The following letters were posted on Seattle Parks and Open Space Advocates listserve and raise an important issues affecting ground nesting birds in Seattle and other parks.
Subject: Stop the mowing of nesting bird habitat in Discovery Park!
Dear City and Parks Department officials,
For the second consecutive year, we are writing to demand that Seattle Parks Department cease destroying Savannah Sparrows by mowing over their nests on the Parade Ground meadow at Discovery Park. The area is not a golf course, playground, or off-leash dog run. Park facilities managers must be required to consult naturalists on staff to determine appropriate maintenance and problem-solving measures. Otherwise the purpose and goals of the park are undermined – with potentially devastating consequences for years.
The Savannah Sparrow is a small grassland bird that travels from as far as southern Mexico to nest here. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/SavannahSparrow/lifehistory Of those that survive the trip, large numbers of parent birds and their nestlings will die if the mowing in Discovery Park and other park meadows continues. Indiscriminate mowing will also deprive late breeders of nest sites and habitat for months.
We are longtime volunteers at Discovery Park. In fact, we credit the park’s nature programs and the encouragement of its talented naturalists for having turned us into avid birders. We now give back as best we can by participating in the monthly bird census at Discovery Park and helping to lead some of the migratory bird walks each spring and fall.
Discovery Park is a jewel that needs to be managed with educated and informed care to encourage the wildlife and natural habitat. Please intervene immediately to suspend mowing of Discovery Park meadows and to establish a pro-habitat maintenance policy for all city properties.
Helen Gilbert Henry Noble Seattle, WA 98115
Follow up Letter: Savannah Sparrows under attack again!
Press Release: from Seattle Urban Forestry Commission
SUBJECT – Hydrologist or similar professional sought for Seattle Urban Forestry Commission
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
10/8/2014 4:00:00 PM Sandra Pinto de Bader (206) 684-3194
Hydrologist or similar professional sought for Seattle Urban Forestry Commission
SEATTLE – City Council is looking for a new Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) member to fill Position # 4 (hydrologist or similar professional). A hydrologist or similar professional, preferably with expertise in the study of natural drainage, climate or air quality, or a combination thereof is preferred. The term would start December 1, 2014 and would extend through December 1, 2017. This position is appointed by the Mayor, and confirmed by City Council, for a renewable, three-year term.
The nine-member UFC consists of a wildlife biologist; an urban ecologist; a representative of a local, state, or federal natural resource agency or an accredited university; a hydrologist; a certified arborist; a representative of a non-profit or non-governmental organization; a representative of the development community or a representative from a non-city utility; and an economist, financial analyst, or Washington State license real estate broker.
The City of Seattle set the bold goal of achieving 30 percent tree canopy cover by 2037 to increase the environmental, social, and economic benefits trees bring to Seattle residents. The Seattle Urban Forest Stewardship Plan (UFSP) is a comprehensive strategy for increasing Seattle’s tree canopy cover to meet the 30 percent target. The UFSP lays out goals and a broad range of actions to be implemented over time to preserve, maintain, and plant trees as well as restore the public forested areas remaining in the city. More information about Seattle’s urban forest program can be found at http://www.seattle.gov/trees/management.htm
The Urban Forestry Commission was established in 2009 by Ordinance 123052 to advise the Mayor and City Council concerning the establishment of policy and regulations governing the protection, management, and conservation of trees and vegetation in the City of Seattle. Commission meetings are held twice a month on the first and second Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Commission members generally must commit approximately 10 hours per month to Commission business and serve without compensation. Additional information about the Urban Forestry Commission can be found at http://www.seattle.gov/trees/UFcommission.htm
Applications are due November 10, 2014.
To be considered, please send a letter of interest and resume to Sandra Pinto de Bader (Sandra.Pinto_de_Bader@seattle.gov). To send a paper submittal, address it to: Sandra Pinto de Bader, Urban Forestry Commission Liaison, Urban Forestry Commission, Office of Sustainability and Environment, City of Seattle, 700 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1868. PO Box 94729, Seattle, WA 98124-4729.
For more information, please contact Sandra Pinto de Bader, Urban Forestry Commission Liaison, at (206) 684-3194 or via email at Sandra.Pinto_de_Bader@seattle.gov
Seattle’s Urban Forest Stewardship Plan calls for Seattle reaching a 30% canopy goal by 2037. Seattle’s current tree canopy is about 23%.
The UFSP states that Seattle’s land are is 54,379 acres.
A Seattle canopy cover of 30% canopy = 16,314 acres.
Seattle’s current canopy cover of 23% canopy = 12,507 acres.
16,314 acres – 12,507 acres = 3807 additional acres of canopy cover needed by 2037.
3807 acres / 23 years = 165.52 acres of new canopy needed every year to reach 30% canopy goal by 2037
Portland, Oregon in their city-wide Tree Policy and Regulatory Improvement Project report, June 2011, calculated that planting 900 medium size canopy trees (on average) would generate only 12 acres of future canopy growth annually.
165.52 acres/ 12 acres X 900 trees = 12,414 new average medium size trees need to be planted in Seattle each year to reach a 30% canopy goal by 2037. This assumes each year there is also no net loss of canopy as the baseline and that 100% of the planted trees survived which is unrealistic.. These trees are in addition to replacing any lost during development or removed from private property or removed in the public sector like street trees or park trees.
Detailed analysis of Portland’s calculations is in Volume 1 – Recommended Draft Report to City Council Dec 2010 starting on page 144 – Tree Canopy Benefits, Financial Impacts and Budget Proposal” Portland calculated that their tree ordinance would for the same amount of money spent on just planting trees on 12 acres, they could generate about 140 acres of canopy per year.
Currently Seattle has no requirement to replace most trees cut down as a result of development on private property except as part of green factor which can mostly be met by other means. Seattle public trees that are removed are replaced on a 2 for 1 basis but the process does not specifically address tree size. While the Seattle Comprehensive Plan calls for a no net loss of tree canopy every year there is no overall city department or entity that is tracking the net loss or gain of trees citywide each year.
The Seattle metropolitan area urban forestry canopy has decreased from about 40% in 1972 to only about 23% today in the city of Seattle. And every neighborhood has seen the loss of trees both one by one and in larger numbers when development occurs.
What is needed is stronger protections for our urban forest and its trees. Trees help reduce storm water runoff; remove pollutants from the air, including CO2; provide habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife; calm traffic on our streets, increase property values, help in reducing heat in the summer and cold in the winter; and create more livable neighborhoods and business districts among other things.
With increased development and population growth, Seattle is losing its trees. While other cities around the Northwest, like Portland, Oregon and Lake Forest Park, WA have recently strengthened their tree ordinances, Seattle has actually proposed legislation to significantly decrease protections for trees. Rather than an open process involving the public to draft new legislation, the Seattle City Council has asked the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to draft new legislation. Unfortunately they have a conflict of interest in their mission which is to help people build and develop, not protect trees.
Unfortunately the first two drafts proposed by DPD were written to give developers and others a free reign to do whatever they wanted and proposed no longer protecting significant trees and tree groves or even limiting how many trees could be removed in a year. They instead proposed that public education and incentives were all that is needed.
Please contact your Seattle City Councilmembers and the Mayor and let them know you want our trees and urban forest to be protected by passing stronger protections, not reducing them.
Tell the Mayor and the City Council to:
1. Maintain and expand protections for exceptional trees and tree groves.
2. Require permits to remove trees on both public and private property like other cities are doing and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) already does in the planting strips.
3. Require 2 week posting of tree removals which SDOT already does.
4. Require regulations to cover both public and private trees as Portland, Oregon is doing.
5. Consolidate tree oversight in a new Department of Forestry or the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, not the Department of Planning and Development.
6. Require that a Canopy Impact Assessment be done on all development projects, evaluating the impact of tree removal on the city goal of reaching 30 % canopy cover by 2037.
7. Require equivalent tree replacement either on or off site for all trees removed so there is no net loss of canopy as per the City Comprehensive Plan.
8. Give priority to planting native trees and vegetation to help preserve native plants and wildlife.
9. Emphasize habitat protection, retention of soils and ecological processes
10. License and train all arborists and tree cutting operations, impose fines and suspension for violations.
e-mails – firstname.lastname@example.org;, email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.seattle.gov/mayor/contact-the-mayor
You can help in our efforts to protect our trees and urban forest by joining with us. Add your name to our e-mail contact list by contacting us at Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest, c/o Steve Zemke – Chair, 2131 N 132nd St, Seattle. WA 98133, email@example.com , 206-366-0811. Our facebook page is at Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and our website is at www.friends.urbanforests.org .
Portland Oregon has enacted a far reaching update of their regulations on protecting trees and their urban forest. Originally slated to be effective in 2013 it will now be law as of January 1, 2015.
Here is the link to the current adopted Portland, Oregon Title 11 Tree regulations as updated Jan 23, 2013 with an effective date of Jan 1, 2015. The link is to the Citywide Tree Policy Review and Regulatory Improvement Project Report entitled Title 11 Trees and includes the code language passed along with additional commentary on facing pages.
An earlier report by the Citywide Tree Policy and Regulatory Improvement Project is available also in a document entitled Recommended Draft Report to the Portland City Council December 2010 details the issues and process that was involved in coming up with their new regulations.
Portland’s adopted regulations will now cover trees on both public and private property including during development. As Portland explains in their ordinance it was enacted to:
“enhance the quality of the urban forest and optimize the benefits that trees provide. Desired tree benefits include:
1.Providing oxygen and capturing air pollutants and carbon dioxide;
2.Maintaining slope stability and preventing erosion;
3.Filtering stormwater and reducing stormwater runoff;
4.Reducing energy demand and urban heat island through shading of buildings and impervious areas;
5.providing visual screening and buffering from wind, storms and noise;
6.Sustaining habitat for birds and other wildlife;
7.Providing a source of food for wildlife and people;
8.Maintaining property values and the beauty, character and natural heritage of the city; and
9.Meeting the multi-purposed objectives of the Urban Forest Plan, including reaching and sustaining canopy targets for various urban land environments.”
There are many reasons why trees are lost in Seattle despite efforts to protect them. The following is another example of why our interim tree ordinance needs to be updated. It lacks the protections many other cities have and does not protect existing trees from being cut down needlessly.
And it points out why the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is the wrong city department to have in charge of protecting trees. Seattle needs a city department like the Office of Sustainability and the Environment with a clear mission statement to be an advocate for saving trees and not have conflicting missions like DPD does. DPD’s primary mission is to help developers build projects and has publicly stated that their policy is to protect trees unless they limit the development potential of a lot. But even that statement is false when you look at the following example.
They are giving no protection to a large 25 inch Douglas fir even when there are clearly alternative ways to build the proposed garage on this site without removing the tree.Check out this picture. The garage is to be build on the right side of the lot between the red markers in the center of the picture. DPD’s response is that it has no ability to save this tree despite clear alternatives.
There is an equal amount of space to move the garage to the left of the stairs coming down to the sidewalk or just to the right of the stairs. Either of these two options would clearly allow the garage to be built and still save the tree. Note also that building the garage does not add any additional parking but is actually a net loss as it will remove two on street parking spaces.
Check out DPD’s response to the next door neighbor Nancy Rottle’s inquiry and request to save the tree in the following e-mails. And check out the actual application file and note that there is no official recording of the below e-mails and DPD’s response although one would think this would be in the public record as a complaint.
Also note that there is no assessment of the impact of the garage or project on Seattle’s urban canopy or Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan’s goal of no net loss of trees. There is no requirement to try to save trees whenever possible or to replace trees lost as a result of this project.
Sent: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 12:59 PM
To: McKim, Andy
Cc: Lofstedt, Emily
Subject: Fwd: Project 6376676
Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
Sent: Monday, January 06, 2014 12:55 PM
To: McKim, Andy
Cc: Sugimura, Diane; Lofstedt, Emily; nancy rottle
Subject: Re: Project 6376676
Here is what is currently in place as to removing trees in Seattle as of November 2013. .
The “interim” tree ordinance passed in 2009 by the Seattle City Council is the governing ordinance. It came about because of the loopholes in removing trees in Seattle exposed by two citizen battles. Protecting trees in the Northwest Grove at Ingraham High School in North Seattle and saving Waldo Woods in the Maple Leaf area.
Here is the Seattle City Council’s press release when they passed the interim ordinance:
This lists a fine of up to $5000 for violating the ordinance.
Actual ordinance: Council Bill 116404
Three DPD memos further explain the requirements:
Tree Protection Regulations in Seattle:
This states that no exceptional trees may be removed on developed property over 5000 square feet.
Designation of Exceptional Trees:
This one clarifies what an exceptional tree is and has a list of tree sizes for trees. For example it states that for Douglas firs, trees larger than 30 ” in diameter are exceptional and may not be removed unless they pose a hazard.
Seattle Permits -Removal of Hazard Trees – includes Hazard Tree Removal Application
The interim ordinance is clearly lacking as large trees continue to be cut down without regard for their size. There is also no requirement for replacement trees.
Seattle has been working on updating the tree ordinance for four years now. The Seattle Department of Planning and Development has come up with several drafts which have not been acceptable to members of the public and others. DPD’s approach has been contrary to the direction of the Seattle City Council which wanted stronger regulations to protect trees.DPD currently does not require or enforce getting permits to remove most trees in the city. They have operated what they call a complaint system which doesn’t work because there is no way to stop someone cutting down a tree and a complaint after the fact doesn’t save any trees.
DPD’s draft proposals for this reason were also not viewed favorably by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission. The next draft of a proposed tree ordinance was to be released in Jan or Feb 2014. This is now most likely up in the air as the current Mayor, Mike McGinn, was defeated in the Nov election and the new Mayor, Ed Murray, is likely to view this issue with fresh eyes..
Any new ordinance to be successful needs to require permits to remove any tree over 8 – 10 inches in diameter and require a two week posting of all proposed tree removals so any conflicts can be addressed. Also unless replacement of trees cut down is required, either on site or off site, Seattle will continue to lose canopy. This is despite the Seattle Comprehensive Plan stating a yearly goal of no net loss of canopy..
Cities like Portland, OR; Vancouver, WA, Lake Forest Park,WA and Kirkland, WA currently require permits to remove large trees. Permits are currently required by SDOT to prune or remove trees in the right of way and by DPD to remove hazard trees (although there is little or no evidence this is working).
Save the Trees- Seattle is a citizen’s coalition in Seattle, Washington working to update it’s current ordinance dealing with trees and Seattle’s urban forest. We have opposed the Seattle Department of Planning and Development’s (DPD) past efforts to weaken and repeal existing protections for Seattle’s urban forest and trees.
As the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission noted, DPD’s 2011 draft would have removed existing protections for trees and tree groves on 99.5% of Seattle property. DPD proposed that education and incentives would increase our urban forest canopy more than strengthening existing protections. We disagree.
A second draft of DPD’s proposal was released in 2012 and was withdrawn for further revision after the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission, Save the Trees-Seattle and other groups criticized its weakening of tree protections on private property. DPD’s intent was still to not regulate tree protection but to remove all protections.
DPD is currently working on a third draft of a new tree ordinance that they plan to release in Jan 2014. There work is being done behind closed doors and is not involving the public. The schedule is to try to pass a new ordinance the beginning of 2014.
Save the Trees-Seattle supports a comprehensive update of our existing regulations as requested by the Seattle City Council in Resolution 31138 but mostly ignored by DPD in the past. Save the Trees-Seattle is a coalition of community and environmental activists working to draft an alternative citizen’s proposal that includes the following elements:
Important urban forestry and tree regulation provisions needed in a new tree ordinance to strengthen tree protection
- Maintain and expand protection for exceptional trees and tree groves
- Expand the current permit system for street trees to include all trees over 6 inches in diameter on public and private property; require 2 week posting of permits on internet and visible sign on site, have an appeal process
- Enact comprehensive regulations that cover both public and private sector trees
- Consolidate oversight, regulation and enforcement in an independent department other than DPD, that does not have a conflict of interest such as the Office of Sustainability and Environment or the Parks Department.
- License and train all arborists and tree cutting operations; with fines and suspension for violations of law
- Give priority to native trees and vegetation to help preserve native plants and animals
- Emphasize habitat and ecological processes and soil as part of urban forestry
- Require all real estate sales to disclose trees on property that would require a permit to be removed.
- Define canopy cover in terms of volume and area; enforce existing city policy of no net loss of canopy by requiring replacement of trees removed either on site or off site
- Incorporate incentives like a rebate on utility bills based on exceptional trees, total canopy cover, or on trees over a certain size like 8 inches in diameter on property; property owners could file to get a rebate the same as property owners now file for a senior citizen property tax exemption
- Prepare meaningful and descriptive site plans that show all existing and proposed trees to scale
If you are interested or know of other people who want to assist in our effort to enact strong urban forestry and tree protection regulations send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and request to be added to our e-mail list. Save the Trees – Seattle, 2131 N 132nd St, Seattle, WA 98133, 206-366-0811 Check out our facebook page at Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and visit our website here at www.friends.urbanforests.org
This website is being added to as time permits so please have patience as we work on it. We try to keep more current tree and urban forestry news items posted more timely on our facebook page. – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest.