This is a guest post written by Wedgwood resident Bernedette Haskins.
As a Seattle voter and Wedgwood resident I find that the new tree ordinance does not go far enough in protecting healthy mature trees that humans NEED for survival. Humans feel and are better when we are around trees. Studies reveal the positive impacts of greenery and tree canopy on our physical and mental health (American Psychological Association, 2019). Nationally, we are losing urban and community tree canopy, one study estimated approximately 36 million trees per year (Nowak & Greenfield, 2018). The 2021 Seattle Tree Canopy assessment found that we are also losing tree canopy with a relative decline of 1.7% since 2016 (pg. 17 of the report). The goal for our canopy coverage was 30% by 2037 (pg. 9 of the report). Making the goal of 30% has just gotten tougher. We are losing ground at the most critical time when we need to think of trees as part of our infrastructure to combat mental, physical ailments as well as hotter and drier summers. Anyone remember last summer? Multiple days in a row of triple digits?
The Seattle Tree Canopy Report goes on to state how we can gain canopy. We gain canopy by protecting and caring for our mature trees. What is interesting is that an exception was made for developers in the new city tree ordinance to go into effect at the end of this month. Developers also need to be held accountable for saving mature trees.
Given the hotter summers and drier springs we are experiencing in Seattle, how is it okay for healthy mature trees to be removed? How does allowing developers to remove healthy mature trees get us to the 30% goal? How does it contribute to the well-being of our communities? Yes, we also need to plant more trees, and a tree fund is a great idea for the future and how does that protect us right now? Why don’t developers’ partner with communities, and neighborhoods for both growth and maintenance of trees?
What values/priorities does our mayor, and the council members that voted on this tree ordinance have when it comes to trees? While I don’t have the numbers, I would not be surprised to see developers purchasing properties as an increased rate, especially right now and there are few limitations on the developers as to how much of the lot is taken up by a structure or even how high they go (Seattle Times op piece, 2023), so even if a new tree were planted- it would probably struggle to survive. This is a troublesome combination our political leaders have created in which we will pay the price.
Mature healthy trees are established and contribute by cooling and absorbing CO2, not to mention decreasing asthma, improving birth outcomes, and overall mental well-being (World Health Organization, 2016). It takes decades for trees to become established. Our community and children cannot wait that long. This looks like the making of a storm without any trees to help us weather it.