Seattle Tree Massacre on 5th Ave NE

Clearcut, massacre, slaughter, call it what you want, Saturday while I was driving down 5th Ave NE toward Northgate I suddenly came across the above scenes at 123rd NE and 5th Ave NE.

The pictures tell a story in one sense but it is also a part of a larger story that is re-occurring too often in Seattle. It’s not one we should see in Seattle in this day and age. Yet the remaining groves of trees in Seattle are threatened and disappearing under the bulldozer and chainsaw just like in the pictures above.The west tree grove at Ingraham High School is only on a temporary stay of execution as the Seattle School District has reapplied for its permits to build the same identical building as before in the exact same location. The open lawn area on the North side of the school, among other locations on the largest public high school campus in Seattle, could easily accommodate the new addition without any problem. But the Seattle School Board doesn’t get it and doesn’t care. They have forgotten that they serve at the pleasure of the voters and most voters want to save trees, especially when viable alternatives exist.

Waldo Woods in the Maple Leaf area is also facing the chain saw as proponents for saving the area recently lost their appeal before a Seattle Hearing Examiner. Faced with the only possibility being going to Superior Court, Waldo Woods supporters face the possibility of having to post a huge bond of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which even if they could raise, they would lose if they lose an appeal in Superior Court.

And now the mowing down of a greenbelt area in the Pinehurst Community. One lot cleared and 4 more to go. The 5th Ave NE lot appears to have been cut down illegally. After a Sunday press conference by Save the Trees – Seattle and checking with the City, it turns out that the owner never received approval of his building permit for a single family home or permission to log the area. A cease and desist order has been issued to the owner but the trees are gone.

As Seattle’s tree canopy and green habitat continues to diminish, tree by tree and grove by grove, Seattle becomes less and less an Emerald City. So where is the city in all this. Seattle has a terribly weak ordinance pertaining to protecting trees.

It’s main thrust has been trying to save “exceptional trees” but this definition is so restrictive that few trees get saved. And tree groves currently have no protection because the Seattle department of Planning and Development under Greg Nickels does not consider them as valuable habitat areas to be saved.

The Seattle City Council has directed the Director to re-interpret the Director’s Rule to follow what they say the original intent was – to save not just single trees but also groves of trees because of their habitat value.

The Seattle City Council is currently considering an ordinance to declare a moratorium on cutting down tree groves on vacant lots until a revision of Seattle’s Tree Ordinance can take place. Such a revision must include a more enlightened vision of saving more of Seattle’s threatened green heritage because Seattle’s current tree policies are not saving tree groves.

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