The following was submitted to the Edmonds Tree Board. It is being republished here by permission of the author.
It is sad to watch the ever-increasing numbers of beautifully treed lots in Edmonds being clear-cut by developers. This is a very emotional public topic to be sure. At last year’s city council meetings, private citizens expressed deep concerns about their ability to manage their own property. Fair enough. This letter is not about those individual rights.
What is disturbing today is not an individual Edmonds citizen who wants to cut a tree in his yard, but rather, out-of-town developers who come in and buy a piece of property for speculation purposes. For the sake of expediency and to maximize profits, standard practice seems to be to clear-cut the entire lot, including trees that sit on the very edge of the property line that may not even be in the way of construction equipment. A developer will probably argue that they need to cut every single tree, bush and shrub because they could potentially infringe on the new owner’s view or because they need to put in a driveway or utilities. In some cases, those claims could be true, but what is sad is that there appears to be no analysis at all on the impact of removing existing mature trees against the essential construction needs of building the new house or group of houses.
We need to think about where this is all headed and the speed with which it is happening. Do we really believe that those puny replacement trees and grasses that developers replant are going to offset the huge canopy losses we are experiencing? We need to think seriously about the rate of canopy loss versus the number of years, if not decades, it will take to replenish it.
Are we connecting the dots with regards to our future? At last year’s Bird Fest, the Audubon Society reported that there are several species of birds (European Starling , House Sparrow, Rock Dove) that are now extinct in Edmonds. Whether this extinction is due to loss of habitat, global warming or other environment impacts is unclear, but I would posit that the loss of trees is a precipitating factor. There are probably many other examples of how mature tree loss impacts our environment, our lives, and the lives of our fellow earthlings.
The City’s Urban Forest Management Plan is focused almost completely on trees owned by the city. However, city-owned trees are not the ones being cut down in large scale. The trees vulnerable to the developer’s chain saw are on private lots over which, to my understanding, neither the city nor the tree board have control.
A painful example of this tree loss can currently be witnessed on the corner of 9thand Pine (this letter is not specifically about that lot). Where once grew tall, beautiful, mature pines, every single tree has now been cut down (see photos). Was any thought at all given to the possibility that a few of the trees — namely those situated on the edge of the property which, in all likelihood, would not impede construction — could have been spared the chainsaw? Is it, in the end, solely about money, profit, and construction expediency?
There is another heavily treed lot on the corner of Spruce and 7th that recently had property markers set. Is this going to be the next Edmonds canopy ravage? I am betting we will be seeing yet another huge clear-cut lot before too long.
Again, the concern being raised here is not about the property rights of the individual citizen, but about the lack of regard for our fragile environment on the part of developers who have no vested interest in not only this city, but for the environment as a whole. For them, it’s all about the money.
It is my hope that this casual disregard towards our mature trees is not an unstoppable trend, and that the tree board, city council and concerned citizens can work together to develop a strategy that will not just stop, but reverse this trend. Let’s stay vigilant, increase awareness, and keep the light shining on this issue!
— By Chris Walton
The author lives in Edmonds