On the Mayor's Mind: The Forest and the Trees

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Shoreline Mayor Will Hall

By Will Hall, Mayor, City of Shoreline 

We love our trees in Shoreline. Trees provide all kinds of benefits for climate, air quality, water quality, and birds, and they make Shoreline a beautiful city. That’s why we have a goal to maintain and increase our tree canopy. 

When trees are cut down to build sidewalks or housing for our children, it can be sad. Even though we require replacement trees, they take many years to grow. So every tree in Shoreline has special value to us.

We also benefit from forests in the region around us. We should protect these forests as well as the local trees. That is why Shoreline will be voting against a regional policy change that could remove two million more trees in Snohomish County.

The Puget Sound Regional Council is the collection of all local governments in King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap County. 

On Thursday, it will vote to approve a set of policies and a regional growth strategy called “Vision 2050.” Vision 2050 plans for most of the region’s growth to go into cities. Compact growth in cities consumes less land and less energy, creates less traffic, and requires less infrastructure than sprawling development in rural areas.

Snohomish County is proposing an amendment to Vision 2050 that would shift some of its planned growth out of cities and into rural areas. It doesn’t sound like a lot, just 5,500 people. But when you look at the impacts, it is staggering.

Every new home in rural Snohomish County paves about half an acre and clears 1,000 trees. Do the math. Snohomish County is asking to pave 1,000 extra acres, generating polluted stormwater and further endangering our salmon and orcas.

They are asking to cut down two million extra trees, making things worse for climate, birds, and wildlife. If one-third of the new residents commute to job centers in Everett or Seattle, it will result in ten million extra miles being driven every year, congesting our roads and polluting our air.

Not everybody likes the higher density apartments and townhouses we are seeing in Shoreline and surrounding cities, but they have advantages over rural sprawl. They are more affordable. By being closer together, they require less infrastructure like roads and utilities, which saves taxpayers money. 

They are close to transit, which lets some people take the bus, which reduces congestion for those of us who drive. They are much more energy efficient than detached houses that lose heat through the roof, floor, and four walls, helping us limit greenhouse gas emissions. And they take up a lot less space. 

Some new apartment buildings in Shoreline have created more than 100 new homes where a parking lot was, removing only a few trees and adding very little pavement.

As I said at the beginning, every tree has value. Protecting them continues to be an important goal in Shoreline. We also need to protect the forests in our region from irresponsible and unnecessary clearing.


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