Focus Story – Protecting Trees and
Educating the Public

All properties (public and private) are subject to the city’s tree preservation ordinance, and Austin’s various ordinances provide protection on all land within the city of Austin zoning jurisdiction. Regulatory recognition starts with all trees on public property, trees six inches DBH within scenic roadways, trees eight inches DBH on commercial properties and trees 19 inches DBH on single-family home sites. Selective species are considered heritage trees once their trunks reach 24 inches DBH. If a healthy heritage tree has a trunk 30 inches DBH, a public meeting is required to determine the fate of the tree.

A team of 20 employees in varying offices review proposed development projects (e.g. capital improvement, subdivision, commercial, residential projects) and, once approved, inspect to ensure compliance with the tree ordinances. If noncompliance is identified, work is stopped, and/or citations can be issued.

Beyond protecting the city’s trees, Austin’s various departments — with the help of private partners — also try to engage city residents in urban forestry through a number of programs designed to provide information and education on the benefits trees provide to the city.

Austin Tree of the Year: Since 2007, Austin citizens have had the opportunity to nominate trees that they feel are the most valuable to the city. This annual event has been viewed as a virtual beauty pageant for trees. For more information, visit

Live Oaks on the University of Texas. Credit: Matthew Rutledge

Grow Green: This interdepartmental program is designed to promote sustainable landscaping practices. Grow Green works with community members to spread multiple messages, including planting native and well-adapted species, protecting and promoting wildlife, fertilizing only when needed, conserving energy and improving air quality. For more information, visit http://www.

Oak Wilt Suppression: Since 1988, the city has been addressing the loss of live oaks and red oaks to oak wilt. Working in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, the Texas Forest Service and local neighborhood associations, this project educates the public on the issue, locates the disease, provides technical and cost-sharing assistance and monitors treatments for any continued spread.

Urban Forest Grant Program: This program — established to promote conservation and other projects that benefit Austin’s urban forest — has $350,000 in funding to help preserve and grow Austin’s canopy of trees. Projects eligible for funding include tree planting and preservation, education, public service announcements, disease control and management of invasive species.

Urban Forest Steward: The city has teamed up with TreeFolks to train citizens in all aspects of tree stewardship to sustain and grow Austin’s tree canopy. Urban Forest Stewards receive 30 hours of training from arboriculture and forestry professionals. During the training, they learn how trees grow, how to care for them and how to organize urban forestry projects to improve the tree canopy in their neighborhood or park. For more information, visit


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