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Our Valuable Urban Canopy

We love our trees in the Pacific Northwest, especially in Seattle. They add a pop of green in a city sometimes surrounded by gray. Besides being nice to look at, trees also filter carbon dioxide out of the air and produce oxygen. We can all agree that trees are valuable.


But just how much?

Using i-Tree, a program developed by the USDA Forest Service, SDOT’s Urban Forestry division is updating the dollar amount environmental benefits that our estimated 40,000 city maintained trees in the right-of-way provide. We will also be including the benefit calculations for privately maintained right-of-way trees, as they are added to our inventory when we update tree counts.

For example, our forestry crews recently updated our tree inventory in South Park at the beginning of 2016. Using the i-Tree software, annual net environmental benefits calculated before the inventory were at $48,230. After the inventory, they were calculated at $83,763.

The larger post-inventory value is the result of several factors: an accurate tree count that increased by over 350 trees, updated species documentation and the benefits they provide, and tree size updates to track environmental inputs and outputs.

i-Tree inventory analysis of SDOT trees in the South Park neighborhood

i-Tree inventory analysis of SDOT trees in the South Park neighborhood

Over the next several years, this type of inventory analysis is going to be taking place across the entire city.

And thanks to Seattle voters who approved the 9-year Levy to Move Seattle in the fall of 2015, SDOT was able to add a third tree crew to help maintain our City’s street trees and respond to customer service requests.

We will also be planting two trees for every one tree removed. Our gardeners expect to plant about 300 trees this year, mostly in the fall. We’ll be sure to check back in with them in a few months for an update.

If you want to get a tree of your own to help keep our city green, Seattle’s Trees for Neighborhoods program is giving them this October and November. Enter the lottery drawing between July 18 and August 8, and you could win a FREE tree for your home or neighborhood.