Western Screech-Owl /Ken Shults / Audubon Photography Awards

New poll shows strong support for increased tree protection, planting, and funding

Results from a new poll show strong support for protecting and enhancing Seattle’s urban forest. In July 2021, the Northwest Progressive Institute surveyed more than 600 likely Seattle voters on a variety of local issues, including questions regarding tree protection, planting, and funding.

Support for tree protection policy details outweighed opposition by 30 points or greater in all instances, including support for increasing protections for large trees, adding replacement requirements for tree removal, creating a tree preservation and planting fund, requiring certification for tree care providers, and creating a permitting process for removal of trees with a diameter greater than six inches.

Trees, especially big mature trees, are icons of the Pacific Northwest. Many people love our trees and want to protect them at a greater level than we currently do. We see that clearly from the overwhelming support for improved tree protection, planting, and funding among participants in Northwest Progressive Institute’s July 2021 poll.

Highlighted Poll Results

Citation information

Highlights from the Northwest Progressive Institutes July 2021 survey of the Seattle electorate

617 likely Seattle voters

Surveyed by Change Research from July 12-15, 2021

Modeled margin of error: 4.3%; CI: 95%

© Northwest Progressive Institute

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Seattle’s tree protection ordinance should be strengthened to include increasing tree planting in low income and previously redlined neighborhoods with insufficient tree canopy to reduce heat island impacts and counter climate change?

  • Agree 82% 82%
  • Disagree 11% 11%

Do you support or oppose requiring Seattle developers to maximize the retention of existing trees throughout the planning, development, and construction process?

  • Support 81% 81%
  • Oppose 14% 14%

These results come as we increasingly recognize trees as important community assets whose benefits extend well beyond the parcels in which they are rooted. They promote good health and well-being. They bring bird song into our neighborhoods. They keep us cool in the heat and help prevent flooding. Trees are essential. And they are threatened in great numbers across Seattle from weak policy and weaker action.

The City of Seattle adopted its current interim tree protection ordinance in 2009. In a subsequent evaluation, the interim ordinance was found defective at protecting trees and the City was advised to pass an improved, permanent ordinance as soon as possible. Twelve years later, the City has yet to meet that recommendation.

“I hope this response emboldens [city leaders] to finally do what they’ve been saying they will do and pass a tree protection ordinance that actually protects trees. Seattle voters are behind them.”

Joshua Morris

Urban Conservation Manager, Seattle Audubon

Tree protection and planting is a recognized strategy for addressing urban forest equity in Seattle. Redlining and other racist policies in the city have determined not only where people could live, work, and play, but also the distribution of trees and vegetation in the city. Today, areas south of the Ship Canal are 400% more likely to have low canopy (less than 20% cover) than areas to the north (data from 2016 tree canopy assessment). South side neighborhoods also have a higher proportion of Black, Indigenous, and residents of color. Maximizing tree retention in low-canopy neighborhoods and community-led tree planting efforts are key parts of addressing urban forest injustice in Seattle. 

When asked how City leaders might react to the polling results, Seattle Audubon Urban Conservation Manager Joshua Morris said, “I hope this response emboldens them to finally do what they’ve been saying they will do and pass a tree protection ordinance that actually protects trees. Seattle voters are behind them.”


Take action for trees

The heatwave our region experienced at the end of June 2021 made clear that the deadly impacts of climate change are here. We must act now to improve our resilience and prepare for the future. An equitably-distributed and protected urban forest is one of our best hopes for becoming a climate-resilient city. Join us in urging Seattle city leaders to improve urban forest protections today. Email Seattle city leaders now!


Seattle Audubon is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that advocates and organizes for cities where people and birds thrive. The organization has been advocating on behalf of the city’s urban forest since 1916, when illegal logging in city parks was contributing to tree loss. To learn more, visit www.seattleaudubon.org

Please send questions to Joshua Morris, Urban Conservation Manager: joshm@seattleaudubon.org

Take Action for Trees

Join us in urging Seattle city leaders to improve urban forest protections today.