County Council should adopt urban tree policy

We’re at a crossroads in our county where growth can overwhelm our natural systems. The Snohomish County Council will discuss a proposed urban tree canopy policy March 1. The policy would create a framework for accessing resources to protect and enhance urban tree canopy to bring its tremendous benefits to our lives and environment. The language is taken from “A Guide to Community and Urban Forestry Programming” written by the state Department of Commerce that helps jurisdictions tap technical support from the state Department of Natural Resources to respond to climate justice with federal funding.

Last week Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz added plans with the DNR’s Snohomish River Watershed Resilience Action Plan; a 10-year plan for landscape-scale restoration of salmon habitat in the Snohomish River watershed. Franz said, “We must confront head-on the threats that imperil our iconic salmon, from climate change and pollution to a growing population and increased urban development. That is where this plan comes in.”

The League of Women Voters sent a letter in support of this policy to the council that has been signed by 31 local and state groups including three city councils. Forterra, one of the signers, has been working in Snohomish County to assist with urban forestry plans in public places. They also published their Forterra-Tree Retention on Privately Owned Land in 2020 which says: “As the Puget Sound region grows, the question of how to retain trees while maximizing housing affordability and economic development is an increasingly important issue facing policymakers. The idea that dense development is not compatible with tree preservation is a paradigm ripe for revisiting.”

Urban tree programs can bring economic benefits to property owners. Trees and natural areas are highly valued by home buyers. Jobs can be created around management of urban forests and are eligible for funding by Washington’s Community Forestry Assistance Grants and other DNR resources. Other grants sourcing is available.

Agencies within county government would have the opportunity to coordinate functions to protect and enhance urban trees. Mike Carey of the City of Tacoma manages the city’s Grit City Project. It met with 10 departments and 25 different work groups involved with tree-related processes. “Just by having these conversations … we had some phenomenal revelations about process improvement, people having a better understanding of other people’s work, just by having people in the same room having conversations. From that we’ve had great process improvements.”

The community supports the volunteerism needed in urban forestry plans. The skills and passion of these endorsers show there are willing hands for these programs. We think the community county-wide hungers for opportunities too. Please let the County Council know you support an urban tree canopy policy at

Jeanne Crevier

League of Women Voters of Snohomish County

Mountlake Terrace

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