Seattle skyline framed by trees
Seattle skyline framed by trees (Photo: Jerry Meaden, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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