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Urban Forestry and Street Trees

This page provides information about urban forestry, street tree, and tree protection programs for local governments in Washington State, including relevant statutes and examples of local programs and ordinances.


Overview

Urban forestry is the management of forest ecosystems in and around cities. State and local officials work with parks and recreation departments, land use planners, utilities, and citizen organizations to promote and manage urban forestry resources.

These ecosystems may be varied and complex, including parks and community forests, watersheds and critical areas, street trees and other trees on public lands or rights-of-way, and trees on private property.

Citizens receive a wide range of benefits from trees and urban forests, including recreational and cultural opportunities, energy conservation, protection from sun and heat, improved stormwater management, enhanced animal and plant biodiversity, increased property values, and more.

Many local governments have established goals to increase the amount of tree canopy coverage and restrict or regulate the removal of trees, especially large or significant trees.


Statutes

Encouraging Urban Forestry Education and Donations

The following statutes encourage local governments and utility companies to provide utility customers with landscaping information, including tree planting for energy conservation, and to request voluntary donations for urban forestry:


Examples of Urban Forestry Plans and Programs

Below are selected examples of urban forestry plans and programs from Washington cities that seek to maintain or increase their existing tree canopy coverage and educate residents about the importance of trees.


Examples of Tree Protection Ordinances

  • Bainbridge Island Ordinance No. 2018-25 (2018) – Emergency interim ordinance prohibits removal of any "landmark tree" without public process. Definition of landmark tree varies by species and is established by tree diameter at breast height. Anyone seeking to remove a landmark tree must submit an application, followed by a public hearing. Approval can only be granted if certain conditions are met. Ordinance expires after 6 months.
  • Camas Ordinance No. 18-014 (2018) – Numerous updates to city’s urban tree program, including creating new city tree fund, requiring permits for street tree removal, amending fines for injuring or destroying trees and landscaping in parks, and addressing landscape plans and minimum tree density for new developments
  • Covington Tree Preservation Ordinance – Plain-language description of city's tree ordinance; limits tree removal and allows for voluntary designation of "heritage trees" by private property owner or on public property
  • Olympia Municipal Code Ch. 16.56 – Protects "landmark trees" based on factors such as historical associations, rare or unusual species, or exceptional aesthetic quality
  • Redmond Tree Removal – Sets annual limit on number of healthy significant trees that may be removed from properties each year; includes tips, application form, and FAQs
  • Seattle Tree Protection Code – Overview of city ordinance limiting the number and size of trees and other vegetation that may be removed from properties.
  • Walla Walla Municipal Code Ch. 12.50 – Protects "heritage trees" based on factors such as historical associations, rare or unusual species, exceptional aesthetic quality, or large size

Examples of Street Tree Regulations


Street Trees and Sidewalk Damage


Tree Trimming and Replacement for Utilities


Examples of Leaf and Waste Wood Removal Programs


Recommended Resources

Below are some organizations and resources to help local governments manage and improve their urban forestry and street tree programs.


Last Modified: November 06, 2019