The Port of Seattle must not strip its land of trees that save people’s lives from the pollutants that the Port itself generates. It must stop its deadly habit of sprawl that fells the forests we need to stabilize our climate and keep its airport poisons out of our lungs.


North SeaTac Park, four miles south of Seattle, is a 200+ urban oasis directly under the take-off and landing zone of SeaTac International Airport. It contains large forested areas with magnificent, towering trees, multiple wetlands, the headwaters and multiple tributaries of Miller Creek, and Tub Lake, which is believed to be the last true surviving peat bog in the Seattle area.  Acres of forested mountain bike trails, a disc golf course, and other recreational amenities under this park’s towering trees are regional destinations.

Thousands of people once lived where this park now is. They and their homes and schools and businesses were removed by the Port of Seattle in the 1970s-90s  to make way for airport expansion.

At the time, Port officials assured the community these homes were being removed that this land would be kept as a park to compensate the community for the airport’s cumulative impacts.

These impacts are severe. Life-shortening severe.

In the community, within one mile of the airport, Seattle-King County Health Department (SKCHD) finds that people live sicker and die 5 years younger than in the rest of the county. Residents experience significantly higher rates of premature births, low birthweights, childhood learning problems, cancer, heart disease, respiratory and cardiovascular health impacts, and more.

SKCHD finds that airport-generated pollutants are known to cause many of these impacts and suspected to cause most of them. It finds the same life-shortening impacts within 10-miles of the airport, increasing in severity the closer one lives to the source.

As one mitigation, SKCHD recommends increasing the area’s coniferous tree canopy in order to reduce exposures to Port of Seattle-generated pollutants.

But the Port goes in the opposite direction, continuing decades of stripping the land around the park of trees. Google maps show dramatic changes even since 2015, when massive, single-story industrial buildings were constructed on the edge of environmentally sensitive zone near the park. Near the park, a 40-acre single-level airport parking lot sits on top of land that once had homes and forest. Contaminated land where the Lora Lake apartments once stood now is now an empty, derelict lot at the edge of a residential neighborhood.

Now, the Port is contemplating extending its sprawl inside North SeaTac Park. This past summer, 2,400 community members signed a petition against a proposal in the Port’s Strategic Airport Master Plan (SAMP) to destroy 11 acres of forested land for a single-level airport parking lot. The Port responded to the petition by withdrawing that plan.

But it announced this good news without disclosing that its Real Estate Strategic Plan identifies a much larger forested area inside the park – 31.5 acres – as “available land” for which a “food innovation center” and, presumably other structures, are being considered.  That plan is on hold until mid-March, after the expected completion of an inventory of that area of the park. We hope its results lead the Port to abandon this proposal – but we cannot count on that.

In addition, the Port’s Sustainable Airport Master Plan proposes about 70 additional acres of deforestation in the one-mile community around North SeaTac Park for parking lots, cargo warehouses, receiving centers, a maintenance campus and more (see https://www.kctreeequity.org/trees)

This all adds up to a potential loss of over 100 acres of trees in a community where the local health department recommends expanding tree coverage.

The North SeaTac Park Consensus statement at KCTreeEquity.org currently under development by local activists, makes three urgent calls for action:

  1. A moratorium on additional Port deforestation within a mile of the airport;
  2. A comprehensive plan to restore and expand the urban forest ecosystem within ten miles of the airport; and
  3. Securement of 200+ acre North SeaTac Park as a park in perpetuity.

We hope this call will gain public support and attention and, ultimately, succeed. This would likely slow the massive planned expansion of SeaTac International Airport proposed in the Port’s SAMP. But slowing down is the only appropriate response when human lives, climate stability, and the very character and identity of our Evergreen State are at risk. 

The Port of Seattle must stop its deadly habit of sprawl that fells the forests we need to stabilize our climate. It must reverse its deadly culture of industrial sprawl in urban green spaces and highly impacted communities.

Port Commissioners must lead this agency in true and lasting change so that it becomes a partner in restoring and expanding – not destroying – the urban forests surrounding SeaTac International Airport.

The draft of this Consensus is here: https://KCTreeEquity.org/consensus. Will you support it? Will you help us move from this draft to the final version (expected in late January, 2022)? Can you help these most just calls for action achieve a wide reach?

You can help. We need help to achieve a wide reach. Write us at info@KCTreeEquityy.org to find out how to join our work. Thanks for listening.

This image, from a 2020 report prepared by Seattle-King County Department of Health for Washington State Legislature, shows three zones of proximity to SeaTac Airport in which, with greater severity as distance from the airport decreases, life expectancies are lower and rates of a wide range of negative health outcomes are higher.