Tag Archives: Earth Day

University of Washington Arboretum Clearcuts Trees While Others Celebrate Earth Day

This past week while others were celebrating Earth Day, at the University of Washington Arboretum they were busy clearcutting an area to remove some 34 trees. Many of them were mature trees that had been around for 50 or more years.

A sign posted on the corner of Arboretum Dr and Lake Washington Blvd claimed that the mature trees including big leaf maple and Douglas fir trees did ” not contribute to the horticultural collection” but made no mention that the removal of these trees obviously contributed to the continued loss of Seattle’s urban forest canopy.

Click on  the link here to see the short  video by Michael Oxman.  Most of the trees have already been cut but you can listen to the chainsaw as some of the fallen trees are cut up to remove them.

The city’s concern for loss of our forest canopy has increased in the last several years as the realization has sunk in that the city has lost some 50% of the forest canopy we had in 1973.  Then some 40% of the city was forested, now it is anywhere from 18% to 23% depending on which study you look at.

The sign noted that the Project master plan was adopted by the City Council and Mayor in 2001. Back then few people were concerned about the loss of the City’s forest canopy.

The land the arboretum is on is owned by the Seattle Parks Department but the trees are owned by the University of Washington. But city taxpayers have contributed some $2.5 million to the project as part of the recent Parks and Open Space Levy. The current clearcutting area is only part of the Arboretum long range plans which involve the removal of many more trees.

The arboretum’s removal of the trees is part of creating the Pacific Connections Garden with this particular area to be a Chilean focal forest.  Some 72 Chilean trees will be planted in the area.

A memo from the Parks and Recreation Dept. gives cursory detail of the trees to be removed. No measurement of tree age or height or canopy is given. A list of trees to be planted and an accompanying picture seems to indicate a significant loss of native habitat and canopy when compared with the replacement tree picture. No detail is given as to the ultimate size of the replacement trees but the habitat value to native bird species and other animals displaced by the removal of native trees is likely not minimal.


Count Botanical Name Common Name Size Native?

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 12-18″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 12-18″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 12-18″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 12-18″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 12-18″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 18-24″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 18-24″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 24-30″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 6-12″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 6-12″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 24-30″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 6-12″ Y

1 Arbutus menziesii Madrone 12-18″ Y

1 Juniperus occidentalis Western Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Juniperus occidentalis Western Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Juniperus scopulorum Telleson’s Blue Weeping Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Juniperus scopulorum Telleson’s Blue Weeping Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Juniperus Sp. Columnar Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Juniperus them Columnar Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Pinus cembra Swiss Stone Pine 12-18″ N

1 Pinus cembra Swiss Stone Pine 6-12″ N

1 Pinus x ‘Mercy’ Pine 18-24″ N

1 Populas trichocarpa Cottonwood >30″ Y

1 Psuedotsuga menziesii Douglas Fir 6-12″ Y

1 Psuedotsuga menziesii Douglas Fir >30″ Y

1 Psuedotsuga menziesii Douglas Fir 24-30″ Y

1 Psuedotsuga menziesii Douglas Fir >30″ Y

1 Quercus vacciniifolia Huckleberry Oak 6-12″ N

1 Quercus vacciniifolia Huckleberry Oak 6-12″ N

1 Thuja plicata Western Cedar 24-30″ Y

1 Thuja plicata Western Cedar 24-30″ Y

1 Thuja plicata Western Cedar 24-30″ Y

1 Thuja plicata Western Cedar 24-30″ Y

1 Thuja plicata Western Cedar 18-24″ Y

Total 34

IV. Tree Replacements


Count Botanical Name Common Name Size Native?










Total 73

Review of the decision paper by David Graves in 2007 entitled “Analysis and Decision by the Superintendent of the Department of Parks and Recreation for the project reveals that up to 550 trees in total will be removed from the arboretum. It states that “The trees to be removed include “native Matrix” forest that consists of trees, shrubs and ground cover that are largely self seeded” In the next paragraph it states that “The Arboretum is not a natural forest, it is a plant collection managed to preserve and protect worldwide species …”

Just what is a “natural forest” if not trees, shrubs and ground cover that is largely self seeded.

Maybe this mass scale removal of fully grown trees and urban forest was business as usual in the past but the University of Washington’s Arboretum clearcutting is only the latest example of many jurisdictions having trees but each acting independently without regard to thecurrent  overall health of Seattle’s urban forest.  These include the Army Corps of Engineers along the ship canal and the Seattle School District at Ingraham High School. Their efforts all contribute to increased loss of existing forest canopy.

They all have higher purposes and goals.  Trees and their associated habitat and the current urban forest canopy are frequently expendable in pursuit of those goals. These are issues that the City and the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission need to examine if they hope to come to grips with how the city can preserve and increase Seattle’s urban forest.

for additional information on the plans of the Arboretum see:

Washington Park Arboretum and Green Space Levy Project Information

Washington Park Arboretum Pacific Connections Pro Parks Project Information


> Determination of Non-Significance Analysis

> SEPA Checklist

> SEPA Appendices

> Figure 1: Vicinity Map

> Figure 2: Garden Sketch

Seattle School Board Wins Grinch Award

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

“Hate those trees, sure do,” said the Grinch. Reverting back to his old form and stance, the Grinch announced yesterday that he is expanding his franchise of celebrations that we can do away with. Earth Day is one of those.

And in the spirit of those who agree with him, the Grinch awarded an honorary franchise membership to Seattle Public Schools for their dogged efforts to clearcut trees from their school campuses.

Trees are a bad influence on kids said the Grinch. Especially large old trees noted the Grinch. So the Seattle Public School’s efforts to remove 68 large old evergreen trees from the west side of the Ingraham High School campus in North Seattle got the Grinch’s attention.

Brilliant strategy said the Grinch. Seek public money to replace grimy moldy old portables and promise new classrooms to renovate and upgrade the campus. The public supports that. But don’t tell the public paying the bill that the plan is to build the new classrooms smack in the middle of one of the few large groves of old Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar and madrone trees left in Seattle. Most of these trees are now 75 years old and over 100 feet tall.

The Grinch praised Seattle Public Schools for excluding members of the public from participating in the design process. “Neighbors and other members of the public only ask embarrassing questions and waste your time,” said the Grinch.

Part of the strategy to decrease student support for Earth Day celebrations the Grinch noted was the consideration by Seattle Public Schools to also cut down another grove of trees on the east side of the campus by the Helene Madison Pool. In the tree report filed with the City of Seattle dated Oct 22, 2007, the enclosed Ingraham Master Plan had circled this grove of trees and wrote in large letters “POTENTIAL EAST PARKING EXPANSION” – 50 spaces.

“Brilliant!” said the Grinch. “The more we work to encourage students to drive to school by creating more parking spaces, the less environmental habitat there is for them to spend time in marveling and celebrating their natural environment.”

The Grinch said that while the Seattle School District dropped the proposal to cut the east forest down in their current plan, they’ll always be more chances to cut down the trees in the future. “And for now you can tell the public that you’re not going to cut down these trees and look like environmental heroes, while you move forward to decimate the grove on the west side,” he gloated.

The Grinch noted that the trees in the east grove remain a real threat because teachers at Ingraham High School have actually used this area for environmental learning. “Preserving trees and native natural areas are a continuing threat to our efforts to do away with celebrating Earth Day,” said the Grinch.

The Grinch praised the inaction of the Seattle School Board in responding to strong public concern about cutting down the trees. Obviously their continuing to move forward with building the addition as planned is encouraging noted the Grinch. To seriously listen to the taxpayers paying for the school renovation would be a mistake he said. Just stop up your ears he suggested, urging them not to give in to public demands to come up with an alternative design that would save the trees on the west side of the school.

The Grinch urged the Seattle School Board to remove their e-mail contact information from their website at www.seattleschools.org/area/board. “If members of the public get hold of this information, who knows how many might try to contact you, urging you to come up with a new design for the classroom addition that doesn’t require cutting down the 68 large Douglas fir, western red cedar and Pacific madrone trees on the west side of the campus.”

“And for God’s sake don’t tell them about the open grassy lawn on the North side of the school where you could build the new classrooms and not have to cut down any large trees.” yelled the Grinch.

The Grinch was last seen dancing a jig and then running away, yelling at the top of his voice, “Cut down those trees now!” Again and again.

After Earth Day 2007

April 22 has passed but We and the Earth are still here. Did you make any resolutions or promises to yourself and our fellow earth travelers to do something to help the planet or even to just not make things any worse? Here are a few thoughts on some small and large actions that you can do. Feel free to add your own at the end.

1. buy food grown locally to reduce transportation costs
2. buy organic foods to reduce pollution by chemicals
3. buy fluorescent lights to save energy
4. recycle to conserve resources and reduce energy costs
5. buy reusable canvas bags instead of using paper or plastic
6. when you don’t need a bag say so
7. give reusable items to thrift stores, saving resources and creating jobs
8. walk to local destinations rather than drive
9. urge public officials to build more sidewalks
10. support local transit – ride the bus one day a week or month
11. don’t buy unnecessary gifts of little or no use
12. support those working to protect the environment – join an environmental group
13. vote for candidates with strong environmental records or positions
14. write letters, e-mail or call legislators to support strong environmental laws
15. support negotiation and diplomacy, instead of war, to resolve conflicts
16. support environmental education programs at schools and colleges
17. ask to be removed from junk mail lists
18. have your pet spayed or neutered
19. support programs for birth control education around the world
20. put outside lights on motion sensitive detectors
21. tell Congress to pass stringent fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks
22. tell Congress to require pre-testing before new chemicals are sold
23. tell Congress to pass new legislation to make polluters pay for cleanup
24. car pool when you can to work and meetings
25. plants some trees
26. take your children to the beach or a park or for a hike in the mountains
27. ask hotels and motels and restaurants where to recycle your recyclables
28. make sure your local schools recycle
29. don’t use toxic chemicals on your lawn
30. don’t dump toxic chemicals or medicine down your drain
31. support local and state land use planning
32. support renewable energy programs
33. turn down your thermostat as well as buy a programmable one
34. if uncertain, give cash rather than gifts so people can buy something they really want
35. think of others ways you can reduce your impact on the earth

Reflections on Earth Day 2007

Every day is Earth Day when you think about it. What we do every day determines the future of the earth as we know it. The reality we face is that there is less and less margin of error to allow us to correct for mistakes.

We are still at a very primitive stage of understanding the delicate balance of the earth’s multiple environmental systems that keep it all together and working. We do global computer modeling based on things we think we understand and come up with projections of what might happen. The earth has feedback loops to adjust for changes like global warming but these loops have limits. Exceed the limits and the whole thing falls apart. Ask yourself how many people have had their home aquarium system die off.

The question for the future of earth is whether mankind comes to accept those limits or realizes too late that some things are not controllable by man at this time, if ever. Will we make changes in time to prevent a breakdown to our current operating systems for planet earth? Are we willing to come together to find a commonly shared solution or is it every nation and every corporation and every individual for themselves?

The prudent course of action when the engine light comes on in a car is to stop what you’re doing and check out why it came on. Warning lights are going on now on the earth – the most obvious being global warming and climate change. But also the disappearance of established ecosystems with associated habitats and species is also occurring like coral reef destruction and loss of major fisheries. We are literally spraying the earth with a host of chemicals whose long term effects we know little about let alone short term effects. Nature has a potential to recover if we don’t exceed global limits.

Our chemical impact is coming about for a variety of reasons. These include the introduction of new chemicals by the free enterprise market system which does not include an upfront analysis of impacts before chemicals are sold and released into the environment. Mining operations, smelters and chemical processing plants, coal plants, pharmaceutical and drug companies, military weapons, recycling operation, toxic waste dumping, disposal operations, you name it, there are thousands and thousands of ways we are producing, mixing, distributing and changing the chemical composition of our living environment that is cumulatively building up negative impacts.

Science usually operates by doing controlled experiments where you change one factor while holding the others constant. The earth is now like one huge laboratory where thousands of changes and chemical experiments and biological experiments are occurring simultaneously and very few are being tracked or understood.

The stakes are huge. Where once you would see something go awry locally, now many changes are occurring on a vastly larger scale because we are experimenting with changing things on a global level. Chernobyl was an example of a local incident that spread regionally. I remember going through a former mining area in the West some 30 years or so ago. The closer you got to where the smelter had been the more stunted the vegetation got.

Today with coal plants the same thing happens. Burning high sulfur coal produces sulfur dioxide which can be converted to sulfuric acid – that’s what acid rain is. The visible effects are regional not local and are becoming global as more chemicals get introduced into the atmosphere, our land and the oceans. A recent report cited air pollution from China showing up in the western United States. Carbon dioxide buildup occurs in the atmosphere as more plants are built. China in its attempt to catch up with the US prosperity model is planning on building one new coal plant a week.

While there is one earth, there is not one world. We are still a mish mash of warring ideologies and factious peoples. Capitalism creates an economic battle for competing markets and resources in which cooperation and restraint seem a lower priority than winning market share. Religious ideologies and war also are fracturing world unity.

While capitalism has increased material goods and comfort and produced many advances in science and medicine and other areas it also has placed a higher value on individual rewards and ownership rather than addressing community needs and shared prosperity worldwide. The AIDS crisis in Africa and people still suffering starvation and malnutrition around the world are just two examples of problems the world community is not addressing together with compassion.

That is not to say we can not change but to do so means more emphasis on shared values of one world and one people all sharing one earth. Instead the world remains divided by political, economic, and religious boundaries. We still build fences to keep us separate.

For religion to change, it means accepting that we are all children of a God who exhibits himself or herself in numerous manifestations. We are all God’s chosen people. There is not one chosen people or religion.

For economic systems it means accepting each other as partners and workers in one company with shared rewards. We are not competing against each other but we are working to provide basic human needs for all and sharing fairly in the rewards of hard work. We can not view others as nations or people to exploit or dominate or take advantage of.

For political systems it means governments will have to work to provide services fairly to all people, not give special tax breaks to the wealthy or tax exemptions to favored corporations.

For political systems and religions, nations need to separate religious belief systems that divide and limit people from political systems and governments that provide basic health care, nutrition, housing, food and education. Religions that limit freedom by domination and exploitation and edicts destroy human dignity and well being.

The future of the earth depends on mankind evolving into one co-operative worldwide caring community. We need to implement policies world wide that support individual life and human dignity without giving up basic freedoms. We need to develop a non-exploitative sustainable economic policy toward each other and the earth which currently sustains all of us. We need an economy that is not dependent on continual growth but that is sustainable in terms of the limits that exist for maintaining life on planet earth.

And we need to implement political policies that are fair to all by guaranteeing basic rights for all. These include access to adequate and safe food, clean water, clean air, housing, basic education and basic human rights. Religious policies need to accept the worth of every individual and practice tolerance for differences.

The future of the earth for humans depends on facing the reality that things need to change. Together we can envision and work for a future that allows us to live peacefully together, working for our common good. History is replete with wars and conquests. One side loses and the other wins. The reality of the earth today is that in a battle with the earth we all lose if we don’t accept the reality of the fact that no one wins if we perish as a species because we didn’t pay attention to the warning lights. The warning lights are blinking.

EarthCorps and Earth Day 2007

EarthCorps is a Seattle based nonprofit that is “dedicated to building global community through local environmental restoration service.” Appropriately yesterday they were out in force holding an Earth Day work session in conjunction with Duwamish Alive!

My son was volunteering with the UW/Seattle University team and met at 9:30 A.M. at South Seattle Community College. He worked with others until 3:00 P.M. pulling out invasive blackberry bushes from the W. Duwamish greenbelt area. Others helped pull ivy and mulch with wood chips. This fall native plants will be planted in cleared areas. Last weekend my son was at Golden Gardens pulling out ivy.

EarthCorps is an affiliate of AmeriCorps. Young people aged 18 -25 participate in a year long program learning about conservation, habitat restoration and developing skills in working with and coordinating volunteers from 8 years to 80 years old.

The event yesterday drew several hundred volunteers both as individuals and supporting groups. The largest group contingent was volunteers from Boeing. Other groups turning out volunteers included Seattle Works, alumni from Boston College and Emory University and Safeco as well as University of Washington and Seattle University students.

Local financial support for EarthCorps comes from groups like REI, essurance, Washington Women’s Foundation, the City of Seattle, King County and the City of Mercer Island.

I had a chance to talk with Chris LaPointe who is the Volunteer Program Manager for EarthCorps. He emphasized that one of the goals of EarthCorps is to get local people involved in their community. Doing restoration work that involves local people helps to foster long term stewardship. Emphasis is placed on working with local schools and colleges to foster support for local greenbelts and parks over the long term.

You too can get involved. Chris handed me a flyer that said that May 5, 2007 has been designated No Ivy Day! Two locations are being worked on. One is Lincoln Park in West Seattle. The other is Island Crest Park on Mercer Island. For more information visit www.earthcorps.org or call Chris LaPointe at 206-322-9296 x217.

Earth Day – 36 years later

Today Saturday April 22nd is Earth Day. Here are a few suggestions of things you can do to celebrate the Earth. The first things you can do anywhere on earth. Then I will suggest a few things for people in Washington state.

Take a deep breath of air.
Have a drink of fresh water.
Take a walk outside.
Take time to look at the plants and animals.
Think about the world you live in.
Think about where you are now.
Think about the future.
Think about what kind of earth we should leave for future generations.
Think about something you can do for a better future.
Then do that something.

Some Washington State action items:

Go to the website Yes on I-937. Volunteer to collect 100 signatures to help get the initiative on the fall ballot. I-937 is the Clean Energy Initiative. It would require that by 2020 15% of Washington State’s electricity would come from renewable resources.

Go to the website for Washington Conservation Voters and look over things you can do, including go to an environmental activist training session on May 6, 2006. Make an on line donation to further their work to elect environment friendly candidates in Washington state.

Go to Puget Consumer’s Coop and buy local natural food. Go to PCC ‘s webpage for the PCC Farmland Trust. Make an on line donation to help save threatened local farmland and turn it into organic production.

If you have to go somewhere today consider taking the bus or walking instead of driving.