Urban Forest Stewardship PlanOn Monday, September 16, the City Council voted unanimously to adopt Seattle’s Urban Forest Stewardship Plan to preserve and enhance Seattle’s trees and forests. This far-reaching action is the end product of two years of work by staff, the Urban Forestry Commission, and my office to create a new approach to the urban forest. The Urban Forest Stewardship Plan includes guiding principles and recommended strategies and actions to foster an ethic of community stewardship, to increase the health of the urban forest and to meet Seattle’s goal of 30% canopy tree coverage by 2037.

The Urban Forest Stewardship Plan is built around an integrated and ecologically-based approach to identify priorities and develop guidelines for the care and preservation of trees. While we value each tree, the plan focuses on fostering the growth of ecologically sustainable forested areas, and on maintaining them to ensure the long-term health of the urban forest. The Plan includes over 100 specific short-, medium- and long-term actions to be taken to meet its goal of preserving, maintaining, restoring and planting trees, including:

  • Deliver education programs such as Forestry U to engage traditionally underserved neighborhoods;
  • Increase the portion of City right-of-way planted with street trees and other vegetation when SDOT conducts major maintenance or constructs street improvements;
  • Improve maintenance cycles for all Seattle public trees to bring them closer to industry standard;
  • Develop decision-making tools related to tree retention or removal decisions where infrastructure conflicts exist;
  • Plant a minimum of two trees for each tree removed across all City departments;
  • Explore the feasibility of increasing fruit and nut tree planting and/or establishing community orchards on Seattle public lands;
  • Conduct a city-wide canopy cover assessment every five years.

Urban forests provide Seattleites with environmental benefits by retaining storm water runoff, cleaning the air and water, providing wildlife habitat and keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. Trees also increase property values, contribute to our sense of community, and make our communities safer. The urban forest is an essential environmental and economic community asset.

The Plan is the result of a two year collaborative effort between the City, the Urban Forestry Commission, community groups and residents to produce a blueprint to preserve, maintain, restore and plant trees in Seattle.  Inspiring community members to steward trees in their own communities is a critical and integral requirement to make the plan work.

The resolution that adopted the plan included a specific set of short term actions that will get underway immediately. I will urge the Council to reference the plan as we consider the budget this fall, and take steps to invest in tree maintenance and community outreach. All of these actions are part of a comprehensive strategy to preserve and enhance the urban forest on the street, on private property, in our parks and in Seattle’s environmentally critical areas. The City can’t do it alone, and we are calling it a stewardship plan because it requires all of us to join together to care for our existing trees and plant thousands of new ones.