Letter to the Editor: We can do more to save our significant trees

Thursday, October 1, 2020

100 year old madrone was cut down
for development
Photo by Frank Kleyn


To the Editor:

During September this magnificent native Pacific Madrone, near Richmond Beach Saltwater Park, was brought down. This tree was a home for birds and a friend to Shoreline citizens who enjoyed its beauty. This 100 year old tree was at least 36” DBH which is a significant tree.

Save Shoreline Trees is about saving our significant trees and we believe we can do better. Much better. Replacing trees is good, however stop and consider these questions. With each tall evergreen and native tree that comes down in Shoreline, what happens to the wildlife who called it home? 

What happens to the migrating birds that count on that tree to be there when they need to stop and rest? What happens to the shade these trees provide to our homes, the calming influence on our streets and the noise abatement from our growing city’s population? What happens to the fish and the Orcas in Puget Sound when the tall trees aren’t filtering the watersheds?

One 12” Douglas Fir reduces carbon by 4# a year. One 30” Douglas Fir reduces carbon by 580# a year. A car produces 11,000# of carbon a year. From a health vantage, reducing our tall trees and increasing our population will increase unhealthy air and reduce our quality of life. The new trees will take decades to be this effective. In contrast, an existing mature tree continues to increase their growth with age.

We scan our horizon and see plenty of trees, so why worry? Except when our existing tall trees are gone they are gone forever and the new trees coming up will not replace them.

Please visit our website, www.saveshorelinetrees.com to learn more about our efforts to save our trees.

Melody Fosmore
Chair, Save Shoreline Trees
A Washington State Non-Profit Corporation



11 comments:

Frank Kleyn October 2, 2020 at 6:34 AM  

Thank you, Melody and the Save Shoreline Trees organization.

I am deeply disappointed in the short-sightedness of our city. Like many, I wrote to our city about this tree removal, and received a terse and meaningless reply. It should be clear by now that their tree removal laws are not working for the citizens of our city.

Our leaders need to sit down with the leaders of Lake Forest Park and adopt their strategies for preserving our trees. We can and must do better.

NM October 2, 2020 at 2:41 PM  

Absolutely a significant letter! Well done, Melody. You and all the folks sending in letters to Shoreline City Council (council@shorelinewa.gov) may finally push the city to mandate an effective protection for our precious trees in Shoreline. I hope people will visit your informative website mentioned in your letter. Again well done.

Anonymous,  October 2, 2020 at 9:35 PM  

I love trees too, but it’s not right to force private property owners to shoulder the burden of stewarding the significant trees in our city. I think we should plant and preserve more native trees in our parks. Some relatively young trees can meet Shoreline’s criteria for being significant. I had to take down a rotting significant tree that was a hazard (I have many more native trees in my property that I love and care for—but dangerous trees should go before they hurt someone or cause property damage). I wanted to replant a madrone and a yew, both native, among my 3 required replacement trees. However, you are required to replant evergreens that are at least 6 feet tall and deciduous trees of a certain caliber size. It’s essentially impossible to buy either a yew or a madrone that’s that tall (and madrones do better when transplanted smaller).
It is a shame when a healthy native tree is cut down, but property owners—including developers—have rights. I honestly would prefer if the city incentivized keeping and planting native trees instead of making it harder to remove trees that are potentially dangerous. The tree board should also make allowances for smaller native trees to count as replacement planting after trees are removed.

NM October 3, 2020 at 10:22 AM  

To Anonymous and everyone esle: This tree was healthy and also was identified incorrectly as only 24" diameter in a permit record regarding this tree and property. The tree actually was aprox. 42" diameter. It was at the edge of the property. It could easily have been saved adding value to this property. This Madrone was an exceptional specimen for its age and size and special qualities -- The Pacific Madrone can never be replaced by replanting other trees. Also:
"Tree, Landmark Any healthy tree over 30 inches in diameter at breast height or any tree that is particularly impressive or unusual due to its size, shape, age, historical significance or any other trait that epitomizes the character of the species, or that is an regional erratic. (SMC 20.20.048)". The city was negligent. We all have rights, but we also have a higher responsibility to change our actions and laws given new information on the significant value of healthy mature trees that can and should be saved and incorporated into a development.

NM October 3, 2020 at 10:25 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown October 3, 2020 at 12:24 PM  

Over on the 185th and 5th side it is worse. At the beginning of light rail construction over 100 trees were piled on the construction lot in early 2019. Because of so many complaints, they quickly removed them from the job site. Many of the tall evergreens, 100 -150 ft can not be replaced with like trees when they do fall down because of closeness of houses etc. Washington tree service checks our trees every year but we still have had 2 fall on our garage. It is hard to know when a tree is to old and needs to come down. IE. washington tree service checks. Save the trees!

Boni Biery October 3, 2020 at 2:41 PM  

Thanks for this thoughtful letter Melody. I, too, am disappointed in the City Council's lack of leadership on protecting our canopy. While it is important to be able to remove hazardous trees, they should be truly hazardous and not just tagged as such by an arborist paid to designate them so. And it should be easier to plant specific native trees like the Pacific yew which never gets really big and the Madrone which is difficult to grow, has a big tap root and needs to be planted when it's small to succeed. Tree canopy needs to measured by the surface area of the leaves and not a drone looking down on it. It's the leaves that do all the work and that's why the big trees are so important. They have many more leaves/needles and therefore do much more work to intercept rain, filter stormwater, cast a bigger shadow to provide shade and nesting/resting habitat. While property owners do have rights, I can legally remove every tree in yard in just a couple of years and so could every other landowner. And that doesn't even count the developers who are allowed to clear cut. This needs to change before there are no trees left. City leader have been told by repeated studies to do these things for over a decade and continue drag their feet while far too many tree removals are permitted. I think we need new leaders.

Unknown October 3, 2020 at 2:57 PM  

Hello and thank you for your insights about developer and private property rights. Save Shoreline Trees is not suggesting that these rights be eliminated. We are asking for more intentional long term codes revisions that restrict the removal of HEALTHY and life giving tall trees in our community. Too many trees have been lost due to a view that trees are 'in the way' rather than finding a way to incorporate them into our lives. I personally cannot attest to how many developers are local and from our community however I would guess the majority are not. They have been given free reign to develop where ever they can. The results are they move on and we are left to live with the consequences. As citizens we have a responsibility to each other and future generations to keep our environment as healthy as we can. As far as the Richmond Beach Madrona goes, this was a healthy and iconic tree. I was very conservative with my 36" DBH measurement. It was more like 48" DBH. Our Madronas and Cedars are being affected by climate change. We need to protect them, not cut them down. It is unclear if the developer had a permit to cut this tree. Of course unhealthy and hazardous trees must come down. Of course our world will continue to change. Save Shoreline Trees is about education and support of positive and thoughtful tall tree stewardship and keeping what is left of our urban forests. We don't expect all to agree and we aim to be respectful as we pursue our cause. Thank you for your engaging response!

rebjones October 3, 2020 at 3:59 PM  

Dangerous and inconvenient are two different things. Large native trees are a valuable asset to homeowners as well as the larger community and trees that will take 30-60 years or more to replace their benefits are casually being culled at a disturbing rate here in Shoreline. It may seem like we have an embarrassment of riches as far as trees go, but Shoreline's heat islands continue to worsen because trees are being replaced by pavement and buildings. I agree that the city needs to act more responsibly in regard to our trees, for our citizens and the environment. Their policies do not reflect the reality of our area being a carbon sink and don’t actually have an engaged tree board that shows they value our large native trees. Dismissive lip service and future promises of planting of trees means immediate loss of benefits and puts us in a position to always play catch up. Losing these silent powerhouses have big impacts on our health, our utility costs, and our quality of life.

BobK,  October 4, 2020 at 6:49 PM  

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are losing too many large beautiful trees in Shoreline. Our climate and health are impacted by every tree removed. Each one only moves the needle a little but collectively we are negatively changing our world. While there are numerous rules and regulations on tree removal, they seem to be ignored by developers. The replacement trees are much smaller and will take many years to come close to the trees removed. And that is only if the trees survive. At 165th & Ashworth dozens of large trees were removed when one house was replace by four in 2017. Of the 9 replacement street trees planted, 6 are dead and the other 3 are dying. When I contacted the city, they were confused as to who would be responsible for their care and nothing was done. We have to do (much) better.

Steve Zemke October 4, 2020 at 11:24 PM  

The madrona tree, Arbutus menzesii, is considered an exceptional tree in Seattle measured at 6" diameter or greater at 54 inches high. It is not allowed to be removed unless it is a hazard tree. Developers unfortunately can remove it but must replace it. Unfortunately Seattle's Department of Construction and Inspections has not, in most occasions, enfoced this provision in it's Tree protection Ordinance. It has been in place since 2001. Tree advocates have been fighting now for 11 years to get Seattle's Tree Protection Ordinance updated. It keeps getting put off, with the Covid crisis the latest impediment. We're making progress but you have to continually apply pressure. Next year is an election year for city council members in Shoreline. It's a great opportunity to get those running on record as to their support for more protections for existing trees. www.treePAC.org for the last 3 Election cycles asked canidates to fill out a questionaire which we then post on our website. That is one way we have made increased tree protection an election issue.

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