As green as Seattle likes to portray itself to be, the city hasn’t put much emphasis on protecting its tree canopy. From a long time after non-native settlers arrived, the idea was to cut down the trees. As the city re-greened itself through the 20th century, some of the canopy came back, but the city government didn’t start paying much attention to tree policy until early this century.
Today, other cities are doing better by their trees. Atlanta, Austin, Portland, Vancouver, B.C. —why, even development-crazy Vancouver, Washington — have much stronger protections than Seattle. In all of those cities, a homeowner must obtain a permit to remove a tree above a certain size, and must replace the tree. Portland even has an “inch per inch” rule, requiring that the size of the tree replacement correspond with the size of the one lost, further protecting large trees. Not so in Seattle.