As Seattle became the decade’s fastest-growing big city in America, residents have seen more tree canopy disappear to make room for new apartments and houses to accommodate the growing population. Now, activists and residents are pushing for the Seattle City Council to create a new tree ordinance that will protect more trees. But even as the movement gains momentum and there’s increasing evidence that trees help combat climate change and water pollution, the Seattle City Council is weighing these efforts against an ever-increasing need for housing.
South Seattle, with a heavy concentration of industry and people of color who on average earn less than residents in other parts of the city, also features some of the sparsest tree canopy in Seattle, according to a city study. That matters to residents’ health, a growing body of evidence suggests.
When Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson set out to pass a long-stalled strengthening of Seattle’s tree-protection ordinance, fans of the urban forest called it wonderful news. They said his move last fall was far overdue considering how Seattle’s development boom is reducing the leafy canopy that gave “The Emerald City” its nickname. But when Johnson aides recently released their third suggestion this year for how to update the city law, the pro-trees people said that despite Johnson’s claims to the contrary, the changes would be unlikely to save more trees. In addition, they say, Johnson’s proposal appears to remove important existing protections for big trees, which studies show shade and cool streets while helping neutralize air and water pollution and reduce residents’ stress levels while improving cardiovascular health. “This is going backwards.
A City of Seattle study shows that white people are much more likely than minorities to enjoy a rich canopy of trees in their neighborhood. The news comes as the Seattle City Council considers whether to establish a system of permits and fees for cutting down trees to preserve and possibly redistribute the Emerald City’s shrinking emerald umbrella.
Long-stalled efforts to better protect Seattle’s tree canopy got a boost from a recent executive order by the mayor, and a key city council member says he will try to pass a stronger tree protection ordinance by next spring.