Seattle Hearing Examiner Denies Master Builders Appeal on draft SDCI Tree Protection Ordinance

News Release
 Steve Zemke – Chair TreePAC
For Immediate release
Friday August 12, 2022

Seattle Hearing Examiner Denies Master Builders Appeal, Allows Tree Protection Ordinance Update to Proceed

SEATTLE – TreePAC, a citizen’s group advocating updating Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance, joined as an Intervenor with the city of Seattle in opposing a Hearing Examiner appeal by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish County.  The decision allows Seattle to now move forward with updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance, a process that citizen groups and others have been urging the city to do for 13 years.
In a strongly worded decision, the Seattle Hearing Examiner dismissed an appeal by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS) from a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) issued by the Seattle Department of Constructions and Inspections (SDCI). The appeal was regarding the potential environmental impacts of a draft update by SDCI of Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance.
The decision by Seattle Hearing Examiner Ryan Vancil stated, “The Director’s decision to issue a Determination of Nonsignificance for the proposed ordinance is not clearly erroneous and is AFFIRMED and the Appellants’ appeal is DENIED .”
The Hearing Examiner did not equivocate but soundly dismissed the MBAKS arguments and witnesses’ statements as speculation and not backed up by any actual data.
Steve Zemke, Chair of TreePAC  “We appreciate the Hearing Examiner’s reasoned and detailed decision. Trees are critical to maintaining the health and vitality of Seattle’s communities and its citizens.  TreePAC supports the efforts of the city to both increase needed housing and protect our green infrastructure. It is not an either/or situation but a priority of the city to address both as mandated in Seattle’s current Comprehensive Plan.”
Seattle  Hearing Examiner Ryan Vancil in his decision “The record indicates that in developing the proposal, the Department considered the City’s goals and policies and developed a set of recommendations that struck a balance between the City’s housing goals related to housing and future development patterns and the City’s goals to maintain a healthy urban forest that provides sizable tree canopy coverage.”
Steve Zemke, Chair TreePAC  “Trees are critical to dealing with urban heat island impacts and stormwater runoff as the climate crisis continues. That requires protecting as many existing trees as possible and planting more trees in marginalized areas for tree equity and social justice. The proposed draft ordinance update helps the city to do that.”

Save the Aurora Ave N Sweetgum Trees

Please send an e-mail to Seattle City officials to help save the Aurora Ave N Sweetgum street trees  from being cut down..
Click on the link below to do it quickly through Action Network. Thanks.
Don’t Clearcut Seattle is a project of TreePAC. They maintain the action network website.
Donations to TreePAC are needed to support their work  protecting existing urban trees and efforts to plant more trees to increase our urban canopy. Please donate today. Thanks.


Tree protest in North Seattle, 5-29-22

TreePAC and The Last 6,000 prevented (for now) a pair of exceptional Doug Firs from being cut down this weekend. Ideally this will force a permit from the landowner at minimum (and potential fines) but watch this space for more.

From KIRO 7, on the scene today:

Seattle Audubon tree petition!

Our friends at Seattle Audubon have put up a great tree petition – please take action and sign the petition!

Protect trees for a climate-resilient city.

The heatwave our region experienced at the end of June 2021 made clear that the deadly impacts of climate change are here. We must act now to improve our resilience and prepare for the future. An equitably distributed and protected urban forest is one of our best hopes for becoming a climate-resilient city. Join us in urging Seattle city leaders to improve urban forest protections today.

Press Release – Seattle City Council Passes Tree Service Provider Registration Legislation

Press release
for immediate release:
Seattle City Council Passes TreePAC Priority Legislation to Increase Tree Protection in Seattle
The Seattle City Council today adopted legislation to require that Tree Service Providers working in Seattle be registered and certified to remove significant trees and do major pruning.
The ordinance passed was sponsored by Councilmember Alex Pedersen and Councilmember Dan Strauss. By a unanimous vote of Council member present, Council passes CB 120207 – AN ORDINANCE relating to land use and urban forestry; adding a tree service provider registration procedure and requirement .
Steve Zemke, Chair of TreePAC stated “We appreciate the City Council  taking action with this bill to increase tree protection. This is a good first step and we look forward to working with the Council to adopt a more comprehensive update of the Tree Protection Ordinance later this summer” Efforts to update the Tree Protection Ordinance have been going on for 13 years now after an interim draft was passed in 2009.
The goal of the adopted ordinance is to minimize the illegal cutting down of trees on private property that are protected by the existing Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance. The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) will oversee the registration of Tree Service Providers and their meeting conditions in the just passed ordinance to be able to do tree work in Seattle. Registration will be required to be completed by Nov. 10, 2022. See summary and fiscal note here.
The new registration requirements are patterned after what the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)  has been doing for the last 9 years. Spokane , Washington also has a similar program in place, to require registration of Tree Service providers doing any work on public trees in their city.
The state of Washington requires that a business be registered as a contractor if they deal with “Tree removal” – A contractor in this specialty falls and/or removes trees, stumps and/or branches on residential or commercial property or near a residential or commercial structure, outbuilding, or fence.” They also need to purchase a Washington Continuous Contractor Surety Bond in the amount of $12,000 for general contractors or $6,000 for specialty contractors. In addition, they need a general liability insurance policy in the amount of $200,000 liability and $50,000 property damage, or $250,000 combined single limit..
At least 8 other states require registration as a Tree Service Provider to do tree care work..  These states include – California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
Seattle’s registration process will provide additional oversight in protecting Seattle’s trees and tree canopy.. It requires Tree Care Providers to acknowledge they are familiar with Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance and other related regulations. If a second violation of current rules and regulations occurs in any year, the Tree Service Provider will not be allowed to work in Seattle for the next year. The city will publish a list on line of Tree Service Providers registered to work in Seattle.
The just adopted Ordinance was only one provision of nine recommended for adoption in 2019 by the Seattle City Council in Resolution 31902. A draft bill from the Department of Construction and Inspection on meeting some of the provisions in Resolution 31902, was released in Feb. with a SEPA determination of non-significance (DNS). The DNS is being appealed to the Seattle City Hearing Examiner by The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties and several developers . Once this process is completed, the expectation and stated goal is that the City Council will take up this summer the adoption of a stronger tree ordinance.
The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission released a draft ordinance in 2019 – Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance. . TreePAC is urging the Council to use this bill as the starting draft for a comprehensive update, instead of SDCI’s draft..

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States Requiring Tree Service Provider Registration

Posted on  by 

Tree Service Providers Licensing is required  in 8 states

  • New Jersey Board of Tree Experts 

Licensing of Tree Care Operators and Tree Care Experts

“Licensing legislation was proposed by industry groups and passed by the New Jersey legislature on January 16, 2010. The legislation is known as the Tree Expert and Tree Care Operators Licensing Act and on April 17, 2017, the Tree Expert and Tree Care Operators Licensing Law’s rules were adopted and promulgated.

The Act creates a licensing program under which individuals may become Licensed Tree Experts (LTEs) or Licensed Tree Care Operators (LTCOs) by passing an examination and demonstrating good moral character. Licensees will be required to complete continuing education requirements, abide by standards of professional conduct and ethics, and adhere to safety standards, as well as industry practice standards. No individual shall represent himself or herself to the public as a licensed tree expert or a licensed tree care operator or use any title, designation, word(s), letter, or abbreviations tending to indicate that such individual is a licensed tree expert or a licensed tree care operator without obtaining licensure as a tree expert by the Board of Tree Experts.”

NJ Arborists ISA -“Every company performing tree work in N.J. must have at least one employee who is licensed. In order to receive a license, people must meet certain minimum qualifications and then pass an exam”

  • Minnesota

University of Minnesota Extension – How to hire a tree care professional  –

Tree Care Industry Association – ‘Most cities in Minnesota require arborists to be licensed by the respective city if the company wishes to perform tree work within the city limits. Many communities require tree care companies working on publicly owned trees to employ ISA Certified arborists and register with the community as a licensed tree care company

  • Burnsville, Minnesota 

TREE CONTRACTOR LICENSING – Issued To Any business that cuts, trims, prunes, removes, sprays or otherwise treats trees or shrubs

Application for Tree Contractor License

Wm Todd Barry, 2017  “In California, a state license is required to trim a tree taller than 15 feet, and the contractor is required to cover his crew with workers compensation insurance. If the tree trimmer is not a licensed contractor, the liability for workers’ injuries rests with the homeowner, who is considered to be the “employer.” In most cases, homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover injuries or deaths when unlicensed contractors have been hired. Injured workers and survivors can sue homeowners for damages.”

The risks of hiring an uninsured and unlicensed arborist -“Never assume you’re dealing with a licensed and bonded tree service—always ask! This is crucial, because if you hire a company or individual without these credentials, you could be held liable for any on-the-job injuries or damages to your tree and property. A reliable tree service should have no problem providing you with license and insurance information before taking on a job.”

  • Connecticut

Commercial Arborist License – “An arborist license is required for persons advertising, soliciting or contracting to do arboriculture in Connecticut. As defined in the arborist law, “arboriculture means any work done for hire to improve the condition of fruit, shade, or ornamental trees by feeding or fertilizing, or by pruning, trimming, bracing, treating cavities or other methods of improving tree conditions, or protecting trees from damage from insects or diseases or curing these conditions by spraying or any other method.” The licensed arborist is a supervisory pesticide applicator, with respect to the use of pesticides.  For all intents and purposes “certificate” means “license.”

  • Maine 

Arborist Licensing – “Anyone performing arborist services in Maine must first obtain an arborist license. An arborist license allows an individual to work independently in arboriculture. Candidates for an arborist license must pass a test in either landscape, utility or both categories demonstrating knowledge, skill and capability to safely and professionally provide arborist services to the public.”

“All tree care professionals practicing in Maryland must obtain a license. Without a license, they may not practice or advertise tree care services in the state. To obtain a license, the applicant must possess adequate and related college education plus one year of experience under a LTE or have three years experience under a Licensed Tree Expert (LTE), then have passed an exam and carry adequate amounts of liability and property damage insurance. The license is a two year license renewed in December.”

  • Rhode Island 

Arborist Licensing in Rhode Island 

“Rhode Island requires that all practitioners of arboriculture be licensed. The Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator oversees the licensing and exams for arborists working in RI. This includes all Tree Wardens, as defined in RI General Law § 2-14. In 2019 there were more than 700 arborists licensed in RI.”

  • Louisiana 

Louisiana Horticulture Commission

Arborist license – Authorizes the holder to make recommendations or execute tree surgery type work including tree removal, pruning, trimming, cabling, fertilization and cavity work. Licensees must enter into a written contract with property owners specifying work to be done and sum to be paid. Property owners should ask to see a current copy of the arborist’s certificate of insurance.

“Anyone doing tree work in Louisiana is required to obtain a license through the LDAF,” Strain said. “Hiring only licensed-professional arborists protects you, the homeowner, since licensed arborists are not only trained to properly execute tree work, but they must also maintain liability insurance.

  • General comment

Stumped About Whether Your Tree Removal Pros Need a License – Amber Guetebier, Jan 9, 2022

Look for Proper Certification:

“Tree removal is a specialized service and can be dangerous work, so it’s wise to find a tree removal service with proper training. To determine qualifications, look for a tree service that holds an accredited certification from an industry-wide organization. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) offer certification in arboriculture. You can also search their database for certified arborists and verify their qualifications.Any reputable tree removal company will have at least one certified arborist on staff. Look for tree removal safety standards, such as a Certified Tree Care Safety Professional (CTSP) as well. In addition, tree removal companies should follow the proper tree removal guidelines as established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).”


Types of Insurance Coverage:

“There are different types of insurance coverage that a contractor may carry. When you contact their insurance company, clarify the specifics.

  • Liability insurance ensures that the company will pay for damages to your home or possessions.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance holds the company responsible, not you, if an employee is injured while working on the job. Not only does this protect you, hiring a contractor with its employee’s best interest in mind means they are more likely to follow safety guidelines.

Being bonded essentially means that whomever you hire has a line of credit in place that will guarantee that any work contracted will be completed or, if they are unable to perform the work, the bond issuer will reimburse you. Being bonded also means the company complies with permit regulations required to complete the job.”

IS Your Service Provider a Licensed, Bonder and Insured Tree Service provider?

“Insurance requirements will also vary from state to state. For example, in Minnesota, any business performing work on a tree over 12 feet tall must have workman’s compensation insurance. In Massachusetts, a landscaper’s insurance covers only 10 feet above the ground and is different from policies that specifically cover tree work.

Although every state has different requirements for licensed tree contractors, just as with any kind of service on your property, hiring a licensed, bonded contractor will protect you—and them—from potential injury or property damages.”

  • Spokane, Washington – “Under Spokane Municipal Code (SMC) Section 10.25.010, a Commercial Tree Service License is required for any person or entity retained or hired to perform work on street trees in the City of Spokane Right-of-Way (ROW) or on public trees as defined in SMC 12.02.952.”

Commercial Tree Service License Application 

Urge the Seattle City Council at Tues. March 29th meeting to pass CB 120207 to regulate tree service providers



Dear TreePAC supporters,
Last Wednesday, the Seattle City Council Land Use Committee passed a key component in our effort to update Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. All 5 committee members voted to forward Council bill 120207 – An ordinance relatng to land use and urban forestry adding a tree service provider registration procedure and requirement to the full City Council for a vote on Tuesday, March 29 starting at 2 PM.
This ordinance update is needed to help stop illegal tree removal in the city and to ensure that Tree Care Providers are knowledgeable of the existing tree code and regulations. If operating out of compliance, they will face fines for violations and after 2 violations are prohibited from working in the city for a year. The companies must be registered also as contractors with the state, carry adequate insurance and have workers compensation for their employees in case they are injured on the job.

Click on the link above to send a pre-written e-mail that you can edit.

The Seattle Department of Transportation has required such registration for nine years for contractors working on street trees. Spokane Washington also requires registration for all Tree Service Providers working on public trees.
Eight states require similar registration of Tree Service Providers doing work on both public and private property – California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Seattle needs to follow suit.
We need your help to ensure this bill passes the full City Council on Tuesday and is signed by Mayor Bruce Harrell. Please send the e-mail letter linked below with any added personal comments and stories of why this legislation is needed to the City Council and Mayor. Thanks for your help.
You can also help by calling Council members offices and urging they pass this much needed legislation. You can see their contact information here.
If you want to testify for the bill, you can sign up starting 2 hours before the 2 PM meeting time on Tuesday March 29th.  Public comment is at the beginning of the meeting. It will probably be limited to 1 minute.
PUBLIC COMMENT Members of the public may sign up to address the Council for up to 2 minutes on matters on this agenda; total time allotted to public comment at this meeting is 20 minutes. Register online to speak during the Public Comment period at the 2:00 p.m. City Council meeting at Online registration to speak at the City Council meeting will begin two hours before the 2:00 p.m. meeting start time, and registration will end at the conclusion of the Public Comment period during the meeting. Speakers must be registered in order to be recognized by the Chair
Thanks for your help!
Steve Zemke
Chair – TreePAC.
Donations are welcome to help us continue our efforts. Thank-you.

Send an e-mail regarding the SEPA Analysis of Seattle’s draft Tree Protection Ordinance

The Seattle Department  of Construction and Inspections (SDCI)  issued a Determination of Non-Significance for their draft Tree Protection Ordinance update.
We are not impressed with their SEPA checklist evaluation that removing big trees and then planting little trees is a possible way to increase tree canopy.
They set a date to comment on the SEPA document and then said the comment period was extended for a month and then said that the date you can appeal the DNS is based on the first comment period, not the extended one. Many people, including us, thought once they heard the comment period was being extended thought they had more time to respond.
AN appeal to SDCI Director Torgelson, said sorry for the confusion but the appeal date stays the same. Seems SDCI really doesn’t care that they presented a contradictory commenting process that confused people and disengaged people from the process. Frustrating – yes.
Despite this, let’s move on – send in your comments  as soon as you can.
Here is some information to help:
 Washington State Dept. of Ecology -SEPA Review for Non-project proposals
Here is a  list of possible issues to cite in your comments. Problems with SDCI’s DNS – SEPA process:
  • does not credibly explain how removing large older trees and replacing them with small new trees can increase canopy.
  • does not discuss potential loss of tree groves and associated loss of bird habitat by not including street trees in definition of a grove
  • does not discuss impact of not including industrial zone or downtown areas which are high areas of urban heat island impact
  • does not mention that 2022 urban canopy results are being evaluated right now and will soon be available to compare tree loss with 2016 canopy study
  • does not discuss negative impact of reducing data tracking lost by excluding trees 6-12″DBH trees from developer site plans
  • Resolution 31902 asked to require replacement of 6″ DBH and larger trees. SEPA does not discuss numbers or percentage of trees that would cover at 6’DBH and larger versus those 12″ DBH and larger It’s 18% at 12″ BH versus 45% at 6 inches
  • does not discuss or define what normal and routine pruning is and its impact on tree canopy
  • does not discuss problems and costs with city entering data from site plans into Accela database versus requiring developers to enter data via Excel spreadsheets as Portland, Oregon does. Accompanying documents claim it is hugely expensive to process tree permits without discussing what costs are elsewhere for other cities
  •  Does not note that many other cities locally require permits to remove 6″ DBH trees.
  • does not mention or provide evaluation of data collected from last several years on tree retention, tree loss and replacement and entered into Seattle Accela database system
  • does not evaluate current or proposed ordinance’s impact on reaching 2037 30% tree canopy cover or aspirational 40% in current comprehensive plan.
  • Does not note there is no plan on how to reach 30% canopy goal by 2037 in place
  • removes black cottonwood, bitter cherry, and Lombardy popular, from tree grove protection but does not discuss how this will impact canopy goals or wildlife.
  • Does not discuss impact removing trees during bird’s nesting season
  •  does not mention or evaluate impact of up zoning in Seattle for light rail as present and future plans will affect tree loss retention
  • does not evaluate pacific flyways for migrating birds or other habitat or trailways for wildlife that are affected by tree loss
  • item 7 does not mention preparation of comprehensive plan and possible middle housing legislation which would severely impact tree canopy.
  • item 11 says there is no specific proposal site or development proposal. Should state history of development in Seattle and expected growth of housing and other development as it impacts tree loss and replacement
  • Study cited on “DBH Distribution in America’s Urban Forests: An Overview of Structural Integrity{” noted in its text that it included no cities in the Pacific Northwest footnote page 19
  • table on page 19 and reference to number of trees affected by proposals does not include total number of trees in city The estimate of 175,000 trees -for single family, multiple family and commercial does not really match up with statement on OSE website and Seattle’s Forest Ecosystem Values, which says Seattle has 4.35 million trees and treelike shrubs. Some 60% of Seattle’s tree canopy is currently in single family zones.
  • Does not mention 2 statistically valid polls each of whom with over 600 respondents,  showing strong support for updating Seattle Tree Ordinance while citing their input from 29 listening session participants (8 of whom were from the building community and 2 additional homeowners who were architects)   and feedback from 6 representatives of BIPOC and low-income groups.
Pick and choose from the above. Feel free to write in your own words what to send in.
Note as above that they did not adequately analyze many issues and possible impacts of the draft ordinance
Urge they do an Environmental Impact Statement for the draft better research and explain the impacts.
Send comments to as soon as you can for the DNS on the SEPA
Steve Zemke
Chair – Tree PAC
Help us move this effort forward.      Donate here      thank you

Send a Be My Valentine E-Mail to State Senators- Add urban and community forestry amendments to E2Shb 1099

Dear Friends of Tree PAC

E2SHB 1099 is in the WA State Senate Housing and Land Use Committee. The bill would add a climate resiliency element that cities and counties need to consider when they update their Comprehensive Plans under the state’s Growth Management Act. They are considering amendments to the bill in Executive Session on Thursday before it is voted on in Committee.

Please help strengthen the bill by sending the Washington State Senators a Valentine Day email urging that they adopt the purposed urban forest amendments below.


We have a pre-written e-mail you can quickly sent them. Feel free to add your own comments.

Here are our proposed amendments we are asking for:

In Sec. 4 (1) – Page 7 line 14 – Add underlined words – “A land use element designating the proposed general distribution and general location and extent of the uses of land, where appropriate, for agriculture, timber production, housing, commerce, industry, recreation, open spaces, general aviation, airports, public utilities, public facilities, urban and community forests, and other land uses.”
In Sec. 4 (1) – Page 7 line 22 – Insert following sentence – “The land use element must evaluate urban and community forestry canopy cover and its preservation and enhancement to mitigate heat impacts and associated health impacts on humans and the natural environment,”
In Sec. 4 (9) (b) (i) (A) – Page 17 line 30 – Add following words (bolded only to designate they are new words to add to current new sentence in bill) to the following – “Identify, protect, and enhance urban and community forests and other natural areas to foster resiliency to climate impacts, as well as areas of vital habitat for plant and animal diversity, safe passage and species migration; and”

Thanks for your help!

Steve Zemke

TreePAC – Chair

Contributions to support TreePAC are always welcome. Click here to donate.

Add two Arborist Positions to Seattle City Budget for SDCI

Councilmember Dan Strauss proposed doubling the number of arborists in  Seattle’s  Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) from two to four to increase tree protection and enforcement now.

From Dan Strauss’s newsletter:

Tree Protection Staff: As we await a new, stronger tree protection ordinance, I am proposing to hire two additional arborists in the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection to immediately enhance the City’s ability to enforce the tree code and review permit applications to ensure compliance with tree protections. While the bigger changes we need will come with a new ordinance, we can start by adequately enforcing the laws we currently have.”

Unfortunately, the Nov 10th City Council Budget reconciliation proposal did not include this amendment.

On Tuesday, November 9th, Budget Chair Councilmember Mosqueda released her Initial Balancing Package. You can watch the high-level overview for the public here. If you would like to address the council to provide feedback on the balancing package, the next public hearing will be on November 18th at 9:30 AM.

 Public Hearing Thursday Nov 18, 2021  9:30 AM 
Each Budget Committee Meeting allows space for public comment at the beginning of each meeting. To provide public comment, you must register ahead of time. Signup opens 2 hours in advance of the meeting.

Please sign up to testify and/or send an e-mail to the Seattle City Council  urging they add 2 arborist positions to SDCI’s budget now to help protect more existing trees. Send e-mails to 

Funding keeps getting put off until later as trees keep getting cut down now across the city. Twelve years without adequately responding to tree loss and updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance continues to be delayed by the Council and Mayor. The Climate Crisis is now, and tree equity is a matter of climate justice and public health now.

Steve Zemke
Chair – TreePAC