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

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

Dear Mayor Durkan and Seattle City Council Members, 

We urge you to provide strong leadership now to significantly strengthen Seattle’s tree ordinance to protect our trees and urban forest. 

Seattle’s urban forest is an integral and vital part of our city.  It provides many benefits and amenities to those living in our city.  Trees help clean our air and enhance public health, reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate climate change, decrease the impacts of heat and wind, provide habitat for birds and wildlife and give us a connection with nature in our neighborhoods.

Seattle’s rapid growth is reducing these beneficial impacts as trees are removed, particularly during development across our city. It is urgent that you act now to stop the loss of trees, particularly exceptional trees and tree groves, and to promote environmental equity as we increase our tree canopy.

We urge you to act now by updating our current tree ordinances and regulations as follows:

  1. Adopt a policy of a net increase of Seattle’s tree canopy each year to reach the city’s current goal of 30% tree canopy.  This requires maintaining and strengthening current protections for both significant and exceptional trees, tree groves, Heritage trees, environmentally critical areas and natural areas.
  2. Require the 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 the replacement and maintenance mitigation costs into a City Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund. Allow the Fund to accept fines, donations, grants and for acquiring land and setting easements and Tree Protection Trusts.
  3. Expand the existing tree removal and replacement permit, 2-week 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 1  significant non-exceptional tree per lot per year.
  4.  Establish one citywide database when applying for tree removal and replacement permits and to track changes in the tree canopy.  Post online all permit requests and permit approvals for public viewing.  Expand SDOT’s existing tree map to include all the trees in the city that are removed and replaced.
  5. Require a detailed Urban Forest Canopy Assessment for all development projects prior to any development beginning. This detailed tree inventory should be entered into a public database.  Replacement trees should be based on equivalent tree size 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: The Office of Sustainability and Environment, as was recommended by the Seattle City Auditor in 2009.  Give OSE the additional authority needed to ensure that trees have an independent advocate for their protection to avoid conflicting goals in other city departments.
  8. Emphasize native trees and vegetation, particularly conifers, to maximize sustainability and environmental services.  Require the removal of invasive plants during development. Increase incentives for protecting trees and provide public assistance for property owners who need help complying with the city ordinance. To increase compliance increase penalties, fines and enforcement. Ensure environmental equity in maintaining and increasing our tree canopy across the city.

Note: Above is the final version of the Letter to the Mayor and City Council that organizations are being asked to sign onto as part of a citywide coordinated effort to show strong support for updating Seattle’s existing Tree Protection legislation.

In the current proposal as outlined by Council staff on May 16, 2018, Councilmember Johnson, is not proposing to require developers to replace most trees lost during development while requiring homeowners to replace all trees larger than 12 inches DBH. Yet development is where most trees are being lost. Everyone needs to be treated the same, not letting developers evade most mitigation for trees lost.  Also the threshold needs to be 6″ DBH not 12″ DBH which would only cover 18% of the trees on single family lots.

When your organization signs on to the letter above please send notification to along with the person signing for the organization and their position.

Also for both organizations and individuals please copy and paste the letter text above the note and include it in an email you send to the Mayor and Seattle City Council in support of updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. They need to hear from you. Be sure to add your own concern about developers being exempt in the current proposed ordinance update that homeowner would have to comply with. Urge that permits need to start at 6 inches DBH which would cover 45% of the trees in single family zones.

Send to and

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance,

corrections made to notes after May 16, 2018 when more details became public with release of the Seattle Central Council staff memo – “Draft Updates to Seattle’s Tree Regulations”



Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest — 6 Comments

  1. Does CM Johnson’s tree proposal meet any of these requirements?

  2. Yes, he is proposing a couple of the key elements, namely a permit system, requiring replacement trees for trees removed and a single portal to apply for permits from the city. He also supports a goal of increasing our tree canopy. We propose a 6 ” DBH while he says 12″ DBH. An recent Seattle City Study on Ecosystems Services notes that a 6 ” DBH threshold would cover 45% of the trees in single family zone while a 12″ DBH would only cover 18%. Most of Seattle’s trees are in the single family zone.

  3. Pingback: Developers should not be exempt in new ordinance to protect Seattle’s trees  | Friends of Urban Forests

  4. The picture of the invasive hawthorn is really off-putting. The various groups of Seattle “tree people” don’t seem to understand the (science supported) information about the ecosystem connections of native plants (including trees), a healthy insect biomass and “Wild Life” (fish, birds, anphibians, reptiles, mammels). I would prefer #8 to be #1 and native trees to be prized above all non-native trees (including cultivars). Plus, surfaces that allow for healthy native tree root systems need to be explored for where native trees are planted next to walk-ways and roads.

  5. Pingback: Movement forward on Updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance – April Action | TreePAC

  6. Pingback: Update on May, June Action on Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance | TreePAC