Portland, Oregon Again Leading the Way on Stronger Tree Protection

The following e-mail was sent to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council:
Here is an update on what Portland, Oregon is currently doing regarding updating their Tree Ordinance.
Portland, Oregon last week took another strong step toward strengthening their Tree Ordinance.
On Nov. 12, the Portland City Council adopted an ordinance that updates the city’s tree policies to promote greater preservation of trees when development occurs in certain types of commercial, employment and industrial areas, and to further incentivize preservation of larger trees in other development situations.”
Among the provisions of the updated ordinance, it
  • “Reduces the threshold for required preservation of private trees from 36 inches to 20 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh) wherever tree preservation is required
  • Reduces the threshold for the application of an inch-per-inch fee in lieu of preservation for private trees from 36 inches dbh to 20 inches dbh …
  • Directs Portland Parks and Recreation to bring a scope of work for future updates to the city’s tree code (Title 11 of Portland City Code) to City Council by March 31, 2021 and directs the City Council to consider funding for that work during the fiscal year 2021-22 City budget process.”
Link to full Portland news article below,  which has a link to the amended ordinance text for Chapter 11.50 -Trees in Development Situations and accompanying documentation of the adoption process.

Portland.gov – Portland City Council adopts updates to city’s tree code, strengthening tree preservation

Note that Portland will now require as of Dec 12th, that developers pay a Fee in Lieu of 2 for 1 replacement cost for removed trees 12-20 inches diameter and inch for inch cost for rees removed that are over 20 inches in diameter.
The amended ordinance in Exhibit C, of the accompanying document shows the new amended Fee in Lieu cost:
Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry Title 11, Trees Fee Schedule DEVELOPMENT effective December 12, 2020
preservation, Fee in Lieu private trees
trees>12 inches and <20 inches in diameter …. $1800/tree
trees>20 inches in diameter ….. $450/inch
planting and establishment Fee in Lieu …. $450/inch
With budget shortfalls this year note that Seattle continues to lose potential revenue to support our urban forest infrastructure as lots during development are frequently clear-cut. Portland, Oregon meanwhile is generating revenue to help reduce tree loss and counter it by replacing trees. Here is a link to Portland’s latest report.  Urban Forestry Title 11 Fund Report Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Fee in Lieu.
Portland reported that they generated $1,444,426 for their Tree Planting and Preservation Fund and $981,720 for their Urban Forestry Fund for revenue in fiscal year 2018-2019 totaling $2,426,149. 
 These number will go up as Portland has lowered its threshold for its Fee in Lieu for tree loss during development from 36 inches DBH to 20 inches DBH. Private homeowner’s Fees in Lieu start at 12 inches DHB but are seldom used as it appears that they mostly choose to replace the removed tree and thus not have to pay a Fee in Lieu.
Seattle has put off updating SMC 25.11 – its Tree Protection Ordinance now for 11 years. Even going by Portland’s latest figures Seattle has probably forgone $25 – $30 million since 2009 in potential revenue for urban forestry by not updating its tree ordinance as other cities are doing.
Thank you for your continued support for updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. We need to move forward now.
Steve Zemke

Help Save An Exceptional Big Leaf Maple Tree in Madrona!

Action needed now – call or email today – Tue. Oct 6, 2020 at the latest!


A two-week notice has been posted for an application to remove this tree. Help save this exceptional big leaf maple tree!

Located at 35th Ave and Spring  1 block east of Madrona Park

 The Heart of Madrona in Seattle

TREE 59973 is a 48” diameter big leaf maple, well over the criteria for an “exceptional tree” 

It is adjacent to a playground, on a key pedestrian route to Lake Washington, storing lots of carbon and fighting global warming.  David Kirske, Chief Financial Officer of CTI Biopharma Corp. seeks to cut down this gem to build a better driveway and sidewalk. (Yes, seriously).  And he refuses to talk to the community about collaborative approaches to save the tree.

Contact Nolan Rundquist, head of SDOT’s Urban Forestry Division. 

 email at  Seattle.Trees@Seattle.gov 

(206) 684-TREE (8733). 

Reference # SDOTTREE0000252 (tree removal permit appliction number) 





BIG TREES ARE CRITICAL TO THE HEALTH OF OUR NEIGHBORHOODS AND URBAN ENVIRONMENT – storing carbon, redicing pollution and countering climate change.

E-mails should also be cc’ed  to Jenny.Durkan@Seattle.gov, Council@Seattle.gov, Sandra.Pinto_de_Bader@Seattle.gov

Thanks for your help.

Seattle Needs to Amend 2035 Comprehensive Plan to Provide More Protection for Trees

Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest  supports Seattle City Council Resolution 31970.
We support amending Seattle’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan to “identify opportunities to better support the urban tree canopy”
We also support the provision to consider “impact fee amendments to public owned parks, open space and recreation facilities and school facilities”
In addition to considering amendments proposed by 5(C) and 5(I) –
We also ask that the provision of “no net loss of tree canopy” in the previous Comprehensive Plan be added back to the current Plan. The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission in 2018 urged that this be added back as part of Seattle’s Tree Regulations.
Another provision to add is  “maximizing the retention of existing trees” during development as in the Land Use Code SMC 23 to help stop unnecessary clearcutting of lots and a significant loss of existing tree canopy.
 To help meet race and social justice goals and climate crisis impacts and help implement the Green New Deal step up the 30% tree canopy goal in the Comprehensive Plan from 2037 to 2030.
And please make the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission part of the process by adding that OPCD  submit to the UFC any draft language they propose on tree canopy opportunities and ask for the UFC’s comments and these comments also be submitted to the Seattle City Council.

Public Comment Needed Now to Increase Tree Protection in Seattle!

Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees!

Public Comments are needed now supporting draft SDCI Director’s Rule 13-2020 for Increased Tree Protection – Deadline August 17th

Your help is needed now to ensure that stronger tree protection in Seattle moves forward. The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections has released a draft update to its 2008 Director’s Rule on Exceptional Trees. Director’s Rule 13-2020 will be used to give updated guidance to developers and property owners on tree protection in Seattle.
Public comment in support of this update is needed by
Monday August 17, 2020


The update was mandated by Mayor Burgess’s Executive Order 2017-11 – Tree Protection and by the 2019 Seattle City Council Resolution 31902 after strong citizen outrage over continued tree loss in the city.
The draft Director’s Rules would give greater protection to large trees, tree groves, Heritage Trees, and all trees over 6 inches in diameter at standard height (DSH). It would require Tree Care Providers to register with the city of Seattle and comply with city tree regulations. It would also finally require developers who remove exceptional trees and trees over 24 inches DSH to replace them on site or elsewhere in the city. This requirement has been in the current Tree Protection Ordinance since 2001 but was never enforced.
Adoption of the Director’s Rule as drafted is not guaranteed but can be changed or delayed due to public pressure. We would like to see stronger protection. The King County Master Builders, meanwhile, are urging their members to also submit public comments, including urging the update be delayed for 18 months.
The draft updated Director’s Rule is long overdue. Citizens have been urging updated tree protection for 11 years. Enough is enough.
The draft is a strong step toward adding more tree protection now while an updated city Tree Protection Ordinance is being considered.
You can help. We have put together a pre-written letter of support that includes amendments proposed by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission in their public comments to the city.
Our pre-written letter highlights the main areas of support in the proposed Director’s Rule and our suggestions on how the Director’s Rule can be strengthened.

All you need to do is click on TAKE ACTION to get started.

You will be asked to let the city know who you are and where you live, so the city knows who is commenting. You can add your personal comments to the draft, and with one click, send it to the city to add your support. Thanks for your help.
When the updated Director’s Rule is finally adopted, it will be a big step forward in increasing protection for trees and Seattle’s urban forest.
Please share this e-mail with others to seek additional public input. Thanks!

What are the key provisions in the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission’s draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance?

What are the key provisions in
the Seattle Urban Forestry
Commission’s draft Tree and
Urban Forest Protection

Power Point Presentation


                       Click here to see Seattle Urban Forestry Commission’s draft                           Seattle Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance,

Seattle Urban Forestry Commission feedback on King County’s 30-year Forest Plan

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission made the following recommendations to King County regarding it’s 30-year Forest Plan. You can see the original letter here.

March 11, 2020
Christie True, Department of Natural Resources and Parks Director
King Street Center, 201 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98104-3855

Dear Director True,
The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) thanks Sarah Brandt for her updates regarding King County’s 30-year Forest Plan. The UFC supports this undertaking on a county level because of the complexity and interaction of the many different land uses and environmental issues involving forestry across the county.
King County is well-positioned to coordinate and share best practices and planning across the county by bringing together the many diverse stakeholders that benefit from and are impacted by decisions affecting our forested landscape. Seattle and other cities in King County have overlapping interests in maintaining, protecting, and
enhancing the benefits that urban forests provide to their dwellers. The following suggestions for the County may help municipalities better manage environmental concerns relating to forestry.

Assist Collection of High-Quality Tree Canopy Cover Data across the County
Without good data on trees and canopy cover, municipalities manage urban forests in the dark. The UFC suggests that King County could assist in periodic LIDAR studies to measure canopy cover across the county to provide baseline data for all cities, towns, and unincorporated areas in the county. Importantly, these studies
should be repeated at least every five years. These data will allow decision makers to assess gains and losses in tree canopy over time.

The UFC recommends that these studies measure canopy volume in addition to canopy cover. King County is losing large trees, especially in cities. Replanting with small trees may give a similar canopy area over time but does not fully replace the benefits large trees provide particularly well, including carbon sequestration,
stormwater mitigation, air quality improvement, wildlife support, and heat island impacts reduction. A LIDAR study can also help to clarify forest species diversity by doing a leaf off study to determine the percentage of evergreen and conifer species in an area.

Consider Cumulative and Ecosystem Level Impacts
Sharing information on climate impacts to trees and forests and ensuring species diversity and resilience is important. Looking at the total ecosystem impacts must be considered. Forestry is more than just trees. It includes associated plants, shrubs, and wildlife. The totality, interrelationships and functionality of forests, both
rural and urban, must be considered as the region grows in population.

Take Stock of and Value King County’s Natural Capital
Seattle is starting a Natural Capital Assessment to assign dollar values to its natural features and the benefits they provide. King County should consider a similar assessment as part of its forestry plan.

Convene Stakeholders, Leverage Partnerships, and Share Resources
Another way that King County can assist urban areas is by working with entities like the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ Urban and Community Forestry Program, the US Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, and King Conservation District in organizing workshops for municipalities to develop effective tree and urban forest ordinances and management plans. Convening stakeholders to discuss challenges and opportunities would greatly benefit the County in implementing an effective forest plan. By leveraging partnerships and sharing resources, cities across the county can manage urban forests in a regionally
coordinated manner and improve on efforts from work done in other areas.

The UFC also urges King County to make efforts to include other entities in its outreach and future involvement. These include dealing with Washington state entities like the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Department of Ecology as well as Federal Agencies that own land in King County.
Other important entities to include is exploring ways to involve school districts and students in efforts to protect and increase forests. These will be their forests in the future.

Consider a County-level Urban Forestry Advisory Board
King County has already created a Rural Forestry Commission. There is a need for a similar board for urban areas. Multiple tree and urban forest protection ordinances and management plans exist across the county. Each municipality has its own process for drafting and updating these ordinances and plans. While the basic issues are similar, cities act independently and frequently lack the resources and expertise to evaluate the benefits or problems associated with different ways of regulating tree and forest protection. The County could help coordinate efforts.

Thank you for your outreach and efforts to create a 30-year Forest Plan for King County. The UFC supports your efforts and looks forward to working with you.

Weston Brinley, Chair; Steve Zemke

cc: Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, Council President Lorena González, CM Lisa Herbold, CM Debora Juarez, CM Andrew Lewis, CM Tammy Morales, CM Teresa Mosqueda, CM Alex Pedersen, CM Kshama Sawant, CM Dan Strauss, Jessica Finn Coven, Michelle Caulfield, Josh Baldi, Warren Jimenez, Sarah Brandt, Jessica Engel, Kathleen Farley Wolf, Paúl Quiñonez Figueroa

Sandra Pinto de Bader, Urban Forestry Commission Coordinator
City of Seattle, Office of Sustainability & Environment
PO Box 94729 Seattle, WA 98124-4729 Tel: 206-684-3194 Fax: 206-684-3013

Weston Brinkley (Position #3 – University), Chair • Sarah Rehder (Position #4 – Hydrologist), Vice-chair • Steve Zemke (Position #1 – Wildlife Biologist) • Elby Jones (Position #2 – Urban Ecologist – ISA) •Stuart Niven (Position #5 – Arborist – ISA) • Michael Walton (Position #6 – Landscape Architect – ISA) • Joshua Morris (Position #7 – NGO) • Steven Fry (Position #8 – Development) • Blake Voorhees (Position # 9 – Realtor) • Neeyati Johnson (Position #10 – Get Engage d) • Whit Bouton (Position #11 – Environmental Justice – ISA)  • Jessica Jones (Position # 12 – Public Health) • Shari Selch (Position # 13 – Community/Neighborhood)

2020 Seattle City Council Committee Structure and Chairs to be Adopted on Monday

Here is the resolution to be voted on Monday Jan.6, 2020 by the Seattle City Council which will set up the Committee Structure, Committee Chairs and Committee members for 2020.
Updating the Tree Protection Ordinance will be through the Land Use & Neighborhoods Committee
They will meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month at 9:30 a.m.
Chair Dan Strauss
Vice-Chair Teresa Mosqueda
Member  Debra Juarez 
Member  Andrew Lewis 
Member Alex Pedersen
Alternate Lorena González
Committees will now have 5 members and an alternate, rather than 3 members and an alternate.
Voting an ordinance out of committee or making amendments in committee will now require 3 votes to pass.
Passage of an ordinance by the full City Council will require 5 votes.
6 votes of the full Council would be needed to override a Mayoral veto.
Here is the link to the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission’s draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance.
Quickly send Seattle’s Mayor and the Seattle City Council an email supporting the Urban Forestry Commission’s by going to www.DontClearcutSeattle.org.

Explaining why key provisions are in the 2019 Seattle Urban Forestry Commission draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance

Clearcut North Seattle – Victory Hts

Clearcut North Seattle – Victory Hts

In June 2019, at the request of several Council members, the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission submitted  a draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance to the Seattle City Council and Mayor.

The Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance is urging the public and  organizations to submit letters of support on the draft ordinance through the website www.DontClearcutSeattle.org.  A pre-written draft letter for individuals is available on the site to which additional comments can be added. A draft resolution is available for organizations to use to express their support.

Here is some further explanation on each item mentioned in the support letter for the Urban Forestry Commission’s draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance. This draft was submitted June 2019 to the Seattle City Council and the Mayor at the request of Councilmembers Bagshaw and Herbold.

1. Expand the existing tree removal and replacement permit program, including 2-week public notice and posting, as used by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) – to cover all trees 6” DBH and larger on private property in all land use zones, both during development and outside development.

 Explanation – Seattle currently has a complaint based system to monitor tree removal. It doesn’t work because people only know a tree is being cut down when they hear the chain saw. Many trees are removed illegally. Exceptional trees on private property as defined by Director’s Rule 16-2008 are not to be removed unless hazardous. The first sign a tree is being removed is usually hearing a chain saw  or seeing the tree gone when they pass by. Many other cities like Portland,OR; Atlanta, GA; Vancouver,BC and locally Sammamish, Shoreline, Mercer Island, Redmond, Lake Forest Park and Bellevue all require permits before trees can be removed. 
According to the  Seattle Forest Ecosystem Values Report, 6″ DBH (diameter at 54″ high) and larger trees represent about 45% of the trees in the single family zone. That means 55% are smaller than 6″ DBH. A Douglas fir at 6″ DBH is about 30 years old.
During development and outside development – also means property on which construction is occurring and property on which construction is not occurring.
Notice – posting is to let neighbors know if a tree is legally being removed.
 2. Require the replacement of all trees removed that are 6” DBH and larger with trees that in 25 years will reach equivalent canopy volume – either on site or pay an in-lieu fee into a City Tree Replacement and Preservation Fund. Allow the Fund to also accept fines, donations, grants and set up easements.
Explanation – Many cities require tree replacement when trees are removed. If trees are not replaced you are losing canopy. 
Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance passed in 2001 actually says in SMC 25.11.090:
“Tree replacement and site restoration. A. Each exceptional tree and tree over two (2) feet in diameter that is removed in association with development in all zones shall be replaced by one or more new trees, the size and species of which shall be determined by the Director; the tree replacement required shall be designed to result, upon maturity, in a canopy cover that is at least equal to the canopy cover prior to tree removal. Preference shall be given to on-site replacement. When on-site replacement cannot be achieved, or is not appropriate as determined by the Director, preference for off-site replacement shall be on public property.” 

The city has not kept a  record of  trees removed or replaced pursuant to this ordinance nor is there any record of developers paying the city to plant trees elsewhere. The city has not been enforcing this part of the ordinance. 

Note: The current draft lowers this provision to replace trees to 6″ DBH and allows trees to be planted on private property in the city that need more trees as part of the race and social justice initiative. The requirement to replant trees is extended to private property owners as many other cities have done including Portland,OR. 
The fee in lieu dollar amount would be set by DCI and is not in the ordinance, so it can be set and raised or lowered to ensure compliance and deal with changing costs over time. There is no replacement fee if replacement trees are re-planted on the property they are removed from. DCI would also have the authority  to reduce, delay or cancel in-lieu-fees, dependent on a property owner’s  financial circumstances.
3. Retain current protections for Exceptional Trees and reduce the upper threshold for exceptional trees to 24” DBH, protect tree groves and prohibit trees over 6” DBH being removed on undeveloped lots (vacant lots).
Explanation – There are about 6100 large exceptional trees left in Seattle according to the 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment. These are trees over 30″ DBH and up to 140 feet tall and probably 100 years old or more.  They are the survivors and provide the most ecological services to the city. They include Douglas fir, western red cedar and Big Leaf Maples. Reducing the diameter to 24″ DBH will protect more of these large trees that have lived longer than most people in the city, and will be impossible to replace in our, or our children’s, lifetime.
See Reasons to Save Big Trees in Urban Areas Friends of Urban Forests
4. Allow removal of no more than 2 significant non-exceptional trees in 3 years per lot outside development (i.e. no construction occurring).
Explanation – Seattle currently allows the removal outside development of 3 significant (> 6″DBH) trees that are not exceptional per year.
This can quickly remove all trees on a lot. A number of other cites have lower numbers and limit it even more over a longer time period. Renton limits it to 2 in 1 year and 4 in 5 years as an example. 
5. Establish one citywide database for tracking tree removal and replacement permits, and to track changes in the tree canopy. Post online all permit requests and permit approvals, both during development and outside development, for public viewing.
 Explanation -The database system was recommended in the 2017 Tree Regulations Research Project report.  Mayor Burgess, in his 2017 Tree Protection Executive order, directed it to be set up to track tree loss and replacement.
6. Expand SDOT’s existing tree service provider’s registration and certification to register all tree service providers (e.g. arborists) working on trees in Seattle.
Explanation – SDOT has already set up a a system to register and certify tree service providers and this would extend it to all that work on trees on private property. Providers would have to sign a statement that they have read the tree regulations and understand what is required. 
7. Provide adequate funding in the budget to implement and enforce the updated ordinance.
Explanation – DCI currently is understaffed regarding tree protection functions that include monitoring tree related issues and checking compliance with existing regulations, site inspections etc. This funding will be required to implement and better enforce the existing and updated ordinance.
cross posted on www.TreePAC.org

Reasons to Save Existing Big Trees in Urban Areas

Saving big trees in urban areas is difficult, particularly during development as cities grow in size. But there are many reasons why saving big trees and planting new trees that will become big over time is important. Excerpts from 3 separate articles  below help to explain why.
Note – The bolding of the text below is mine to help focus on the issue of the value of big trees, not that of the original authors.
1. The Large Tree Argument – the Case for Large-Statue Trees vs Small-Stature Trees , Center for Urban Forest Research, Southern Center for Urban Forestry Research & Information 2004
Large trees pay us back. We now know that, dollar for dollar, large-stature trees … deliver big savings and other benefits we can’t ignore. Small-stature trees like crape myrtle deliver far fewer benefits. In fact, research at The Center for Urban Forest Research shows that their benefits are up to eight times less. Compared to a small-stature tree, a strategically located large-stature tree has a bigger impact on conserving energy, mitigating an urban heat island, and cooling a parking lot. They do more to reduce stormwater run off; extend the life of streets; improve local air, soil and water quality; reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide; provide wildlife habitat; increase property values; enhance the attractiveness of a community; and promote human health and well being.
And when we use large stature trees, the bottom-line benefits are multipliedWhen it comes to trees, size really does matter. Don’t forget the established “Old Guard” We can’t forget the already-established trees. These older trees provide immediate benefits. The investment that community leaders made 30, 40, 50 years ago is producing dividends today. Dr. McPherson, Director of the Center for Urban Forest Research, points out that “since up-front costs to establish these large-stature trees have already been made, keeping these trees healthy and functional is one of the best investments communities can make.”” 
2.  The Struggle to Save Seattle’s Urban Forest in the Face of Development, Seattle Magazine, October 2017, University of Washington social scientist Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D
“Wolf knows this research well, because her own work is focused on how people experience nature in cities, including the human health and economic benefits of the urban forest—the phrase used to describe the trees and understory plants in a city. Forest bathing aside, research shows our health is boosted by having access to urban trees and other nature. “Neighborhood greening reduces depression, may help kids reduce ADHD symptoms, reduces our stress response, encourages physical activity, reduces signs of mental distress, increases cognitive memory, improves air quality and, overall, promotes significantly higher well-being,” she says.

City trees can also raise property values, reduce crime and muffle urban noise. They help the environment, absorbing water, decreasing flooding and the need for water treatment, and absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, directly fighting climate change. “Up until recently, trees really didn’t have a place at the table with city decision making, but now, because we know about their environmental services and the health benefits, trees are an important component of city decision making,” says Wolf. ” ….

Wolf says large trees provide “a much greater proportion of benefit” to cities compared to small trees, in terms of ecosystem services, such as water quality, air quality and carbon sequestration. “Are we going to relegate large trees only to parks and green spaces, or can we incorporate them into development?” she asks. “I’m not sure.”

3.  When it comes to the Climate, Older trees do it Better, Bryan Walsh, Time.com, Jan.15, 2014

“…according to a new study published in Nature, it turns out that the oldest trees are actually still growing rapidly, and storing increasing amounts of carbon as they age. An international research group led by Nate Stephenson of the U.S. Geological Survey Western Ecological Research Center reviewed records from forest studies on six continents, involving 673,046 individual trees and more than 400 species, going back as far as 80 years ago. For 97% of the species surveyed, the mass growth rate—literally, the amount of tree in the tree—kept increasing even as the individual tree got older and taller. Even though trees tended to lose leaf density as they aged…the total amount of leaf cover kept increasing as the tree itself got bigger and older. In other words, the number of leaves per cubic foot fell off but the leafy surface area grew and grew. That enabled the tree to keep absorbing an increasing amount of carbon as it aged.For some species of trees, that increase could be enormous. A single big tree could sequester the same amount of new carbon in a year as might be contained in an entire mid-sized tree.”