Clackamas County commissioners approve new tree-cutting ordinance

By Dana Tims
Oregon City, OR (September 9, 2010)- Clackamas County’s commissioners approved an ordinance Thursday limiting clear-cutting of trees in urban, unincorporated areas of the county.

The decision comes two full years after the board appointed a 12-member task force, made up of conservationists, real estate agents, watershed specialists and developers, and asked its members to address both single-incident problems of clearcutting and the larger, longer-term issue of preserving the county’s “urban tree forest.”
The commissioners, in approving the new ordinance, directed county staff to expand efforts to maintain and enhance the county’s tree canopy. Momentum for the county to pass a tree ordinance picked up steam several years ago at the height of the housing boom, when developers combed the area for lots and couldn’t build houses fast enough to satisfy consumer demand. In several well publicized instances, that frenzy resulted in the wholesale clear-cutting of large parcels. When neighbors complained, they were told that county regulations did not apply if a development application had not been filed.
County Commission Chair Lynn Peterson, in a statement, said the new ordinance’s goal is to increase the overall tree canopy in urban, unincorporated parts of the county without impeding economic development. “This is a good first step,” she said. “Between the adoption of these clear-cutting restrictions and proposed tree-planting program and sustainability development code, I think we are on the right track.”
Among other things, the new ordinance establishes a five-year development moratorium in cases of excessive tree removal in anticipation of development; defines “excessive” tree removal as more than 15 non-exempt trees at a rate of up to three per year; and defines “exempt” trees, among other things, as having a diameter at breast height of less than six inches. Forest-deferred properties are exempt from the new code.
Related Resources:
The Oregonian- Clackamas County commissioners approve new tree-cutting ordinance
Tree Ordinances & Design Standards