The destruction of Issaquah, WA, USA


Post by Azar


Hello APJ,
During the winter holidays we enjoy our cut Christmas trees and evergreen bows fashioned into wreaths and swags.  Evergreens  brighten up the dark winter days, scent the dry air and bring the beauty of the forest into our homes. The City of Issaquah, WA USA, my home for over 35 years, prides itself on its concern for the forests and proudly announces on its website the designation by the Arbor Day Foundation as a “Tree City USA”.
The Arbor Day Foundation awards the “Tree City” designation to communities who “meet their core standards of sound urban forestry management”. Sadly, preserving old, established urban forests does not seem to figure into The Arbor Day Foundation’s idea of urban forest management or into the City of Issaquah’s permitting plan that allows for what is simply “clear cutting” of established forests within the city limits.
Earlier this year the acre of forest upslope from our home was sold to a developer and permitted for one large spec house.  I had seen this man in action before as he clear cut another lot in the vicinity.  I was concerned about the forest, potential run off and the habitat that would be destroyed.  I approached the city several times with my concerns and was assured that they would be monitoring every step of the process  and would preserve as many of the large trees as possible.  HA!
As the old trees were felled and their roots were ripped out by backhoes I felt like I was experiencing a personal assault or a physical trauma. The smell of “tree blood” was almost overwhelming. Eventually two large logging trucks hauled away the remains of the huge cedars and firs. What I describe below in a letter to the city is not an isolated incident but has been going on in Issaquah for sometime now.  I knew that this “permitted” destruction of forests and habitats was nasty and wrong but I just didn’t know how horrible it was until it literally happened “in my own backyard”.
Azar xx


(ED: Dear Azar. This makes me sad. I think it should be shared so people can get angry enough to stop it one day. P xxx)

The destruction of Issaquah, WA, USA



Issaquah promotes itself as a “Tree City USA” and posts that information on its website. I would like to know what it means to be a “Tree City” and wonder how Issaquah can consider itself to be tree friendly.

Over the past three days the acre of old cedars and fir trees adjacent to our property was permitted by the city to be basically “logged off” by a developer. I’m sure a few of these felled trees were growing here well before our house was built in 1969. I spoke with the city several times before this happened hoping that, in line with the tree cutting permit process, some of these large, old trees could be preserved. All that the city was able to manage was the preservation of one large fir, several small acer macrophyllum and a small cedar.

Azar Before #2

Azar Before #1

Azar Before #3

Azar Before #4

Azar Before #5

Azar Before #6

Yesterday the air outside was thick with the odor of cedar and fir sap. Huge piles of logs and limbs were everywhere. A large female bobcat and two almost fully grown kits were running around our yard in fear and climbing our trees, while the backhoe on the adjacent lot ripped the cedar roots from the slope. The day before a large buck wandered through our property looking frightened and puzzled. The whole scene reminded me of the destruction depicted in Hayao Miyazaki’s animated movie Princess Mononoke. How can the city of Issaquah consider itself to be environmentally friendly when it allows this kind of habitat destruction?

Azar After #1

Azar After #2

Azar After #3

Azar After #4

Azar After #5

Azar Yard #2

Azar Yard #1

According to Issaquah’s website it looks like, with the loss of this acre of trees, we will now have 13 more tons of dust and gas in the atmosphere. I know it is too late, that the damage has been done and cannot be repaired, but I think someone on the city staff should come out here and take a look at this mess before the developer hauls it away! I would like someone on staff to see what the permitting process allows to happen in “Tree City USA”.


42 comments to The destruction of Issaquah, WA, USA

  1. Jordan River says:

    We are all connected Azar, not just the human family but all the life forms that support us and we them.

    In Australia and NZ the locals would have chain linked themselves to the trees in an incident like this. I do not offer that information as a criticism though. Your photos and now world-wide publicity courtesy of APJ will ripple out to those that care. Those same people that your ripples reach will educate their young in such matters.

    I am not clinging to a theory; I am believing it.
    Jordan River recently posted…Christmas Gift Idea 5 – Instant Delivery for late shoppers $2.99 – $9.84My Profile

  2. Azar says:

    I appealed to the city of Issaquah months in advance to prevent the destruction or least mitigate it somewhat. They assured me that they would preserve what they could, according to them 30% of the trees. HA! Their 30% turned out to be basically nothing but scrub. If there is anything that young people can learn from this is to beware of local government. The large, old trees are gone in part because I trusted that the city saw the value of these trees and would make an honest effort to preserve them.

  3. australianperfumejunkies says:

    Azar, this makes me sad.
    I wish chaining to trees would happen here in Sydney Jordan but it’s so fast. before we even know a hectare or five is rezoned and that virgin Crown scrub has been sold to developers the trees are gone and the 2nd level of carpark is cemented in.
    Portia x

    • Azar says:

      You are right! These developers and the cities who “support” them just can’t seem to kill things fast enough or pour concrete with greater speed! It seems like a race to destroy what’s left of the environment.
      Azar xx

  4. Cymbaline says:

    Hi Azar, I live in Seattle and I’m very familiar with this scenario. It goes on constantly and is sickening.

    • Azar says:

      See the comment below, Cymbaline. I meant to put it under “reply” but somehow slipped. While the developers rip out the trees and pave over everything, the city governments moan about the state of the water supplies and the air pollution. Why can’t these PNW cities figure out that their own permitting policies are not only allowing but encouraging this destruction? Are they so stupid that they believe what they are doing is preserving the environment?

    • Solanace says:

      Same thing in Brazil. Developers have no respect for our natural and architectural patrimony, and many people don’t understand that their house in the new condo by the forest is not ecological, but quite the opposite.

  5. Azar says:

    Who are these crazy people who are destroying the PNW? The one I’m familiar with here doesn’t let his workers swear on the job but is happy to rip out the old trees for profit.

  6. Suzanne says:

    Murder! Unfortunately this is happening all over the world driven by money. Thanks for speaking up about it. It’s very sad.

    • Azar says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Suzanne! It is murder! As Jordan says, “we are all connected” and this one incident negatively effects everyone, especially the perpetrators.

  7. Marion says:

    As an old tree hugger from way back I truly despair….nothing seems to count except money; the politicians including the grim collections that pass as ‘councils’ in Australia are facilitating more of this rather than less…anyway “don’t get me started”…
    Ps Dear Portia..since it’s Christmas…I am 99.9% positive that I have an amazing photo of you dressed up as a mermaid at a kiddies Chrismas party at the motor Yachties sometime in the nineties….I should scan it and send it to facebook or something if you like!!
    Xo Marion

  8. Margaret says:

    This does not look like an environmental impact study was done or if it was done, the results were not followed. It is truly frightening.

    • Azar says:

      When an environmental study happens around here it usually favors the developer. The valley floor was once a natural wetland, now it is the home of unnatural retaining ponds and ditches as well as several shopping malls. Developing local hillsides resulted in landslides which eventually meant that these areas had to be “re-plumbed” to stabilize the slopes. There always seems to be some way to get around any study.

    • Azar says:

      I forgot to thank you for commenting, Margaret!
      Azar xx

  9. Maya says:

    Horrible! I really try hard not to be cynical, but I believe it’s all only about MONEY.

    • Azar says:

      It is so discouraging. If there is money to be made it doesn’t matter to these guys what living thing stands in the way. The will just kill it, build something, pocket the money and then move on and do the same thing somewhere else. It is so hard not to be cynical!
      Azar x

      • solanace says:

        Oh, I didn’t express myself well. I tried to say that Maya shouldn’t feel bad, because these guys are not nice indeed.

    • Solanace says:

      You’re just being realist.

      • Azar says:

        Yes, I guess this kind of greed is just the reality of today’s world. But if it isn’t modified or kept under some kind of control all of our realities will be very different very soon.

      • Maya says:

        Solance, you expressed yourself just fine. I did not take it in any negative way. I just feel that if you become too cynical, you can miss the beauty that there is in this world, such as all the lovely people leaving comments here.

  10. Solanace says:

    Thank you so much for caring and sharing, Azar! The greedy orcs just cut a huge tree at the place I work. To make room for parking spots. The only tree we had! I wrote a long and slightly unbalanced collective email questioning this stupid decision of cutting trees just because they are not native, even if they are planted at an urban environment where there are simply no native trees competing… Oh, the stupidity. I do wish I had gathered my students to chain ourselves to it, but as Portia said above, they act swiftly. And of course, they do it during the holidays, when everybody is traveling, because they are super duper democratic. Speaking up is something we can always do, though, and it matters. I was touched by your post. Thank’s again.

    • Azar says:

      Hi again, Solanace,

      I am so sorry to hear about that last huge tree. I can easily imagine it and it makes me very sad.

      While I wasn’t exactly chained to the trees here, I was literally “on-site” everyday. The developer would start ripping out the trees at 7:00 a.m. and so I would run out in the rain, stand next to the back hoe drivers and the lumberjacks, holding my umbrella, dressed in my pink “Hello Kitty” bathrobe, calling the city, demanding answers and getting the run-around. I did everything I was capable of doing to no avail.

      Azar xx

  11. Jaybee says:

    Oh, that’s awful Azar! RIP lovely trees. :( At least you put up a fight.

    • Azar says:

      Hi Jaybee!
      Who knows where the bodies of the old trees will end up; as part of some new structure, no doubt, or perhaps as a privacy fence like the one I will probably have to construct along the property line or, worse yet, as fire wood or a chainsaw sculpture.
      They were all much too large for Christmas trees!
      Azar xx

  12. australianperfumejunkies says:

    You should send a link to your post to the city council, the news station and some forestry people. See what they all say. Link them all in.
    Portia xx

  13. Jackie Rosen says:

    Dear Azar,
    It is so sad to lose these great trees. Thank you for speaking up publicly, both to the city and to the international community. I have a bobcat family that lives in my backyard and treasure their presence in my life. I also treasure the life and essence of these fir and cedar trees, benefitting everyday. We, as one people, clearly need to find a better way. It’s tragic that money the supreme and singular value held by many. Prayers, thoughts and images for a living world filled with greater love and respect in the New Year 2014.

    • Azar says:

      Thank you so much, Jackie! I will try to keep your good wishes in mind everyday. May your New Year be blessed with peace and beauty!
      Azar xx

  14. Undina says:

    I’m so sorry! A similar thing has happened in the city I grew up in: new authorities allowed to butcher the oldest and the biggest park in the city (the equivalent of Central Park in New York). People tried to fight that but, as usual, failed. I thought it could have happened only in the country that is corrupt and powered by greed. Now I see that it’s happening even here – which makes me even sadder.
    Undina recently posted…The Scent of Music: Carol of the BellsMy Profile

  15. Azar says:

    Hi Undina,
    It seems that the USA is just as powered by greed as any other country and there seems very little any of us can do about it, but we just keep trying anyway and hoping for the best.
    Azar xx

  16. Kandice says:

    I lived in Seattle many years ago. The trees (and other elements of nature) are what made the area seems so sacred and timeless. It’s a shame that the natural beauty is being destroyed by those who only care about a dollar. A dollar won’t buy much when we no longer have air to breathe or water to drink because commercialism has ruined everything. I agree with Portia – send the link to anyone you can think of. It won’t have saved the adjoining property but it may save another area! Proud of you for taking a stand!

    • Azar says:

      Thank you Kandice,

      Unfortunaely a lot of people around here, even in my neighborhood, no longer care about this kind of habitat destruction. As long as the damage does not impact them directly or they don’t have to look at it, they are fine with it! The big picture is what they can see from their living room window.

      Azar xx

  17. Heart- and gut wrenching to see… A very similar thing recently happened to my parents as forest adjacent to them was felled in favor of more parking. The neighborhood association protested, went to meetings for months – to no avail. Last I heard, my mother (living downstream) from all the additional run-off, wrote a pleading yet reasonable letter requesting that they would at least install a rain garden in the parking lot to catch the run-off. It will be interesting to see if that will happen. I’m not holding my breath… I’m so sorry for your loss, and for that of all the homeless animals. Thanks for getting the word out – I will share your post on my FB pages. People need to be aware of this – it may as well have happened in my state – Oregon. It is sad but true that often people don’t find out until it’s already too late.

    • Azar says:

      Thank you so much, Anna, for posting this on you FB page! At least your mother’s neighborhood association cared enough to protest when they felled the adjacent forest.
      Azar xx

  18. Geisa Dutra says:

    That is so sad! I have noticed the slow deforestation of Issaquah for a few years now. Very sorry for your loss, which is a great loss for all of us, and nature, who suffer the greatest loss of all.

    • Azar says:

      Hi Geisa,
      Thank you so much for checking this out! It has been very difficult for us as you can imagine. We are now trying to create a new kind of garden in the area most effected using native plants and trees as well as a few fast growing ornamentals. I really miss the old forest, though. It will never be the same.
      Azar xx

  19. Azar says:

    Ellen Covey also posted this story on her blog with the addition of some great comments to the photos. You can check it out at:

    Have a wonderful Christmas and thank you all so much for your support and concern.

    Azar xx

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