HB 1078 as written would allow developers to clearcut lots across the state!

Letter sent to House Local Government Committee members
Sent: Friday, January 20, 2023 4:47 PM
To: Davina.Duerr@eg.wa.gov <Davina.Duerr@eg.wa.gov>
Subject: Concerns regarding HB 1078 to void tree and urban forest ordinances during development

Dear Representative Duerr,
This bill needs to be amended or rejected.  If passed as is, it will become known as the Washington State Urban Clearcutting Bill.
This approach to override city and town tree and urban forest ordinances was in last year’s middle housing legislation and it has been pulled it out as a separate bill because it was controversial at the time. Adding “tree banks” to get people to support it now does not change the issue of removing existing trees that could be saved. in many cases with better planning. Trees and density can co-exist – it is not trees or housing we need both and can do that.  People need trees where they live to have healthy communities.
As written HB 1078 reads as a state mandate that would allow developers to override city and town tree protection ordinances that require tree retention or planting trees on a building site. It would allow developers to legally clearcut lots with trees and tree groves, not replant any trees on site, and create new blighted areas and heat islands.

HB 1078 directs that city and town tree ordinances “must allow an option that allows obligations for the protection and management of these trees imposed by the ordinance to be satisfied by the use of a tree bank”

HB 1078 implies that any city regulations to retain or plant trees on a building site can simply be ignored by paying a fee into a tree bank.

The bill declares “In regulating the removal of trees during development, however cities sometimes impose regulations that limit or prevent development opportunities that would provide additional housing, even if the removal of trees in these circumstances would not impair the health of the community.”

HB 1078  makes two false assumptions.
The first false assumption is that removing established trees in “noncritical areas will not impair the health of a community”

The area you remove trees from will lose climate resiliency and environmental services. Existing established trees provide heat island reduction, reduced storm water runoff, decreased air pollution, physical and mental health benefits, wildlife habitat, noise reduction and a sense of place. This occurs lot by lot and can extend to neighborhood impacts also.

The second false assumption is that trees are preventing developing a property but that is seldom the case.  Tree ordinances almost always allow developers to remove trees that limit the development potential of a lot. Seattle’s existing tree ordinance, for example, does not apply to “Tree removal shown as part of an issued building or grading permit as provided in Sections 25.11.060, 25.11.070, and 25.11.080;”

This bill needs to be amended to clarify that developers must comply with local tree protection ordinances to save trees when they can and replant trees removed when they can on site but can use a tree bank or tree mitigation fund or tree replanting fund to plant trees elsewhere as needed if they cannot do it on the building lot.

These replanted trees can be targeted for race and social and environmental equity when they cannot be replanted on the building site. All building sites in the city need to require tree replacement, not just those in “noncritical areas.”  Replanted trees must have equivalence to the size of the tree removed – replacement fees must increase as the size of the removed tree increases to make up for lost ecosystem services of the tree removed.

HB 1078 should also be amended to say that developers must maximize the retention of existing trees on all building sites like Austin, Texas does.   Seattle, e.g., also requires that in its platting and short platting process but needs to extend it to the total building process.

Several additional comments on amending bill:

Recommend changing Tree Bank to a Tree Planting Fund or Off Site Mitigation Fund or similar terminology as recommended by phytosphere.com that covers all trees removed, not just ones removed in “non-critical areas”  
Although “tree bank” has a nice ring to it, it has been applied to a wide variety of programs (and in some cases to organizations). It is certainly legitimate to define the term in a tree ordinance and use it locally in that sense. However, the fact that different jurisdictions use the term in different ways may lead to confusion. In general, we recommend the use of more descriptive (albeit more prosaic) terms such as “tree planting fund” or “off-site mitigation planting” to describe the off-site mitigation tactics that are specified in the ordinance.”
An example of a Tree Planting Fund.; Portland, Oregon has a Tree Planting and Preservation  Fund  11.15.010
A.  Purpose. The purpose of the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund is to facilitate tree planting, to ensure mitigation or tree replacement when tree preservation or tree density standards are not met on a particular site, and to advance the City’s goals for the urban forest and intend to achieve equitable distribution of tree-related benefits across the City.
B.  Expenditures. Money in the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund may be used only as follows:

.  To plant trees on public or private property, including streets. Planting trees includes the cost of materials and labor necessary to install and establish a tree for a 5 year period;

2.  To purchase conservation easements for the perpetual retention of trees and tree canopy. Such conservation easements shall allow the City to replace trees that are removed when they die or become dangerous; and

3.  To acquire land to permanently protect existing trees or groves.

C.  Contributions. Contributions to the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund may occur through a number of means, including:

1.  Payment made in lieu of tree replacement as part of a tree permit issued as stated in Chapter 11.40;

2.  Payment made in lieu of preservation or planting where site or street characteristics or construction requirements make it infeasible to meet the requirements of Chapter 11.50;

3.  Payment of restoration fees for enforcement actions for Private Trees; and

4.  Voluntary contributions.

D.  Administration of the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund. The Tree Planting and Preservation Fund is administered by the City Forester, maintained in a dedicated separate account, and is independent of the general fund. Any balance in the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund will be carried forward into subsequent fiscal years.

HB 1078 seems at cross purposes as stated in the Department of Natural Resources Dec 2022 Newsletter – Tree Link Newsletter – Urban and community Forestry in Washington

“During her remarks last month at the Partners in Community Forestry Conference in Seattle, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said, “Our urban forests are no longer a nice-to-have. They’re absolutely a must-have. Our urban forests are no longer a preferred line item on our budgets. They’re a testament to whether we are truly fulfilling our moral responsibility to an economically, environmentally, and socially just society.”

“Later that morning, Commissioner Franz announced her intention to seek an $8 million investment from the state Legislature when the 2023 legislative session begins in January. Urban and Community Forestry Program staff worked with DNR’s legislative and policy teams to draft a vision for the program that, if funded, will allow DNR to meet the demand for funding and the needs of our urban forests.”

Steve Zemke, Chair –  Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest,                                                former Seattle Urban Forestry Commissioner for 6.5 years

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