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Action alert: Speak up for Portland's trees!

July 23, 2015: Please attend the Urban Forestry Commission Public Hearing on Aug. 4 and voice your support for stronger tree preservation and replanting standards in the City of Portland.

Action alert: Speak up for Portland's trees!

Big Four Corners Natural Area

July 23, 2015: Please attend the Portland Urban Forestry Commission Public Hearing on Aug. 4 and voice your support for stronger tree preservation and replanting standards in the City of Portland.

What: Urban Forestry Commission Hearing on Tree Replacement Requirements
When: Tuesday, Aug. 4, 6-8 p.m.
Where: 1900 SW 4th Ave., Room 2500A, Portland

Why: As a result of the recent cutting of large trees in Portland, the Urban Forestry Commission is taking public testimony before making recommendations to City Council regarding new rules relating to the cutting of large healthy trees and the planting of replacement trees. The City of Portland is currently considering new tree replacement and mitigation requirements that will impact the likelihood of large healthy trees being cut in the first place, and will determine the number of replacement trees to be planted in compensation. If you can’t make the hearing, send your comments via email! See below for more detail.

East Moreland giant sequoias, 700 pixels - Art Bradford
Under Portland’s new City-wide tree code, a developer was granted a permit to cut down these giant sequoia trees in the East Moreland neighborhood. To replace the trees, the developer would only have to plant four saplings or pay $2,400 to the City’s Tree Preservation or Planting Fund. Neighbors and tree advocates believe these tree replacement requirements are too low. Photo by Art Bradford.

What to tell the Urban Forestry Commission

In your own words, describe why Portland’s urban trees and forest matter to you and why tree preservation, protection and planting are important for the community. Urge the Urban Forestry Commission to make a strong recommendation to the City Council regarding the need to increase tree preservation and replanting requirements.

Specifically, please ask the Urban Forestry Commission to recommend the following:

  • Tree replacement should fully compensate for loss of environmental values. When trees have to be cut, the City should strive to fully compensate for their environmental functions and values. The cost of replacing a mature tree with one or two saplings is insufficient. The City can help discourage removal of large healthy trees by requiring that their full environmental function and value be replaced.
  • Increase tree replanting requirements. Increase the number of trees required to be planted when trees are cut in all circumstances, especially trees that are cut when development is proposed by private developers or City agencies. In most situations under current codes, the City can only require that two saplings be planted or that a $1,200 in-lieu fee be paid when a large healthy tree is cut down. This is inadequate to compensate for the value of a large healthy tree.
  • City agencies should meet a higher standard. The City of Portland should lead by example. City-owned trees or street trees removed for public improvement projects should meet a higher standard of tree replacement and planting.
  • New solutions for street trees. We need “street improvements” that don’t put healthy trees in the cross-hairs. Developers and the Portland Bureau of Transportation should be compelled to avoid tree removal where possible and use alternative or custom sidewalk designs and surfacing materials (e.g. rubber sidewalks) to avoid the removal of large healthy street trees.
  • Increase regulations and incentives to preserve large healthy trees. Establish new standards and permit approval criteria to preserve very large healthy trees. Waive lot line setbacks and/or parking requirements to preserve trees.

If you can’t make the hearing, please send your written testimony to Mieke Keenan at mieke.keenan@portlandoregon.gov by Sept. 9, 2015, and cc: Commissioner Dan Saltzman at Dan@portlandoregon.gov and Commissioner Amanda Fritz at Amanda@portlandoregon.gov

Background

In 2012, the City of Portland adopted new City-wide policies and regulations (Title 11) relating to preserving and planting trees on private and public land and along public streets in Portland. The new policies went into effect in January 2015, and apply to landowners, developers, and City agencies who might want to remove trees on public land or along public streets.

Title 11 does not require preservation of all urban trees. However, it does require 1.) a permit for the removal of all trees, 2.) that some trees to be preserved, and 3.) that cut-down trees be replaced by planting new trees. Replanted trees are meant to compensate or mitigate for the loss of the cut tree in order to replace the social and environmental values trees provide to neighborhoods and the environment.

Title 11 established a minimum tree replacement requirement when trees need to be cut down. This minimum requirement is at least one tree planted for every tree removed. However, Title 11 also allows the City Forester to waive tree planting requirements in some limited situations including if replanting would cause undue financial hardship on someone who is low-income.

In most cases Title 11 does not specify maximum replanting requirements.

Instead the code gives the City Forester discretion to require tree mitigation in proportion to the size, health and species of the tree that had to be cut down. For example, if a landowner, developer or the City Transportation Department has to cut down a large healthy tree, the City Forester could require one, two, three or more saplings to be planted to compensate for the loss of the tree. The City Forester also has the option of allowing a landowner, developer or public agency to pay in to a “Tree Preservation and Planting Fund” to pay to plant trees in environmentally sensitive areas or in neighborhoods which lack street trees.

In April, Commissioner Amanda Fritz proposed an interim administrative rule that would effectively limit the maximum amount of replanting the City Forester could require to two saplings planted for every tree removed or a $1,200 fee in-lieu. The Aug. 4 Urban Forestry Commission Hearing is meant to take public testimony on this administrative rule and on code changes to address the unmitigated cutting of large healthy trees in the City of Portland.

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