Protection Toolkit banner - Big Trees April 2013

A tree ordinance establishes standards for addressing a wide range of issues regarding a municipality’s trees. Before you start drafting an ordinance, build a working relationship with organizations and civic groups, such as garden clubs, heritage groups and neighborhood associations, to foster community support. Also, try to include people from local government, tree care and utility companies who represent various interests. A community that is involved with developing and implementing an ordinance is critical to achieving the desired outcome.

Credit: SPUR

Credit: SPUR

You don’t need to start writing an ordinance from scratch: Find an existing tree ordinance to get you started. The process to develop policies to maintain and protect trees is a lot easier if you start with a sample ordinance.

There are four main types of tree protection 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  •  Landscape Ordinance – Theseestablish required landscaping provisions, such as the placement and number of trees planted, types of suitable plants or trees and more.

Here are a few resources that go into more depth on developing tree ordinances, which may prove helpful while you think about the types of elements your ordinance should include: