Letter to the Editor: Benefits of Shoreline's conifer trees

Saturday, June 26, 2021

To the Editor:

We need our tall conifers to deal with the climate crisis now AND we need thousands of new native trees, especially evergreens. Six of our last seven summers were the hottest on record [KOMO, Sept. 22, 2020] and the West is in its 2nd-worst drought in 1200 years [CBS, April 12]. Our mature conifers draw down large amounts of CO2 that would otherwise contribute to climate warming. They store the carbon and provide clean air.

Shoreline now has areas that have become heat islands due to a dominance of impervious surfaces, i.e., pavement and buildings [Climate Impacts and Resiliency Study June 2020, paid for by the City]. People residing in the heat islands are at more risk of heat-related illnesses as temperatures rise. This is an equity and social justice issue. One climate resilience strategy is to modify building design standards to encourage more vegetation and large trees to provide shading to mitigate heat island effects.

We are also having more intense winter rainstorms, and more vegetation and large trees help prevent flooding and erosion. To carry out this strategy, we need incentives for developers to design with the existing conifers, not raze them; enforcement of our current tree regulations that are often disregarded; and variances from the new 8 foot wide sidewalks. Our mature conifers can live 100+ years whereas smaller deciduous trees only live for a few decades and cannot provide what the conifers do for the environment.

Another recommended resilience strategy is to plant more evergreens wherever they can be accommodated to help maximize their benefits. Newly planted evergreen trees, depending on survival, will take decades to provide the many benefits of mature conifers. New evergreens are the best replacement trees, but no new tree is a solution for removing healthy mature trees.

Barbara Johnstone
Tree Preservation Code Team


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