Trees are a huge part of our ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest. While they are a beautiful and vital part of our city and state, sometimes trees must be removed to prevent hazards, rot, or a number of other reasons. If there is a potentially hazardous tree in your neighborhood or on your property, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few rules to know about removing trees in the Greater Seattle Area.

Local Laws Impact the Changes You Can Make

The Seattle Municipal Code limits your ability to remove trees. There are restrictions on the number of trees you can remove, as well as limits on other vegetation. While this could seem like a government overreach, in reality these rules are in place to protect the environment for everyone. If you intend to make substantial changes to the vegetation on your property, you will likely need to submit a City of Seattle’s Urban Forestry Permit Application. The City will review your application and determine what, if any, tree removals can be performed.

Different properties are rated differently by the city. Certain kinds of land are more restricted than others. It can be difficult for property owners to understand how their land is classified, which is why working with tree professionals is almost always in your best bet. Not only can an arborist aid you in determining what actions are legal and appropriate, he or she can safely and properly remove a tree from your property.

Shoreline and Environmentally Critical Areas Are Protected

Certain areas have been deemed environmentally critical zones, and healthy tree and vegetation removal in these areas is generally not allowed. Areas that the City of Seattle considers to be environmentally critical include slopes that are landslide-prone or that pose special erosion hazards, buffer zones around these areas, wetlands and riparian corridors. In order to remove trees or plants from any of these areas, you need to obtain either a Tree Removal and Vegetation Restoration approval or get granted a building permit for the area.

If your property is within 200 feet of any shoreline, special protections also apply. In general, removal of healthy trees and vegetation will not be allowed unless you have a special Shoreline Exemption or a building permit. Shoreline areas do not need to be listed as environmentally critical to receive this protection.

Developed and Undeveloped Land Have Different Standards

If you purchase undeveloped land, you are not allowed to remove any trees that are greater than six inches in diameter. The only exception to this rule is when the tree in question has been designated hazardous. That designation can only come from a certified tree risk professional.

Developed land is also subject to tree removal limitations. In general, owners cannot remove more than three trees with a trunk diameter of more than six inches in any given year. Exceptional trees are also granted special protections under the law. Exceptional trees have historical, ecological or aesthetic value or have grown to a significant size. Again, exceptions can be made for trees that are deemed hazardous.

If you are developing land, you may receive more leniency about tree removal if the trees prevent you from using your property. Your development permit must include tree and vegetation plans that reflect your intentions to remove trees or other plants on the land.

To learn more about tree removal in Washington State, visit our website today!