With Earth Day on everyone's mind, the Spokane City Council agreed Monday night that it wants to see tree canopies covering 30 percent of the land in city limits by 2030.
On April 22, the council voted 6-0 (with council member Kate Burke absent) to update its Urban Forestry program ordinance to include the new goal and other small changes to the program.
The new language also calls for the now 20-year-old ordinance to be updated every five years, and for the city to keep an eye out for new reforestation project partners while continuing its current work in that area.
Angel Spell, assistant director of natural resources and supervisor for the Urban Forestry program, says that, in a nutshell, "We maintain park trees and we permit the maintenance of street trees and other public trees."
The program also provides public education about trees and how to best care for them. One such event will happen this Saturday, April 27, with an Arbor Day Celebration from 11 am to 2 pm at Finch Arboretum.
The last analysis that was done showed the city already has 23 percent of its land covered by tree canopy, but that information is years old, Spell says. She expects a new analysis to be completed by the end of this year so the city has a good idea where it stands going into 2020.
In 2018, the program gave 1,000 free trees to residents, pruned more than 840 trees, and processed permits for 4,471 trees in the public right of way to make sure they're being maintained properly, according to the 2018 annual report from Spokane Parks & Recreation.
"We have a permit system so that we have a quality standard of care for public trees. Those trees are providing the most benefit to the adjacent property owner, but also to everyone on that street, in that neighborhood, to everyone who walks in that area, and to everyone who lives in the city," Spell says. "We don’t charge for the permit, we try to make it as easy as we can for the property owner to get and understand why it's necessary."
Those permits ensure property owners are partnering with tree service companies that know the city's policies and best practices for maintaining tree health in the long run, Spell says.
For reforestation, the program partners with several city departments to get trees included in city projects, Spell says, and they also work with private partners like Avista, Downtown Spokane Partnership, the Lands Council and the Spokane Conservation District to plant trees.
New partnerships are in the works.
"We’re going to work with On Track Academy and try to engage more students in tree planting," Spell says, "and we're looking to develop more educational opportunities in the community."
Later this year, other changes related to incentives for tree planting and maintenance could be brought back for a vote, council member Lori Kinnear told her fellow members on Monday.
The first page of the ordinance spells out some of the major benefits trees provide to the city: