Legislature Passes Evergreen Communities Act to Protect Urban Trees

Olympia, WA (March 11, 2008)- The state House sent the Evergreen Communities Act to Governor Gregoire’s desk today with a final concurrence vote. “We hope this is the first step in a long-term state commitment to prioritize urban tree protection, management and canopy expansion” said Audubon Washington executive director, Nina Carter. “Trees are one of the most cost effective ways for cities to reduce stormwater runoff pollution, the leading source of pollution in Puget Sound. Trees clean our air, reduce energy through shade, absorb greenhouse gases and make our cities livable.”

Many interests have supported this bill for reasons as diverse as the coalition itself which includes Avista Utilities, Puget Sound Energy, Weyerhaeuser, Quadrant Homes, Association of Washington Cities, Macomb Gardens Nursery (Sequim), the Cascade Agenda, Washington’s Community Forestry Council and the State Department of Natural Resources. “The Evergreen Communities Act recognizes the importance of protecting utility infrastructure within the planning process. Utility system reliability is critical to the health, safety and economic vibrancy of communities across the state. This legislation addresses these issues and we applaud the legislature for its work and support for this measure,” said Sue McLain, Sr. VP of Operations at Puget Sound Energy.
The Evergreen Communities Act, one of the environmental community’s top four legislative priorities for 2008 will help cities restore forested park lands, retain urban trees, and establish more trees to expand Washington’s urban forest canopy. “The incentives and tools in the Evergreen Communities bill will help communities across Washington protect and plant trees that are essential to our future air quality, water quality and quality of life,” said Prime Sponsor Ruth Kagi (D-32).
The bill establishes an Evergreen Communities recognition program that designates cities, towns or counties doing good urban forest management. Model urban forest plans and ordinances will be developed by the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, and the Department of Natural Resources will conduct a statewide urban forest inventory and assessment to help local Governments’ planning processes. The program provides recognition, technical assistance and incentives for local governments to maximize the economic and ecological return on their city tree investments.
Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Conservation Chair, Rick Leaumont explains how trees can save home and business owners money. “In Eastern Washington maintaining and expanding our urban tree canopy will not only cool our communities but save precious electricity while providing important bird habitat. Saving electricity allows for better management of water for fish, agriculture and industry.”
Related Resources:
Evergreen Communities Act (E2SHB 2844)