Action Needed Now to Protect and Enhance Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

Action Needed Now to Protect and Enhance Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

We urge Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council to take action now to significantly strengthen Seattle’s ordinances to protect our trees and urban forest. Seattle’s urban forest is an integral and vital part of our city. The urban forest provides many benefits and amenities to those living in our city, including helping to clean our air, reduce stormwater runoff, increase property values, counter climate change, lessen heat and wind impacts, provide habitat for birds and wildlife and provide nature in our neighborhoods. Seattle rapid growth is reducing these beneficial impacts as trees are removed, particularly during development across our city.

We urge you to take action now by updating our current tree ordinance and regulations as follows:

  1. Adopt a policy of no net loss of tree canopy with a goal of increasing tree canopy. This includes maintaining and strengthening current protections for exceptional trees, tree groves, Heritage trees, critical areas and natural areas
  2. Expand the existing tree removal and replacement permit, notice and posting system used by SDOT – to cover all public and private trees 6” DBH and larger on both public and private property in all land use zones. Allow removal of no more than 3 significant non-exceptional trees every 4 years.
  3. Require replacement of all trees removed that are 6” DBH and larger with equivalent sized trees (e.g. small, medium or large) – either on site or pay replacement and maintenance mitigation costs into a City Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund. Allow the Fund to accept fines, donations and grants and allow funds to also be used for acquiring land, easements or set up Trusts to protect trees.
  4. Establish one city wide database system to apply for tree removal and replacement permits. Post permit requests and permits approved on line for the public to see. City should expand SDOT’s existing tree map to include all of the trees in the city that are removed and replaced.
  5. Require a detailed Urban Forest Canopy Impact Assessment for all development projects – basically a detailed tree inventory report on property before development proceeds. Information would be entered into a public database, including data on replacement using  equivalent tree sizes at maturity.
  6. Expand SDOT’s existing tree service provider’s registration and certification to include all tree service providers working on trees in Seattle
  7. Consolidate tree oversight into one city entity as recommended in 2009 by the Seattle City Auditor who recommended the Office of Sustainability and Environment. Give OSE the additional authority needed to ensure that trees have an advocate for their protection and independence from conflicting goals inherent in other city departments,
  8. Give emphasis to native trees and vegetation, particularly conifers to maximize sustainability and environmental services like reducing stormwater runoff, protecting wildlife habitat and minimizing climate change impacts. Require removal of invasives during development. Increase incentives for protecting trees and provide public assistance for citizens if needed to help comply with the city ordinance. Increase penalties, fines and enforcement for increased compliance.

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