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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

February 5, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Seattle among top ten in nation for urban forests

Lately the local news about trees in Seattle has been about them being topped and chopped at the behest of property owners seeking a view they prefer. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit American Forests that Seattle has been named as one of the top ten cities in the country for its urban forests.

But stepping back from the events of late, it is true that Seattle has some extraordinary islands of big trees amid the concrete. Remember my story last summer about Denny Park?

Denny Park Sun Ray.JPG

Denny Park’s grand dames bask in the sun.

Photo by Alan Berner, Seattle Times staff photographer

In winning the designation, Seattle was singled out in part for its documented knowledge of its tree canopy, tree species diversity and age class range. At this, Seattle definitely excels. Ask the arborist in the parks department about the trees in Denny Park, and out comes a spread sheet of data, identifying, to the last tree, what’s there and its condition.

American Forests also quantified what we’ve got in Seattle, as part of its review. The specs:

Seattle has a population of 608,660 people, and 4.35 million trees. Not a bad ratio, for urban living. The city’s land area is 53,677 acres, and of those, 5,476 acres are devoted to parks. Again, not a bad ratio for a major metropolitan area.

Researchers also identified 192 tree species in Seattle, 28 of which are native to the Puget Sound Region. The most common were red alder, big leaf maple and beaked hazelnut, all native species.

And our trees are very hard working. In their report, the team determined that Seattle’s trees store two million metric tons of carbon; remove 725 metric tons of pollution from the environment annually, and reduce building energy use, saving $5.9 million annually.

All that from an urban tree canopy researchers estimated covers an estimated 23 percent of the city.

The other winners were Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

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