Letter to the editor: Proposed tree code is too little, too late


The following letter was sent to the Edmonds Planning Board and City Council regarding the proposed tree code:

Edmonds Planning Board and Mr. Lien;

Thank you for letting me provide recommendations to the proposed tree code.

We know that the proposed code will only impact 3% of the residential area in Edmonds; the 3% that has not already been developed. Edmonds is 97% “built out”.

We know that 83% of our forest canopy is in residential areas. The proposed code does not address the 80% of all our trees, those that are on already developed lots.

The proposed code is simply too little too late. There isn’t much more land to develop. It would have been much more meaningful if it had been enacted 10 years ago!

Plus, it doesn’t seem fair to the new construction home owners that have to maintain 30% canopy on their lots, while the rest of us don’t. It has been said that  everyone should have some tree canopy requirements!

We must address the forest canopy where it mainly is; on private, already-developed lots.

Most folks in Edmonds will go along with a tree code, concerning their private land, if it is friendly, inexpensive and reasonable. We should encourage tree retention with economic incentives (reduced stormwater bills). We can encourage new tree planting by giving away free appropriate saplings.

The regulations of trees on private property should not be about expensive permits and fees and blame and punishments. It should be more of a notification system where citizens notify the city of tree cutting on their land.

The city will only interfere if there is mass clearcutting planned on heavily forested lots.

A tree code, as in all forest management, is centered around tree replacements. For every tree that is lost; for any reason, any place, at any time; there should be multiple replacement trees planted.  If we are to “maintain or enhance” our urban forest canopy, we must plant multiple replacement “of kind” saplings for every significant tree lost.

Please don’t weaken the tree size requirements for multiple replacement trees. We simply don’t have that many very large second-growth trees in our city, such as 24 inches in diameter.

All fees collected from the tree code should go directly to funding the planting of more trees.

We may find that because of increased housing density, there is not enough available land in Edmonds to plant all the replacement trees. The city should enter into a partnership with the Snohomish County Healthy Forest Project, whose aim is to plant a million trees by 2040. We need to think beyond ourselves and realize that we are all in this together. We all breathe the same air.

We realize that we are in a climate crisis. The easiest way to mitigate our greenhouse gases is by carbon sequestering. Every time we cut down a tree, carbon is released into the atmosphere. If we plant multiple replacement trees they will sequester more and more carbon as they grow.

Our grandchildren and their grandchildren are really going to need those trees that we plant today.

Are we going to enact an insignificant tree code that doesn’t address the main problem? A tree code in name only? A symbolic and token effort? To make us feel good, or look good, as if we had done something?

Or are we going to get back to work and create a meaningful, effective and far reaching tree code that we can be proud of? A code that achieves the goal of “no net loss.” A code that our grandchildrens’ grandchildren can be thankful for?

If we are going to enact a tree code, why not do it right?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Bill Phipps

10 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Proposed tree code is too little, too late”

    1. So you want us to plant giant shallow rooted trees in our yards? I like the tall trees but funny how your household Insurance doesn’t cover it when your own tree smashes your own house…this is an issue for anyone. Hum…Maybe the city would like to buy, plant, water…or put rubber and stakes to keep them standing?? Just asking for others. I have never cut a tree down on my property. Never.


  1. Thank you Bill Phipps, I’m guessing immediate gratification (money) is going to end up more important than our planet, wildlife and uniqueness unfortunately.


  2. Thanks, Bill. Rewarding tree retention and requiring tree replacement are good policy solutions. I hope the board listens.


  3. What Bill said. Now is the time to act on a universal tree planting and replacement plan as well as curbing the rampant clear-cutting for new development. There are plenty of tree options as replacements, when an unhealthy one needs to come down, that won’t impact precious views, which seem to have taken precedence over canopy in recent planning efforts.


  4. Thank you Bill for your thoughtful comments and recommendations. Saving trees is a serious issue — for local quality of life and for global quality of life.


  5. I agree with this letter. It’s great for the city to encourage tree conservation and replacement as much as possible with positive reinforcements for good practices; but the temptation toward permitting and fines is government overreach and won’t help the environment in any meaningful way.


    1. You are probably right Clint. Forcing someone to plant a potentially home smashing tree on their property with no insurance to cover damages….sounds like asking for lots of legal issues…expensive ones…..


  6. Sure looks like it. All this planning for new rentals…to get more tax money? Ha…And the trees cut btw are complexes waiting to happen. They are more than likely just waiting in the 196th section mentioned, to get their bulldozers in there and build away…I am no fool.


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