New proposal seeks to protect more Seattle trees

A canopy of trees against a gray, cloudy sky.

There are over 310 species of trees in Seattle. | Photo by SEAtoday staff

Look, it’s probably not exactly going out on a limb to say that Seattleites love their nature — we’re called the Emerald City for a reason. So of course eyes are on new efforts to secure more protections for the city’s trees.

Councilmembers Dan Strauss and Alex Pedersen are looking to advance legislation that would amend Seattle’s Land Use and Tree Protection Code, as outlined by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI).

That’s some pretty official-sounding language, but what it means is the councilmembers hope to expand the types and sizes of trees the city protects and make it easier to track preservation efforts — among other safeguards. Here’s how that all makes an impact.

Size really does matter 🌲

In Seattle, trees that are 30 inches or more in diameter are defined as “exceptional” (oooh), which means developers can’t remove them unless they are environmental hazards. The city also has regulations for smaller trees it calls “significant” (ahhh) that can be removed under certain conditions, but often have to be replaced. With this proposal, the size thresholds for those definitions would decrease in each case — and more trees will be considered “exceptional” or “significant.” Good job, trees.

SDCI’s proposal would also add historically significant trees and groves in the Heritage Tree Program into the “exceptional” category. In addition, the department’s outline — which the city councilmembers hope to codify through legislation — attempts to update enforcement provisions and close certain loopholes to prevent tree removal without adequate review.

Finding your inner arborist 🌳

The discussion and debate around local tree protections has been going on for a long time, with progress scuttled by the pandemic. While the public can comment on this new proposal through March 3, it’s not the only way to get involved. These trees-y groups are also good for those who want to learn more about our green spaces.

  • Trees for Seattle | A city forestry org that has lots of cool interactive maps
  • The Last 6,000 | A campaign by PlantAmnesty to find + document historic trees
  • City Fruit | A nonprofit devoted to caring for local fruit-bearing trees, with harvests circulated into the community