Today, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance that takes an initial step towards providing stronger protections for trees in the Emerald City. Council Bill 120207 requires that arborists and providers of tree care services register with the city prior to revving up their chainsaws and removing trees.
“To get on the new public registry, tree service providers must be not only licensed and insured contractors but also have credentials and expertise grounded in the International Society of Arboriculture,” the Seattle City Council explained in a news release published following its vote to approve the ordinance.
“Until they are approved for the public registry by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI), contractors will be prohibited from removing or heavily pruning trees. This increased transparency will enable government officials and the general public to hold companies and individuals accountable who violate the City’s current and future tree protection ordinances.”
The Council’s action was praised by Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission as well as TreePAC, which NPI partnered with last year to research voter support for tree protection ideas in the Emerald City. Council Bill 120207 implements one of the ideas that we researched: Requiring tree care providers (arborists) to meet minimum certification and training and register with the city.
A total of 75% (three fourths of respondents) surveyed in July of 2021 by Change Research for NPI said they supported this idea, with 41% strongly supportive and 34% somewhat supportive. Only 14% were opposed, and 11% were not sure.
Our research was explicitly cited by the Council in its afternoon news release, with the City correctly noting that the poll was “statistically significant.”
NPI thanks the Council for getting this done.
Seattle’s tree protection ordinance still needs a comprehensive update, but this legislation is a very positive development for the city.
Importantly, as Councilmembers Alex Pedersen and Dan Strauss observed, the implementation of Council Bill 120207 will make the tree care industry in Seattle more accountable and its collective conduct more transparent to residents.
As we often say here at NPI, there’s nothing like good, credible data. Once Council Bill 120207 goes into effect, the city will have more useful data available with which to monitor the health and status of Seattle’s urban tree canopy.
NPI’s research last year twice found overwhelming support among Seattleites for a range of tree protection ideas. Working with TreePAC, we tested an initial set of ideas in July of 2021 and a second set in October of 2021.
“Voters are ready and eager for action. The next Mayor of Seattle and Seattle City Council must make tree protection a top priority for the coming legislative year,” I wrote last September after summarizing the initial findings.
Congratulations to TreePAC, Seattle Audobon, the Beacon Hill Council, and everyone else who worked hard to secure passage of Bill 120207. It’s great to see this action by the Council — we hope it’s the precursor to even more progress.