Seattle Needs an Updated Tree Ordinance!

Rapidly changing Seattle is losing critical tree canopy volume. Planting and preserving trees has been touted as the single most effective means of climate change mitigation. Yet, developers are scraping lots and unscrupulous tree services are cutting down trees illegally. Seattle needs an updated tree ordinance and needs to enforce it. You can help!

The Mayor and City Council need to hear from you!

Use the form below to write your letter to the Mayor and City Council. You can select from the following points to modify the default letter.
  • Expand the existing tree removal and replacement permit program, including 2-week public notice and posting, as used by the Seattle Department of transportation (SDOT) – to cover all trees 6” DBH and larger on private property in all land use zones, both during development and outside development.
  • Require the replacement of all trees removed that are 6” DBH and larger with trees that in 25 years will reach equivalent canopy volume – either on site or pay an in-lieu fee into a City Tree Replacement and Preservation Fund. Allow the Fund to also accept fines, donations, grants and set up easements.
  • Retain current protections for Exceptional Trees and reduce the upper threshold for exceptional trees to 24” DBH, protect tree groves and prohibit trees over 6”DBH being removed on undeveloped lots.
  • Allow removal of no more than 2 significant non-exceptional trees in 3 years per lot outside development
  • Establish one citywide database for 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 service provider’s registration and certification to register all tree service providers working on trees in Seattle.
  • Provide adequate funding in the budget to implement and enforce the updated ordinance.
  • Trees provide climate crisis mitigation. Ongoing scientific research confirms that reforestation is among the most effective action that can combat the looming climate crisis. As one of the most environmentally aware cities in the nation, Seattle should be taking the lead in the preservation of our urban forest.
  • Trees clean the air. According to the Nature Conservancy, leaves can filter out fine particulate matter (PM)—one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution, generated from burning biomass and fossil fuels.
  • Our urban forest is an integral part of our public health infrastructure. Numerous studies have found trees have proved to aid mental health, decrease obesity, and just generally make people happier.
  • Urban Heat Island mitigation – Trees are natural and sustainable form of air conditioning. According to the EPA, the heat island effect increases energy costs (e.g., for air conditioning), air pollution levels, and heat-related illness and mortality. This disproportionately impacts low income residents who may not have access to air conditioning. Research published by Climate Central, ranks Seattle as #10 among US cities for urban heat island temperature effects.
  • Trees are increasingly recognized for their importance in managing runoff and so reducing the toxic runoff into Puget Sound. Their canopies help reduce erosion caused by falling rain. They also provide surface area where rain water lands and evaporates. Roots take up water and help create conditions in the soil that promote infiltration.
  • Trees provide critical habitat for birds and other wildlife. Many birds rely on continuous tree canopy for migration.
  • Density vs trees is a false choice. Other cities, particularly those designed prior to the automobile, are denser than Seattle and also preserve tree canopy and open space. Vienna Austria, for example, has twice the density, while having more green space than Seattle.
  • The updated ordinance provides for data collection and reporting. Everyone sees the tree stumps, but it is difficult to accurately determine where all the trees are going. The updated ordinance provides for data collection and reporting. This will enable the city to make informed decisions regarding tree canopy as we move forward.
  • Certification of tree care professionals (arborists etc) to work in Seattle. The UFC recommended updates to the ordinance require Seattle to license arborists to ensure compliance with laws. This will stop the practice of falsely classifying a healthy tree as hazardous in order to cut it down.
  • The updated tree ordinance provides predictability and a level playing field to developers.

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