Bellingham Tree Policies

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Bellingham Tree Canopy Loss chart

WMTP Tree Protection Project

Analysis & Feedback on Key Bellingham Reports That Impact Urban Trees

Building a Better Foundation for Improved Bellingham Urban Tree Policies & Ordinances

We believe the City of Bellingham should encourage improved significant tree retention and other enhanced urban tree/forest policies in its foundational documents that guide policymakers, ordinances, funding and staff. This is much better than individuals and/or WMTP pushing to make improvements happen on a project-by-project basis, usually via a Hearing Examiner process that occurs long after a design has been finalized, a development application has been submitted, and much time, cost, and energy has been expended by everyone.
Over the next two years, the City of Bellingham will consider and approve two key foundational planning documents:
1. Urban Forestry Management Plan. The city’s upcoming Urban Forestry Management Plan (UFMP) will hopefully address and recommend a wide range of needed improvements, including better tree retention requirements for private developments. We hope it also suggests credits or other positive motivations to protect tree canopy, such as flexibility in other requirements, for developers who create tree-positive designs.
The UFMP consultants will release their draft recommendations early in 2024. We look forward to the Plan’s rapid completion and adoption, since unfortunately much significant tree loss has occurred over the three-plus years allocated to develop the consultant’s report.
Bellingham Comprehensive Plan Update Schedule
2. The Bellingham Plan. The update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan occurs every 10 years. The process started in September 2023 and will continue through 2025. We believe the Plan should reflect nature-integrated planning values in neighborhood goals, zoning, and other guiding elements.
This plan will be updated over the next two years, with plenty of opportunities for community input and review. Notably, it will be the first update since climate change impacts (heat domes, flooding, etc.) have become much more evident locally.
For both of the above planning documents, WMTP will closely analyze drafts and actively offer detailed input and feedback as part of the community engagement process. We strongly encourage every local resident (that means you!) to get involved, too. Use the City’s Engage webpage to stay tuned to each of the above! You also can contact WMTP anytime via our website to learn more and/or to join our team in its review effort.
Hopefully, Bellingham will then finally catch up to the enhanced urban tree protection ordinances that many other Washington coastal cities have benefitted from for years (see chart below). The devil will be in the details, of course, and that’s where WMTP will be looking closely.

Nearby Cities With Enhanced Urban Tree Canopy Protection Ordinances:

  • Bainbridge Island
  • Camas
  • Covington
  • Hoquiam
  • Kirkland
  • Lacey
  • Lake Forest Park
  • Longview
  • Olympia
  • Redmond
  • Renton
  • Seattle
  • Shoreline
  • Spokane
  • Tacoma
  • Vancouver, WA
  • Vancouver, BC
  • Walla Walla
By working with these community planning processes to revise and improve local ordinances, WMTP hopes to help the City of Bellingham to build a strong foundation for climate-wise development planning that protects significant urban trees in both public and private parcels.

Volunteer Opportunities

Want to help our tree retention & protection advocacy? Even if you only a have a few hours available per month, please contact us if you have the time and interest!

Related Links/Resources

City of Bellingham’s Urban Forestry Management Plan webpage
The Bellingham Plan webpage

Home > Projects > Tree Protection > Bellingham Tree Policies

Whatcom Million Trees Project

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