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Lawyer disclosed damage to 150+ trees last month; appears more than 1 person involved, city official says

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SEATTLE — Seattle city officials are investigating after more than 150 trees were cut down on city-owned property.

City Council member Lisa Herbold issued a statement Monday afternoon about additional information on the city's investigation.

“An attorney representing a client sent a letter to the Department of Parks and Recreation in early February disclosing the damage. The attorney, Clayton Graham of Davis Wright Tremaine, has indicated he will disclose who he is representing. However, it appears there may be other parties involved beyond the client represented by Mr. Graham," Herbold said.

“It appears the trees were cut in mid-January," she said. "Non-city tree experts believe this is not the first time these trees had been cut.

“I have been assured by the City Attorney that both criminal and civil sanctions are on the table for the responsible parties. The sanctions should be significant enough to deter this kind of activity in the future.

“As the City appraises the value of the trees, I want it taken into account that these trees maintain soil stability in an environmentally critical area by absorbing water, as well as maintain air quality by absorbing carbon — an important issue in West Seattle, which sits adjacent to industrial lands in SODO and the Duwamish industrial Area.”

City urban forestry manager Jon Jainga says most of the felled trees were mature big leaf maples. He says the area is considered environmentally critical because of its steep slope and it's also part of a known landslide area.

Assistant City Attorney Joe Groshong says they're working to "determine an appropriate course of action."

The downed trees covered more than an acre of hillside, their stumps jutting through debris. Some stumps were a couple of feet in diameter.