City needs new tree protection ordinance
By Richard Conlin, Seattle City Council
Seattle needs a new permanent tree protection ordinance that includes incentives for property owners to preserve existing trees and plant and maintain new ones. Most importantly, we must start thinking of trees as infrastructure that provides specific, tangible benefits in addition to being a critical part of our urban ecosystem.
Protecting existing trees and planting new ones is important but not sufficient to create the urban forest that the Emerald City should have.
In response to the Seattle City Council’s request for a comprehensive approach to protecting Seattle’s trees, the Department of Planning and Development has proposed draft tree regulations.
The council has just begun its review of these proposals, and we do not expect to receive formal legislation until 2011. When legislation is submitted, there will be a public hearing and opportunity to comment.
I proposed and the council adopted an interim tree ordinance in 2009 because we knew it would be difficult and challenging to craft a comprehensive ordinance that will work to protect and enhance our trees. Until we approve new legislation, the interim ordinance will continue to be in effect.
I appreciate the fact that Department of Planning and Development has started to take us out of the box of linear thinking about trees and imagining a new way to approach the issue, but I’m convinced the proposal in its current form is adequate as a long-term solution.
Our long-range strategy must include education, protections and incentives. Part of our challenge will be to shift the thinking about trees so that protection becomes the exception rather than the rule.
I’m not sure how to get there, but I am looking for new approaches and intend to take the time to ensure that we design a system that will truly lead us toward an urban forest that we can all cherish and value.
This piece originally appeared in Richard Conlin's newsletter, Making It Work. In January, the city fined property owners in Ballard for removal of a large monkey puzzle tree from their property because it matched city criteria for an exceptional tree.