[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Waterland Blog, nor its staff:]

Dear Editor,

The Port of Seattle proposes to commercially develop an estimated 107 acres of mostly tree-covered land near Sea-Tac Airport. Thirty-one of these acres are inside North SeaTac Park on land now covered by mature forest interwoven with mountain bike, running, and walking trails used by community members throughout the area. (1)

We ask readers to join us in signing the Community Forest Consensus at KCTreeEquity.org to demand that Port Commissioners withdraw these expansion plans and replace them with a comprehensive plan to properly manage and restore ecosystems in their jurisdiction. (2)

The Port’s deforestation proposals would take us in the opposite direction of a recent health department recommendation: to reduce human exposure to deadly airport pollution by expanding tree canopy and green space within 10 miles of SeaTac Airport. (3)

It’s especially unjust to site these proposals in SeaTac, where one of the most racially and economically diverse communities in the county bears among the highest impacts from environmental health disparities (4) and has among the lowest percentage of tree canopy. (5)

Trees are critical public health infrastructure. In addition to protecting us from pollution, they reduce the heat, dust, flooding, and drought of climate change while shading waterways that shelter salmon and provide habitat for wildlife. Research shows that trees are associated with improved mental health, lower crime rates and longer lives. They increase property values, reduce heating and cooling costs, and are good for retail business. (6-9)

As Defenders of North SeaTac Park, we are calling upon the Port to drop their unjust proposals and honor their commitments to the community:

    • Their commitment as a member of the King County–Cities Climate Collaboration to reduce sprawl and protect forests. (10)
    • The commitment in the Port’s own vision and equity statement to advance racial equity and share “information and decision-making power with the people who are impacted by (its) work.” (11)
    • The historical legacy of North SeaTac Park, which the Port created to compensate local residents for cumulative airport impacts. (12)

Please join the Defenders and nearly 1,600 other community members, including elected officials, organizations, and businesses, in signing our local Community Forest Consensus which calls for:

1. Permanent protection of North SeaTac Park;
2. A moratorium, with exceptions only for health and safety, on further deforestation by the Port of Seattle on public lands within two miles of the airport;
3. A plan for Comprehensive Action to Restore the Ecology (CARE Plan) of North SeaTac Park.

Elected officials have begun to take action. The City of SeaTac is exploring whether it can acquire all or part of the park in order to protect it, and discussions on this question are ongoing between SeaTac and Port officials. (13,14)  Burien’s City Council has put the issue of the park on its future agendas. (15)  These are promising developments. But they don’t address the proposed destruction of dozens of acres of trees outside the park. And they require strong and continuing public input, including your signature on the Consensus, to bring them to life.

By signing the Consensus, we together envision a future with a protected and restored North SeaTac Park, along with its interconnected forest in the surrounding community. We envision a future in which all residents enjoy healthy, sheltering trees in neighborhoods surrounded by mature forest cover. Our signatures signify that all of us, especially our children, deserve clean air and the chance to learn, play, and grow in a quality physical environment.

In community,
Defenders of North SeaTac Park

For end notes and a Spanish language version of this letter: https://KCTreeEquity.org/lte

End Notes:

1. What Trees are at Risk? Defenders of North SeaTac Park website https://KCTreeEquity.org/trees
2. Defenders of North SeaTac Park Community Forest Consensus https://KCTreeEquity.org
3. Community Health and Airport Operations Related Noise and Air Pollution: Report to the Legislature by Seattle-King County Department of Health in Response to Washington State HOUSE BILL 1109, December 1, 2020
6. Wolf KL, Lam ST, McKeen JK, Richardson GRA, van den Bosch M, Bardekjian AC. Urban Trees and Human Health: A Scoping Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun 18;17(12):4371. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17124371. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32570770/
7.  Shepley M, Sachs N, Sadatsafavi H, Fournier C, Peditto K. The Impact of Green Space on Violent Crime in Urban Environments: An Evidence Synthesis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec 14;16(24):5119. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31847399/
8. Business District Streetscapes, Trees, and Consumer Response Kathleen L. Wolf. Journal of Forestry, V 103 (8) December 2005 p. 396.  https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/journals/pnw_2005_wolf001.pdf
9. Final Report: The Economic Footprint and Quality-of-Life Benefits of Urban Forestry in the United States, Dr. Eric Thompson et al., Bureau of Business Research, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 6/28/2021 https://www.arborday.org/urban-forestry-economic/downloads/complete-report-findings.pdf
10. King County – Cities Climate Collaboration Joint Letter of Commitment: Climate Change Actions in King County, 2019, p. 7. https://your.kingcounty.gov/dnrp/library/dnrp-directors-office/climate/joint-commitments-update-with-signatures-final.pdf Federal Aviation Administration Compliance Reviews of Airport Noise Land Use & Financial Operations 2016 p. 11.
11. The Port of Seattle Equity Statement and Vision, 7/8/2020 https://tinyurl.com/ypnyftts
12.  Compliance Reviews of Airport Noise Land Use & Financial Operations 2016 p. 11. https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_compliance/compliance_reviews/
“(T)he Park is the culmination of a long term and very open planning process to compensate the area’s residents for cumulative airport impacts.”
13.  Port of Seattle: Port of Seattle Plans to Study North SeaTac Park, 9/21/21 https://www.portseattle.org/news/port-seattle-plans-study-north-seatac-park
14. City of SeaTac Blog: City Council approves resolution to allow SeaTac to explore acquiring North SeaTac Park, May 11, 2022 https://cityofseatac.wordpress.com/2022/05/11/city-council-approves-resolution-to-allow-seatac-to-explore-acquiring-north-seatac-park/
15. At the April 18, 2022 Regular Council Meeting of the CIty of Burien, Councilmember Cydney Moore introduced a motion to include North SeaTac Park as an upcoming agenda item. The motion passed. Motion and vote can be viewed at 3:02:00 here: https://burien.vod.castus.tv/vod/?video=266a5feb-a58b-4679-85f9-4505ab9f99c4&view=7

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have something you’d like to share with our highly engaged local Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to scott@southkingmedia.com and, pending review and verification that you’re a real human being, we may publish it. Letter writers must use their full names and cite sources – as well as provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes).