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"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs & turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, hickory nuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets – and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." -Luther Burbank 1849 - 1926
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Cass Turnbull, founder of PlantAmnesty

Cass Turnbull left the Seattle Parks Department in 1986 after 11 years to start her own landscape maintenance and consulting business. Three years later, she founded PlantAmnesty, a private non-profit organization that now numbers over 900 members in 46 states and four countries. PlantAmnesty's goal to "end the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs" has gained considerable local and national press as the organization strives to educate the commercial and public sectors on responsible, appropriate pruning and landscape management practices, establishing a standard of quality care for the urban ecology.

Cass often lectures to parks departments, school districts, community clubs, commercial landscape groups, flower and home shows and industry seminars. She is frequently published and interviewed on the subject of pruning reform, and has won three awards for her work -- which includes not only teaching and lecturing, but also a slide show, instructive pamphlets, a newsletter, information booths, a how-to book and several videos.

"What is missing, of course, is a sense of urgency. We know what to do, and we've known it for years and years. We just need to do it. And that will take courage, commitment and leadership." Cass Turnbull, who created PlantAmnesty

Free tree giveaways give the public a false sense that something is being done. It is not. Tree preservation (or canopy cover) is, at its heart, land preservation. We cannot keep cramming more and more trees on less and less land.

The dollar value of trees is known but never really believed by the public or the government. Spending money on planting, preserving and maintaining trees saves taxpayer dollars; it does not waste them.

Likewise trees do not cause homelessness and cutting trees down will not cure it. Trees do not cause crime and cutting them down will not stop it. Most of all -- with regards to land-use laws -- pitting trees against low-income housing is an absurd and offensive assertion. The builders who are forwarding such a notion should be ashamed of themselves. Poor people, especially, need to have their domiciles cooled by trees. The wealthy can simply turn on the air conditioning during those 90-degree days, which, you may have noticed, are occurring with greater and greater frequency.

Specifically, we need to stop the chronic underfunding of urban forestry, and we need to get serious about legal requirements. As any gardener or arborist will tell you, the people who take care of trees (and landscapes) are the last hired and the first fired. As a result, we wind up replacing trees and landscapes rather than maintaining them. This costs us infinitely more money in the long run.

We need more arborists, most of whom will be code enforcers for the new laws and regulations.

We need some real tree protection and increased setbacks on multiunit and commercial sites, and we need new requirements for tree preservation on construction sites. We need to quadruple maintenance budgets, not just for the next four years, but forever. And we need to buy land, while there is still any out there to turn into green spaces, treed or otherwise.

Mostly we need to realize that such funds and laws are not a frivolous expenditure on ornamental trees but the very last chance we have to keep global warming, air pollution, excessive storm water and erosion from ruining our city. Rich, poor, homeowners and business will, in the end, be saving their money and their city.

Cass Turnbull is the founder of PlantAmnesty (www.plantamnesty.org). PlantAmnesty was founded on October 22, 1987, by Cass Turnbull. PlantAmnesty’s mission is to end the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs.

To accomplish our mission we:

  • promote awareness and respect for plants.
  • encourage proper pruning techniques.
  • alert and educate the public.
  • improve landscape management practices.
  • volunteer in our communities.
  • provide a free referral/reference service.
  • Don't top trees: 5 Reasons

    What's wrong with topping?

    The misguided practice of tree topping (also referred to as stubbing, dehorning, pollarding, heading, and by several other euphemisms) has risen to crisis proportions nationally over the last decade. Topping has become the urban forest's major threat, dramatically shortening the lifespan of trees and creating hazardous trees in high-traffic areas. Read more...

    PlantAmnesty Seattle, Washington