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Urban Forestry

This page provides information about local urban forestry and tree protection programs in Washington State, including legal references, examples of local programs, and related articles.

For a discussion of trees in the public right-of-way, see our page Street Trees.


State and local officials work with parks and recreation departments, land use planners, utilities, and citizen organizations to promote and manage urban forestry resources. Urban forestry is the management of urban forest ecosystems. These ecosystems may be varied or complex, in the form of city parks, watersheds, public rights-of-way, and other public lands. These ecosystems include trees, street trees, plants, animals, natural landmarks, and waterways. 

Benefits of Trees

The benefits of urban forests to citizens include heightened recreational and cultural opportunities, energy conservation, improved stormwater management, enhanced biodiversity, plant and animal enrichment, increased environmental educational opportunities, and higher economic and property values.

  • Benefits of Trees, National Arbor Foundation - The value of trees to a community
  • Benefits of Trees and Urban Forests , Alliance for Community Trees, 08/2011 - Benefits information organized by category
  • The Benefits of Urban Trees, Urban and Community Forestry: Improving Our Quality of Life, Forestry Report R8-FR 17/USDA Forest Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources 
  • Trees Mean Business: Trees and the Retail Landscape, Kathleen L. Wolf, MainStreet News, No. 263, August 2009, Entire Issue MRSC Library Loan
  • Values of Urban Trees - A Technical Guide to Urban and Community Forestry, US Forest Service, Saint Paul Field Office - Includes methods of inventory and appraisal

Measuring the Value of Trees

Several resources are available to help communities measure the economic value and environmental and aesthetic benefits of trees.

  • STRATUM, U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station - A street tree management and analysis tool for urban forest managers that uses tree inventory data to quantify the dollar value of annual environmental and aesthetic benefits: energy conservation, air quality improvement, CO2 reduction, stormwater control, and property value increase
  • National Tree Benefit Calculator - Allows for estimates of the benefits of individual street trees; based on i-Tree’s street tree assessment tool called Streets. Includes inputs of location, species and tree size to provide an understanding of the environmental and economic value trees provide on an annual basis 

Legal References

  • Ch. 35.105 RCW - Urban Forest Management
  • RCW 35A.80.040 - Code cities encouraged to provide utility customers with landscaping information and to request voluntary donations for urban forestry
  • Ch. 76.15 RCW - Community and Urban Forestry
  • RCW 80.28.300 - Gas and electrical companies authorized to provide customers with landscaping information and to request voluntary donations for urban forestry
  • Evergreen Communities Act, Department of Natural Resources (E2SHB 2844, 2008)

Examples of Urban Forestry Plans

The following are selected examples of urban forestry plans from Washington cities.

Examples of Urban Forestry Programs

Quite a few communities in Washington State have established active urban forestry programs that help to educate the community about the value of trees in the city.

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 – 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
  • Seattle Tree Protection Code – Limits the number and size of trees and other vegetation that may be removed from properties.
  • Shoreline Trees – Addresses trees in critical areas, trees of significant size, and pruning on private property.
  • 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

Reference Sources

These are general resources for information on urban forestry and recommended plants for Washington communities.

Links to Government Agencies and Nonprofits

These government agencies and nonprofit organizations provide useful information regarding urban and community forestry.

Government Agencies

Private and Nonprofit Organizations

  • American Forests - The nation's oldest nonprofit citizen conservation organization
  • International Society of Arboriculture - Promotes the professional practice of arboriculture and fosters a greater worldwide awareness of the benefits of trees
  • Arbor Day Foundation - Sponsors Tree City USA program, which provides direction, technical assistance, public attention, and national recognition for urban and community forestry programs in American cities and towns
  • Society of Municipal Arborists - Also see Urban Forest Foundation - Supports research in field of arboriculture and urban forestry 
  • Alliance for Community Trees, ACTrees - Supports grassroots nonprofit organizations dedicated to urban and community tree planting and conservation
  • Urban Forestry for Public Works, American Public Works Association - Project supported by the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program on the recommendation of the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council. Includes reports on best management practices 

Last Modified: September 14, 2018