Snohomish County’s Tree Canopy Approach Exceeding Expectations, New Report Shows

Snohomish County has released its annual Tree Canopy Monitoring Report and the numbers are impressive.

In 2023 under the County’s balanced and flexible long term canopy approach to tree management:

  • 1,816 new trees were planted.
  • There was 44% retained canopy on development sites.
  • There was 56% newly planted canopy.
  • 888,521 square feet of new and retained 20-year canopy achieved.
  • Since 2014 adoption of the code – 15.5 million square feet of new and retained canopy!

Ten years ago Snohomish County knew it had a problem when forested property within urban growth areas were found to be undevelopable due to regulations in existence at the time. In order to meet its Growth Management Act housing targets and at the same time provide trees, a new approach was needed.

Stakeholders were assembled, briefings and hearings held, aerial photographs taken and the latest research compiled. The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS) was actively involved in that process.

The result of that process was Snohomish County’s innovative long term canopy approach to tree regulation. The County’s approach is objective and predictable in its application. It also provides greater flexibility to developers while at the same time setting a high bar for providing long term tree canopy in new residential developments. A guiding principle was “the right trees in the right place.”

Since adoption of the new code in 2014 Snohomish County’s foresight has been rewarded with tree and canopy totals that greatly exceed even the early lofty goals. Each and every year since adoption, the Tree Monitoring Report has indicated homebuilders exceeded requirements in every respect.

MBAKS encourages other jurisdictions that are struggling to find a balance between housing and trees to take a long look at Snohomish County’s proven effective program.

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