Urge Seattle City Councilmembers to Add a Seattle Urban Forester to the Seattle City Budget!

Please send an e-mail now to council@Seattle.gov urging Councilmembers to support the budget  amendment to add a Seattle Urban Forester position to the 2023 Seattle Budget

Councilmember Alex Pedersen has introduced the amendment to the Seattle City Budget to add the Seattle Urban Forester position to the Office of Sustainability and Environment. Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Dan Strauss have joined as co-sponsors of the amendment. 

The budget process eventually needs 5 votes to put this amendment in the budget. Please contact Council members asking them to vote for Councilmember Pedersen’s amendment. You can also thank CM Pedersen for putting this amendment forward and thank CM Herbold and Strauss for joining on as a co-sponsor.

Here is the City’s response in creating the position. Response Chief Arborist SLI MO-001-A-002-2022.pdf This is a very strong document in support of creating this position.

Here is contact information (emails and phone calls) for individual city council members and staff – If you can only send one e-mail, send it to council@seattle.gov 

Sending individual e-mails to your own CM and the 2 city wide Council members is most effective. Calling also is helpful. You can use statements in the above document and the e-mail below to state why you support the amendment. Your own personal e-mail is most effective. It doesn’t need to be long. Ask if they will be vote to add an urban forester position to the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, Also making phone calls after sending e-mails really helps.. Leave a message if no one answers.

You can also urge that money be added to the budget for planting trees now. Suggestion – minimum $500,000 to help meet environment equity and race and social justice goals.

Below is a more detailed position paper on what the Urban Forester position could entail. The letter has been sent to the Seattle City Council and Mayor.

Dear Seattle City Council,

Please support amending the budget to add a Seattle Urban Forester position to the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) to coordinate urban forestry issues among the 9 city departments dealing with trees and the urban forest. This would set up the same oversight needed for urban forestry like the proposed addition/shift of the Citywide Coordinator of Climate Initiatives Position to OSE is intended to accomplish.

There is currently no one in charge of overseeing overall urban forest management in the city. There are no annual updates on what is happening to the urban forest citywide. A once every 5 to 6 year LIDAR Canopy Study is only a bird’s eye view, at a particular time, and then only looks at urban canopy area loss or gain which is only one metric of urban forest sustainability and health.

Every 5-6 years there has also been an update to the Urban Forest Management Plan, but responsibilities and priorities are left to individual departments. There is no annual accountability on the progress of meeting goals. The Seattle Urban Forest Interdepartmental Team helped develop the Urban Forest Management Plan but there is no one in charge overall to ensure that goals and responsibilities are being carried out. The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission does have a yearly report – See Seattle Urban Forestry Commission 2021 Annual Report. but it mainly covers the activities of the volunteer Commission, which is limited to making recommendations to the Seattle City Council and Mayor.

We can and must do better to protect and enhance our urban green infrastructure. It is critical for so many reasons, including climate resiliency, environmental, race and social equity, stormwater runoff, carbon sequestration, air pollution, habitat for birds and wildlife, and the mental and physical health for all living and working in One Seattle.

Resources are available but someone needs to help coordinate and plan and be sure the city gets help that is available. This can be one of the responsibilities of the Seattle Urban Forester and associated support. Both THE Washington State Department of Natural Resources Urban Forestry program and the Federal Government have new funds available for trees and urban forestry. Having a Seattle Urban Forester can help the city to not just fund proposals like the canopy equity and resilience plan in the current draft budget but also get additional funds to plant and maintain the trees needed to meet the city’s 2037 30% canopy goal and also help meet environmental equity and race and social justice goals.
.Pew Trusts: “Towns May Grow Millions More Trees with $1.5 B for Urban Forestry. This article covers new state and national funding available to help urban cities like Seattle .increase tree and urban forest canopy cover.

Here is an example of a job description and qualifications for a City Urban Forester on the ISA (International Society of Arborists) website. ISA Municipal Arborist/Forester This position could be to oversee and coordinate all related work covered under the Urban Forest Management Plan which covers both public and private trees. Right now, all the work is decentralized with each Department responsible for certain work and goals, but there is no one overseeing or coordinating the overall plan to ensure that the work and goals are being met.

ISA Description – “THE MUNICIPAL ARBORIST, or forester, is the individual responsible for the long-term care and management of city trees. Duties include the application of a management plan including planting, pruning, protecting, and removal programs for public trees and associated vegetation; budget preparation; and interaction with the community (both public and private), politicians, and other agencies. Municipal arborists’ activities also encompass forestry, ecology, hydrology, atmospheric science, energy, and stormwater control.”” A college degree in forestry, horticulture, or related fields will most likely be required. Individuals will also be required to have 3-5 years of experience in tree and plant care operations and be an ISA Certified Arborist. Proficiency in computer use and operation is highly desired.”

The City of Boston is hiring a Director of Urban Forestry – You can see their job description here. See Director of Urban Forestry

The following report detailing what was happening in Vancouver, Washington as an example where they have a Forestry Division that provides yearly reports. This is an example of both citywide accountability and yearly progress reports, Urban Forestry 2021 Annual Report

Here is the page where you can see the yearly reports done in Portland which requires permits to remove and plant trees among other requirements. You can see a detailed of what is happening on a yearly basis. Urban Forest Action Plans Yearly Updates .

The Seattle Urban Forester (Citywide Coordinator) position should be placed in the Office of Sustainability and Environment like the proposed shift of the Citywide Coordinator for Climate Initiatives. OSE budget transfer from SDOT:  Citywide Coordinator for Climate Initiatives Position Transfer $222,073 1.00 FTE

The city of Tacoma has their Urban Forest Division in their Office of Environmental Policy and Sustainability. Tacoma Urban Forestry

Can we count on your support for adding a Seattle Urban Forester to the OSE budget?

Steve Zemke
Chair – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

Click here to donate to TreePAC

This post was originally posted Oct 15, 2022 and was updated Oct 20, 2022 to note that the amendment has been introduced with 3 sponsors and needs 5 Councilmembers voting to pass it. You can send a quick e-mail to all Councilmembers by going to https://www.dontclearcutseattle.org/seattle-city-urban-forester/ 

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