The Last 6,000 Project Maps Seattle's "Exceptional" Trees

A project invites locals to help count the city’s largest trees
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
  • Large tree in front of Seattle home

This article appears in print in the September 2019 issue. Click here to subscribe.

With a nickname like “Emerald City,” it may seem ironic that Seattle is losing some of its largest trees to development. Dozens of “exceptional trees” (defined by the City of Seattle as those that meet notable size, species, condition, cultural/historic or age distinctions) were felled in the past year. A 2015 aerial study commissioned by the city found only 6,338 trees with a trunk diameter of 30 inches or more, a measurement that alone marks an exceptional tree, within the city boundaries.

Last April, this prompted the creation of The Last 6,000 project, an effort to locate and map as many of those trees as possible. Spearheaded by a Plant Amnesty committee of five, in memory of their founder, Cass Turnbull, the project set a target of mapping 1,000 trees by the end of September, and invited Seattleites to participate. By June, 300 trees had been mapped, including a resplendent tulip tree in Ballard and a Douglas fir in Matthews Beach Park that locals consider to be a neighborhood icon. By involving the community, The Last 6,000 hopes to raise awareness about the trees and, ideally, prevent their loss to development.

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