Trees amidst residential development

30% or Bust: Towards a Stronger Tree Policy

In October, interim Mayor Tim Burgess signed an Executive Order strengthening Seattle’s protections for trees on private property. The order increases penalties for illegal tree cutting and will develop a fee-in-lieu program to help mitigate tree loss and preserve tree canopy.  This is a small but significant step,  long overdue, and a move that Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) has been lobbying for since its inception. And a necessary step if the city is to meet it’s goal of 30% tree canopy by 2037.

On November 1st, I attended the UFC’s monthly meeting, on behalf of SNA, where I got to listen to a presentation of a report outlining recommendations for strengthening Seattle’s Tree policy. (Side note: Interestingly, this report was completed in March 2017  by a temporary employee hired specifically to do the research, and the work was sponsored by the Department of Construction & Inspection & the Office of Sustainability & Environment. The Urban Forestry Commission noticed the report cited in  Housing Afforability & Livability (HALA) documentation, and requested this presentation. It seems to us, that the UFC should have been included in authoring the report – being that providing expertise in managing the urban forest is their mission. At the very least, they should have been informed about the research being done).  In order to expedite strengthening the tree policy, the recommendations not requiring an ordinance change (vote by City Council) were implemented in the Mayor’s Executive Order (in the report, these are identified as Option 1). The other recommendations (Option 2 & 3)  which would further strengthen tree protections by implementing mandatory permit to remove trees on private property (that meet particular criteria), mandatory replacement of trees removed,  and larger penalties for unauthorized tree removal,  will be presented to the newly elected Mayor, Jenny Durkan, for her consideration.

We think it is critical that stronger tree protections are enacted soon, and so sent a letter thanking Mayor Burgess for his Executive Order and urging him to encourage Mayor Durkan to follow through with the other recommendations.

We encourage all SNA members to review the report and write the newly elected Mayor and City Council about increasing tree protections in the City.  Feel free to use language from our letter if needed to express views that may be similar. We would also urge you to mention that they include the  Urban Forestry Commission  in drafting the final tree policy. It’s way past time for the City to place as much emphasis on preserving ‘livability’  (tree canopy and other ecosystem services) as it does on development.



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