The Edmonds Tree Board met Thursday evening to discuss the initial draft Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) presented by project consultant the Davey Resource Group.
The draft plan grew out of the debate three years ago over a proposed Edmonds Tree Code, which was seen by many as overly complex, restrictive and regulatory, and developed in the absence of appropriate policy direction.
After much heated public discussion, the Edmonds Planning Board recommended that the city not adopt the tree code, but rather first develop an Urban Forest Management Plan to provide policy direction and better inform the process. (See My Edmonds News coverage here.) The Edmonds City Council accepted the planning board recommendation, and the City of Edmonds subsequently retained the Davey Resource Group to develop the plan.
The draft presented Thursday is a 20-year plan that provides guidance for managing, enhancing and growing trees in Edmonds, including long-range goals to promote sustainability, species diversity, and greater canopy cover. It was developed with and shaped by public input from surveys, open houses and a virtual open house. The full draft plan is available here.
During the meeting, Ian Scott of the Davey Resource Group laid out the four main principles that set the plan’s framework:
- Optimize the ecosystem services provided by trees (e.g., carbon sequestration).
- Control tree maintenance costs to the community.
- Create pathways to stable and predictable funding.
- Mitigate risks and liabilities associated with trees.
Scott next provided an overview of the current tree canopy cover in Edmonds.
“The current urban forest tree canopy covers 30.3 percent of our community,” he reported. “Of that, 83 percent is on private property, 4 percent on commercial property, and only 13 percent on public property.”
He went on to explain that the plan makes a clear distinction between publicly and privately owned trees. While privately owned trees are also considered part of the urban forest due to their function and contribution to the sustainability of the overall urban forest in Edmonds, the plan is very clear that the city has a limited role in the care and regulation of trees on private property, Scott said.
“One of the goals of the plan is to have no net loss of forest canopy,” Scott explained. “To accomplish this we need to recognize that as old or diseased trees are removed, others will need to be planted to take their place.”
Other areas of focus in the plan include forest fragmentation, which is most prevalent in residential view areas where trees cleared to open visual vistas have left significant gaps in the canopy cover. While the draft plan does not propose any specific actions to address this, it does recognize it as an issue that will need to be considered as the plan moves forward.
Other areas addressed include species diversity, and a comprehensive inventory of both public and private trees focusing on their overall condition, health and any dangers they might pose.
“This is an adaptive plan,” added Scott. “It’s not meant to sit and gather dust, but rather be regularly reviewed and updated.”
Next steps as outlined by Scott call for consideration by the Planning Board at its April 11 regular meeting, and a public open house scheduled for April 19 in the City Hall Brackett Room. The consultant will take feedback from these and come up with a revised draft in May, with city council consideration in June.
But this schedule for revisions and council consideration may change if Councilmember Diane Buckshnis’s advice is followed. Buckshnis, who serves as council representative to the tree board, argued strongly that the council should consider and comment on the current draft plan before any revisions are made. This would ensure that the city “not get into a situation like happened last time,” she said.
Updates on public meetings, hearings and other project milestones will be published on the Urban Forest Management Plan web page.
“We’re trying to strike the right balance between where the city has authority to take care of public properties and assets, and where individual property owners have control,” said Development Services Director Shane Hope. “We’ll be looking for ways to incentivize and encourage those with private trees while laying the groundwork for a balanced approach with specific but not exclusive focus on city property.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel