Trees on Private Property Get Extra Protection

New tree regulations protect trees on private property.

The protection of Burien’s trees is important for many reasons. Studies show that trees help our city stay cool, clean the air, reduce the effects of climate change, improve mental health, increase economic activity, increase property values, and make our community more attractive.  

Investments in tree planting and care provide benefits worth two to five times the initial amount spent. Nature-based solutions, like trees, appreciate in value over time while traditional infrastructure depreciates in value over time.

In recognition of the importance of trees, the Burien City Council has taken a number of steps to protect and improve our urban forest. In 2018, the Burien City Council established an ambitious goal—that Burien’s tree canopy would cover 40 percent of the city by 2038. In 2020, the Burien City Council approved an urban forest stewardship plan that outlined strategies and actions needed to meet that goal. Updating Burien’s tree regulations for private property was one of the strategies outlined in the plan.

The City Council adopted new tree regulations to protect trees on private property during their October 3, 2022 meeting, with the new requirements going into effect on October 12, 2022. Fines went into effect March 1, 2023 to give time for the community to learn about the new regulations. You can find more information about the requirements, including helpful videos and diagrams, at

🌲 Burien’s new tree regulations are one of many ways the City is working to protect and enhance Burien’s urban forest.

Find ways you can get involved.

The revised regulations require private property owners to secure a tree permit before:

  • Removing exceptional trees, defined as a tree that is large for its species.
  • Removing more than one tree per year. More trees may be removed if lot is greater than 5,000 square feet.
  • When tree removal results in a lot below the required tree credit density, which is based on lot size. The larger the lot, the more trees must be preserved or replanted.
  • Topping trees.
  • Pruning more than 25 percent of a tree’s canopy in one year.

A permit is not required for removal of small trees that are not considered “significant”, which are trees below six inches in diameter at 4.5 feet above the ground. A permit is not required for normal and routine pruning or for pruning a hedge.

Large maple tree in a grassy yard bordered by a road.

Every single-family residential and multifamily residential lot must preserve a minimum tree credit density which varies based on the size of the lot. If tree removal results in less than the minimum tree credits on a lot, trees must be replaced. This ensures that every lot will have some number of trees on the property.

The regulations emphasize retention of large and healthy trees during construction of new developments and replacing trees that have been removed. Additional tree protection standards have been added to ensure that the trees identified for retention are adequately protected throughout development.

Shorelines, critical areas and their buffers, and public rights-of-way have their own regulations, which can be found on the City’s website.

The revised regulations include fines for illegal tree removal that range from $700 to $15,000.

Josh Petter
Urban Forest Planner at | More posts
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