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Technical Resources-Tree Care Ordinances


Tree ordinances are a vitally important part of developing a local community forestry program.  If your communities strives to attain a healthy, vigorous, and well-managed community forest then a tree ordinance is essential.


What is a Tree Ordinance?

A tree ordinance is a ratified local document that establishes standards for addressing a wide range of issues regarding a municipality’s trees. Tree ordinances should provide the authorization and standards for management activities.  At minimum an Ordinance will identify who has tree authority and clearly indicate the tree care standards that the community is to follow.  Having a tree care ordinance is one of the basic requirements for becoming a Tree City USA community.

Types of Tree Ordinances
Street tree ordinances – These contain provisions regarding the planting, maintenance and removal of trees within public rights of way which may pose a public hazard or impact public interest. They also contain provisions governing maintenance or removal of private trees which pose a hazard to the traveling public.  Some ordinances will focus on engineering specifications, but all should have the biological considerations included also.  Some ordinances will include tree species lists or refer to their existence.  Often species diversity is addresses.  Some communities have a short ordinance that provides authorities and will have an arboricultural specification manual as a companion document.

Tree protection ordinances – These protect native trees, tree canopy or trees with unique attributes based on species, historical significance, aesthetic, size or age. They usually institute a permit requirement for a protected tree to be removed, pruned or encroached upon. Often tree protection measures will be included or the Urban Manual Tree Protection standards during construction near these significant trees.

Buffer or view ordinances – These ordinances protect the views of adjacent property owners in commercial and residential developments and establish specifications for noise, visual and riparian buffers. View ordinances are designed to help resolve conflicts between property owners that result when trees block views or sunlight.

Landscape Ordinance – These establish required landscaping provisions, such as the placement and number of trees planted, types of suitable plants or trees and more.


Storm Water Management Ordinances - These ordinances focus on the bigger picture of how trees can help manage storm water and reduce erosion.

Tree Ordinance References:

 Tree Ordinance Guidelines - ISA