Protection Toolkit banner - Big Trees April 2013

Credit: Friends of the Urban Forest

Credit: Friends of the Urban Forest

Tree ordinances are public laws developed by communities to protect trees, preserve greenspaces and manage urban forests. Communities use tree ordinances to regulate the preservation, removal and planting of trees and other landscape features on public, and sometimes private, land to attain a healthy, well-managed urban environment.

By themselves, however, tree ordinances cannot assure that the trees in and around our communities will be improved or even maintained. Tree ordinances simply provide the authorization and standards for management activities. If these activities are not integrated into an overall management strategy, problems are likely to arise. Without an overall strategy, management will be haphazard, inefficient and ineffective, and the urban forest will suffer.

Many tree ordinances identify trees by size or species — with certain size trees or species garnering extra regulation under the ordinance. If your ordinance outlines regulations for specific tree sizes, use American Forests’ measuring guidelines to measure your tree to see if it qualifies for protection under the ordinance. Also, check to see if specific tree species are protected by an ordinance. If so, a permit is needed to cut the tree down.

If you find that your town does not have a tree ordinance, check out our information on how to develop a tree ordinance.