Do You Need a Permit To Remove a Tree in Seattle?

Arborists in Seattle help tree owners navigate the process of having a tree removed within city limits.  See our article on the updated Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance Reasons to Remove Trees Trees are an important natural resource that can add tremendous value to the neighborhoods and urban areas in the

when-cutting-down-a-tree-requires-a-permitArborists in Seattle help tree owners navigate the process of having a tree removed within city limits. 

See our article on the updated Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance

Reasons to Remove Trees

Trees are an important natural resource that can add tremendous value to the neighborhoods and urban areas in the Seattle area. Unfortunately, too often human activity and the natural world collide and trees have to be controlled to maintain safety. Some reasons a property owner may want to remove a tree are:

  • The tree is dead
  • Storm damage
  • The tree is unhealthy
  • The tree encroaches on power lines
  • The tree threatens structures, public walkways or streets 

The City of Seattle has made huge strides in keeping the natural world protected while also limiting the dangers that trees pose to human activity. To maximize both the value of property and safety, the City of Seattle has a permit process when it comes to tree removal and certain tree care. Tree owners can often find the process confusing to navigate, so here is a quick article from local tree experts to help property owners understand the process and the reason permitting is required. 

City Ordinances in the Seattle Area

The goal of the tree permit process is to ensure that trees have a strong presence in the city. The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) oversees the process and works alongside the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and local tree owners to ensure that trees are well cared for. 

During the process, a tree owner will determine whether or not the tree in question is in an environmentally critical area (ECA) such as a steep slope or wetland area. Other factors that are taken into consideration are:

  • If the tree is along a street or public right of way
  • Zoning of the property
  • Diameter of the tree
  • Number of trees to be removed
  • Species of the trees in question

There are large fines in Seattle for performing tree work without a permit when a permit was needed. 

Seattle Tree Care takes pride in offering legal tree work. Our ISA Certified Arborist Project Managers stay current on the regulations for each municipality we work in, and can advise on tree pruning or tree removal permitting requirements. We also offer permit application services.

So, do you need a permit to remove your tree in Seattle? 

Here’s the bottom line:

  • If your tree is a native species to the PNW, it’s likely you need a permit for removal. 
  • If you can’t hug the trunk of your tree, you likely need a permit for removal. 
  • If your property is located on a steep hill, adjacent to a body of water, or in a designated wildlife habit, you likely need a permit for removal.
  • An Urban Forestry permit is needed for removal of all parking strip trees and trees in the city right of way. SDOT does not permit the removal of healthy trees, even if they are damaging infrastructure, unless all other solutions have been explored and proven to be insufficient. 

Here is a helpful presentation from the City with more details: SDCI Tree Regulations

Obtaining a Permit

Obtaining a permit can be done through the city offices and is submitted through an online portal. During the process, tree owners will be required to enlist the help of a professional arborist. 

The city of Seattle requires  a formal report from a certified tree risk assessment professional or a certified arborist. They will inspect  the tree and explain why the protected tree is a safety hazard or is dead or in irreversible declining health. Such a report may either be a Tree Risk Assessment or an Arborist Report, depending on the project.

Here at Seattle Tree Care, we handle permits needed for work on SDOT-owned trees. We also offer traffic control plan services and other project coordination if needed. 

Permits through SDCI have a longer turnaround time and require more in-depth reports. Depending on the situation we either handle these internally, or partner with local consulting arborists to assist our clients with the SDCI permit process. Once the permit is issued, our team will safely and efficiently conduct the tree removal.

Hiring a Professional Tree Service 

Tree removal can be difficult and dangerous. The city ordinances put forth by Seattle go a long way toward ensuring that tree removal is necessary from an environmental standpoint and is done safely and effectively. 

The permitting process also ensures that trees in the Seattle area are managed with the highest standards of care. In street right-of-ways and environmentally-critical areas, pruning and trimming must be permitted and carried out by a registered tree care professional. This ensures the city can retain its natural state and beauty for generations to come. 

Seattle Tree Care is a registered tree service professional and can perform work on SDOT trees.

About Seattle Tree Care

Seattle Tree Care is the local choice for tree care and tree removal. We have helped hundreds of customers navigate the permitting process and come up with plans to save trees or safely remove them. Call (206) 789-0534 today for a free estimate on service.

Kelsey Gruenwoldt

Kelsey is the owner and CEO of Seattle Tree Care, a Certified Arborist, and founder of the Seattle Arborist Association. As a fourth-generation Seattle native, she has a great appreciation for this beautiful region and is dedicated to making sure our area's trees receive the best care possible. + Learn more about Kelsey

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