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Regulations
Illegal Cutting

Types of Illegal Cutting

PARKS: Trees growing within the boundaries of City of Seattle, Department of Parks and Recreation-owned parks and boulevards, as well as City-owned greenbelts may only be pruned after obtaining a permit from the Department of Parks and Recreation. Tree removal is not allowed for view improvement. Tree topping is prohibited on all Parks properties.

RIGHTS-OF-WAY: Trees growing within street or alley rights-of-way may only be pruned or removed after obtaining a permit from the Urban Forestry section of the Seattle Department of Transportation. Trees growing within unimproved rights-of-way are also included in these regulations. Tree topping is prohibited on all rights-of-way.

ENVIRONMENTALLY CRITICAL AREAS (ECAs): Removing, clearing or any action detrimental to habitat, vegetation or trees is prohibited within ECAs and regulated by the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI)- see TIP 331. This includes areas characterized by steep slope, potential slide areas, known slide areas, wetlands, wetland buffers, riparian corridors, shoreline habitat and shoreline habitat buffers. Only non-native and hazardous trees (TIP 331B) can be removed within some of these ECAs and only with a replanting plan reviewed and approved by SDCI (SMC 25.09.320 and TIP 331A). General tree maintenance is allowed without permits, as long as the action is not harmful to the health of the tree, and meets accepted pruning standards. Tree topping is prohibited in ECAs.

UNDEVELOPED LOTS: Learn more here.

OTHER PRIVATE PROPERTY:  You cannot remove any tree that is six inches or greater in diameter, unless the tree is designated as hazardous. You must get a hazard tree assessment from a certified arborist or a registered consulting arborist with the ISA Tree Risk Assessment qualification. You must apply for and obtain approval from SDCI prior to tree removal. More information regarding tree and vegetation removal on private property.  

Tree companies working on regulated trees or in regulated areas should have a copy of any permit that has been issued by a City department in their possession on the job site. If they cannot produce a permit, they are subject to a stop-work order.

Reporting Illegal Cutting

The City of Seattle counts on the public to report illegal tree removal.

On private property: If you observe what you think is a violation of Seattle's tree codeon private property please report it to the Code Compliance Division of the Department of Construction and Inspections online or call the Code Compliance line at (206) 615-0808. (Open Mon, Thurs, Fri 8 am - 4:30 pm and Tues, Wed 10 am - 4:30 pm.) Code Compliance is only staffed to respond to complaints during business hours of the work week; messages will be addressed as soon as possible during business hours. The Seattle Police Department generally will not respond to suspected tree code violations. Please do this even if the trees have already been removed. 

Street tree removal: Trees in the right of way are regulated by the Seattle Department of Transportation. Concerns about street trees can be reported by calling (206) 684-TREE (8733) or emailing seattle.trees@seattle.gov

It is extremely helpful to report these three essential pieces of information:

1. Site or property address. Code Compliance can’t look for a location that does not have an address. However, if it is a vacant lot or otherwise has no address, note this and provide the addresses of the lots on either side of where the violation is occurring.

2. Pictures of the tree(s). It is helpful to have something else in the picture to give the investigator an idea of the size of the tree(s). That could be something of a known common size, such as a person, a car, or house.

3. Picture of tree cutting/removal company truck with company name. Or, if no name, the license plate number and state.

On Seattle Parks Department property should be reported to (206) 684-4113 during regular business hours (8:00 am - 4:00 pm - Monday through Friday.)

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