City receives grant to determine tree canopy coverage

May 31, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

The city is poised to deploy experts to determine how much land sits beneath leafy tree branches.

The most recent estimate — using 2006 aerial photography and collected in a 2008 tree canopy survey — pegged the tree canopy coverage inside city limits at 51 percent.

The percentage could vary between surveys, due to recent construction and the methods used in the earlier effort. The initial program did not meet regional standards for tree canopy surveys, but the measure did provide baseline tree canopy information for the city Comprehensive Plan, a key growth blueprint.

Issaquah received a $10,000 grant from the state Department of Natural Resources to fund the upcoming study. Municipal staffers intend to contribute $6,350 to the project through in-kind services. City Council members accepted the grant May 2.

The assessment is meant to provide a more accurate analysis of the city’s tree canopy. In addition, the city intends to assess areas covered by other vegetation. Issaquah includes about 1,300 acres in open space.

The city plans to hire a consultant to complete the survey. City Senior Planner Debi Kirac said the project should start in mid-July.

“The idea is to begin by doing a tree canopy assessment and slowly working” in the years ahead “to try and get a gauge of tree health,” she said.

The city could be in line for additional Department of Natural Resources dollars in coming years. The city’s strong record on tree-related issues boosted the initial grant application.

Issaquah leaders often highlight tree preservation as crucial to maintaining Issaquah’s character and environment.

The community is a longtime Tree City USA. The honor from the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes cities dedicated to community forestry.

In King County, Kirkland, North Bend, Renton and SeaTac also recently received grants through the Department of Natural Resource’s Community Forestry Program.

The nonprofit group American Forests, a national conservation organization, recommends 40 percent tree canopy coverage for Pacific Northwest communities.

Urban forests improve air quality and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, absorb rainwater, improve biodiversity, and provide shade and animal habitat.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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