deal. Her role will oversee the growth of the largest urban forest in the US by planting 90,000 trees by 2021 and spearheading a citywide Urban Forest Management Plan. She’ll also have to increase tree canopy by at least 50 percent by 2028 in “areas with the least shade”—a plan intended to help low-income communities, who often live in the hottest areas.

“Rachel has the vision, experience, and expertise necessary to lead the work of lining our streets with more trees and building a greener tomorrow,” Garcetti said in a statement. “Every tree we plant can help stem the tide of the climate crisis, and when we expand our urban forest, we can sow the seeds of a healthier, more sustainable future for communities across our city.”


Rachel Malarich

Photo of Rachel Malarich and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. Photo by LA Mayor


Malarich’s résumé includes over 12 years increasing tree canopies in urban areas throughout Southern California, promoting community engagement and expanding urban forests. The certified arborist was previously Director of Forestry at environmental non-profit Tree People, and worked as Assistant Director of Environmental Services for Koreatown Youth and Community Center.

“Trees do more than contribute to the look and feel of our neighborhoods—they are a key tool to protect vulnerable populations, improve public health, and enhance community well-being for all Angelenos,” she said. “I am honored to serve our great city under the Mayor’s leadership to help manage and expand our urban forest and prepare Los Angeles to confront the rising crisis of climate change.”


First steps

To get the plan in motion, Malarich has launched a programme to give up to seven free yard and street trees to qualifying residents. The initiative, covered in the Los Angeles Times, covers trees such as crape myrtles, with pink, red or white flowers and a maximum height of 25 feet; silk floss trees, which can reach up to 35 feet in height; and large trees, such as coast live oaks and African fern pines that can reach 80 feet tall.

Malarich told the paper that people can go online to choose their tree and have it delivered to their garden. The tree then comes with “stakes, ties and fertilizer pellets” and simple instructions on how to plant them.

Neighbours who come together to request street trees must obtain relevant city permits and commit to watering them for five years.

Malarich added some no-nonsense advice on how to check their tree. “Before you start your weekend, or when you take out the trash, stick your finger in the soil and see if it’s moist 4 inches down,” she said. “If it’s dry, give it 10 to 15 gallons of water; if it’s moist, wait until next week. You can kill a baby tree by over-watering it.”

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