[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written and submitted by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of South King Media, nor its staff.]
I’m writing as a member of the Defenders of North SeaTac Park, a local group standing up for preservation of this park as well as forested land throughout the Highline area. Over 3,300 community members have signed the Defender’s Community Forest Consensus, which calls for permanent preservation of North SeaTac Park (now zoned for commercial aviation development) and for a moratorium on continued deforestation on publicly-owned land within two miles of the airport until there’s a comprehensive plan in place to ensure a healthful and adequate level of tree canopy here.
Today, I am writing to urge neighbors to weigh in on two new policies being developed by the Port of Seattle, the government agency that owns the land that North SeaTac Park is sited on as well as much of the forested land in the Highline area. These policies will greatly impact area residents.
One of these policies is a Land Stewardship Plan that will guide Port actions affecting the natural resources on the land it owns, including how much of our pollution-reducing forests it will replace with more pollution-emitting industrial sources like warehouses and roads. The other policy is the Port’s tree replacement policy, which it is updating.
On Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, from 6 to 7 p.m., the Port will hold an online webinar during which it will present information on these policies and take public input. Free registration for this event is available here:
Those who can’t attend can write or call Commissioners using contact information published on the Port’s site here:
It is well known that SeaTac Airport’s heat, noise, and pollution harm nearby residents’ health and property values as well as community livability. It is well known that trees substantially mitigate these impacts. But, sadly, tree canopy near the airport, already among the sparsest in the county, is rapidly disappearing. The Port, Sound Transit, and Washington State DOT have removed thousands of mature trees from our neighborhoods in the last several years – and continue to plan for the removal of thousands more. The Port alone has published proposals to replace an estimated 100+ acres of now forested land with additional airport expansion.
I commend Port Commissioners for developing these important land stewardship policies. At the same time, this agency has an affirmative responsibility to allow for adequate public input on them and to publish its process for considering and integrating this input. As of today, I haven’t been able to discover how much time the Port will provide for this process. And, although the webinar is only a few days away, the draft policies do not appear to be publicly available. It’s not possible to give informed input during an hour-long webinar for critically important policies that haven’t been seen yet.
So, I also urge readers to ask Port Commissioners to ensure there is an adequate and process for public input – and to publish their timeline and process for that input.
Our Highline evergreen forest, situated at one of the main gateways of our Evergreen State, is a key part of our region’s identity and an important guardian of public health in our community near the airport. Large areas of it are currently at risk of being removed in the near term. This is a matter of great public importance affecting resources we collectively own. Our input is needed.
Noemie Maxwell Vassilakis
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