Focus Area

Equity and Human Wellbeing

Overview: Equity and Human Wellbeing

The PRWC, serving as the Puyallup White River Local Integrating Organization, cares deeply about bringing greater equity and environmental justice to The Watershed, and see the implementation of the Ecosystem Recovery Plan as a means to help ensure our goals for a more equitable community are met.

Key Pressures and Risks

There are many overlapping components of social justice issues and environmental concerns. Pressures, risks, and barriers to equity are complex. Several pressures that the Ecosystem Recovery Plan could help address are described below.

Tree Cover

Areas with low tree cover, particularly in urban areas, can cause heat islands.

Water Quality

Water quality near superfund sites becomes an equity issue when more vulnerable populations live in proximity to the sites.

Financial Constraints

One of the main barriers to addressing equity in environmental concerns is financial constraints that prevent project development and implementation.

Climate Change

The 2016 Tacoma Climate Change Resilience Study identified the following findings related to equity:

  • The most prominent climate hazards for Tacoma’s social systems and population centers are extreme heat and inland flooding.
  • Future increases in the frequency and duration of extreme heat events will disproportionately affect populations located in urban heat islands and in areas with low tree canopy cover.
  • Populations with especially high sensitivity to climate impacts include the sick, disabled, young, elderly, and those who work outdoors or lack access to cooling or shelter.
  • A person’s income, level of education, first language, and level of insurance coverage will affect their ability to rebuild, retreat, or respond to extreme events and stress.

Equity and Human Wellbeing Goal

The overall goal for equity and human wellbeing is to build all peoples’ sense of their oneness with the natural world and commitment to a healthy environment for human and ecological benefit.

Puyallup-White Watershed Open Space Strategy

The Open Space Strategy identifies projects and actions to conserve and enhance open spaces to contribute to the ecological, economic, recreational, and aesthetic vitality of the watershed.

Health Equity Assessment

In 2015, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department developed a Health Equity Assessment that identifies where inequities occur and where health outcomes have the most severe inequities.

Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan

The Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan directs the development and management of the County park system. Equity is a key value identified in the plan: “We provide a park system that is geographically dispersed, culturally responsive, and inclusive of all people and income levels.”


The American Planning Association’s 2019 Planning for Equity Policy Guide identifies four policies for environmental justice:

Encourage Triple-Bottom-Line Outcome
No population is disproportionately impacted by development, disaster recovery, and redevelopment.

Give Deference to Local Knowledge
Giving deference to local, Indigenous knowledge that affected community residents bring to the planning process is important for building credibility and trust.

Encourage Collaborative Problem Solving
Implement innovative place-based solutions through collaborative problem solving to address multi stakeholder interests and concern.

Organize and Support Pro-Bono Planning Efforts to Assist Underserved and Underresourced Communities with Environmental Justice Concerns
Early intervention, before market pressures are intense, allows residents to offer their vision for better and healthy communities.

Equity Success in the Watershed

Cultural Ambassadors Program

The Pierce Conservation District’s Cultural Ambassadors Program hosts a network of bilingual and bicultural community connectors who work with PCD to identify needs in their communities and co-create solutions that are rooted in their own cultural context.

Swan Creek Limpieza Team

The Swan Creek Limpieza Cleanup Group was awarded the 2020 Brian Abbott Above and Beyond Award for removing 2.7 tons of trash from Swan Creek.


The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Tappswise program provides financial assistance for septic inspections, helping homeowners in the Lake Tapps watershed afford services that lead to improved water quality.

Priority Actions for Equity and Human Wellbeing

The Ecosystem Recovery Plan includes sixteen priority actions for Equity and Human Wellbeing, including the following examples.


Outreach to BIPOC leaders and communities to better understand their priorities and needs and how they would like to be connected to ecosystem restoration efforts and to increase their participation in LIO activities.


Increase education on Tribal Treaty Rights and the Tribal Land Settlement Agreement.

Mount Tacoma

Support the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and their work to restore the ancestral name of Mt. Rainier to Mount Tacoma or Mount Tahoma. In the native Lushootseed, the mountain is called təqʷuʔməʔ.