Removing a tree is usually an easy process. Tree removal professionals are called and scheduled to remove the tree, proceeding without any hassle or obstacles from local or state officials. However, there are rules and regulations in some states requiring permits or special permissions before trees are felled, either for preservation reasons or in accordance with city ordinances.
In any state, utility companies have strict policies in regards to trees and utility lines. The safest distance to plant any hedge or tree shorter than 25 feet in most states is within 20 feet of power lines. Otherwise if you try to plant a tall tree closer to the power lines, there’s a good chance the utility company or the city will come through and either trim the tree to their specifications or remove it completely. So it’s better to plant it far away from utility lines, as to avoid any problems and keep it looking the way you want.
Below are the fifty United States and city policies on tree removal outside of utility line policies, including the US capital.
According to the city of Birmingham, there are no rules associated with the removal of trees on private property. The city has no specific circumstances laid out wherein trees can be removed by the city. This means the care and removal of a tree on private property lies wholly with the owner. The city also requires no permits be acquired by a private tree removal contractor before a tree is removed on private property.
The city government of Juneau has no requirements involved in the removal of trees, nor does it require any permits beforehand. However, the city government of Anchorage has specific rules wherein the director of development services can come in and remove trees that are dead, hazardous, or illegally located (i.e. on private property between two sidewalks or near public pavement). Any residents of Anchorage who intend to plant trees in their front yard should be sure they’re located far enough back from the sidewalks to avoid this forcible removal by the city.
Phoenix’s government requires no permits or notifications before the homeowner has a tree removed on their own property. However, the city does have a visibility ordinance that requires no trees greater than a foot in diameter or 10 feet in height near intersections block traffic signs, signals, or pedestrians. Else, the city will give seven days warning to the owner to fix the problem and then remove it themselves.
Little Rock, like the rest of the state, is home to an abundance of tree cover, both in public spaces and on various private properties. As such, there are no permit requirements to remove trees on private property, since it has so many trees and no bugs or diseases plaguing one type of tree.
The city government of Sacramento only requires a permit for tree removal on private property if the tree is designated as a “heritage tree” or is an oak, a type protected across the entire state of California. Otherwise the tree can be removed without any permit or requirements ahead of time by city law. The same is required in Oakland, where certain types of trees are “protected”, meaning it’s a coast live oak four inches or larger in diameter or four and a half feet above ground, or it’s another type of tree that’s nine inches in diameter or larger. San Jose also requires permits for trees with a trunk circumference of 56 inches or greater or two feet above ground. Fresno requires a permit for most of its tree work beforehand. Los Angeles requires no permits for any tree work outside of cutting down oak trees.
Denver Parks and Recreation, which handles the urban tree landscape of Denver, outlines that private property tree removal responsibility lies completely with the owner, not with their office. However, if property owners find trees encroaching on their property from the street or other public spaces, they have to apply for a permit to remove them. They cannot remove them without this permit, or they can be penalized by the city of Denver. Denver residents also cannot remove trees that are within the public right of way, even if they’re located on their property.
Hartford has no requirements for tree removal on private property in terms of acquiring permits from the city government. Its municipal code also does not allow for city officials to remove trees on private property, so any hazardous or dead trees must be removed by the owner. There are no tree species currently considered a protected species in Connecticut either.
The city of Dover, Delaware promotes tree growth in its urban sector but does not prevent the private residential owner from removing trees when necessary. While the city recently made an addendum to their municipal code to protect the wet lands and other landscapes, there are no special provisions for the protection of specific tree species or permits required before private property tree removal.
City regulations in Tallahassee require that trees with diameters greater than 36 inches might require permits depending on their health and condition. In Miami any removal of more than 25 percent of trees will necessitate a permit before a professional can cut it down. Jacksonville also mandates that trees over four feet tall or with a circumference greater than three and a half feet must have a permit acquired before it can be removed from private property.
In Atlanta, tree owners considering removal must check city regulations before proceeding with the process. Any hardwood tree species with a diameter of six inches or larger must have a permit to be cut down, and pine trees that have a diameter of 12 inches or more must have a permit before tree service professionals uproot them. This is due to a tree ordinance in Atlanta that serves to protect the population of trees and keep it from downsizing any further.
Honolulu’s city officials do not require that their residents give notice or fill out a permit application before they have trees removed from their property. However, the city does have a rule outlined in their street trees regulations, which allows for private property trees to be trimmed. The rule reads that “the Director may trim obstructing or hazardous portions of any tree standing on private property which overhangs or projects into a street.” This means that if residents do not maintain their trees properly, they can be trimmed to a length by a city official without permission but within legal codes.
Boise has no regulations regarding tree removal in the city, nor does it require a permit for removal ahead of time. The only exception is the removal of an elm tree on private property, in which case it will require a permit. The city has no special rules for removing trees on private property in the case of dying or hazard trees, so the removal of such trees falls to the responsibility of the property owner. Property owners should also be aware of removing or pruning trees on their front yards, in case these trees count as “public right of way” trees. If they are, they cannot be removed as they are city property, not private property.
Residents of Chicago cannot remove trees on their private property with first getting a tree work permit from the Bureau of Forestry. The bureau issues them in conjunction with a liability insurance certificate, in case the removal causes any damage to the surrounding area outside private property lines. With the introduction of emerald ash borer to the area recently, the State of Illinois Department of Agriculture will also want an additional compliance agreement settled if a property owner intends to cut down an infected ash tree. There will also be additional work for a property owner intending to cut down a tree in an Asian Long-Horned Beetle quarantine zone.
According to state law, the owner of a tree between two properties is the one who has the trunk on their land. As such, the responsibility for care or removal lies with him or her. Although the branches and limbs might hang over into another yard, the neighbor cannot remove them. Indianapolis has no permits or regulations regarding tree removal on private property. Indiana law also requires that landowners maintain their property so that others can enjoy their own property.
According to Des Moines law, trees on private property are the responsibility of the owner to maintain and care for or remove. This means that dead and hazardous trees located near sidewalks or streets that may inflict harm on pedestrians or cars must be taken care of by their owners, as the city will not take responsibility to remove them. Owners of such trees should be aware of their health and take the proper measures to remove them or trim when needed. The city also has no special regulations or permits in place for the removal of special species of trees.
State law in Kansas requires that any city proves, either through laboratory tests or other evidence, that a tree is infected on private property before they can go in and remove it. Cities otherwise have no basis to remove or trim trees on private property, meaning such duties fall to the resident to maintain the trees. The city of Topeka has no permits or special regulations in terms of tree removal for its residents either, nor does Kansas City or Wichita.
In Frankfort, trimming and removing trees on private property falls to the responsibility of the owner. However, some responsibility for street and public right-of-way trees also falls to some private property owners, determined by where exactly the tree is located. If a private property owner has a tree of this type and wishes to remove or trim it, they must acquire a permit from the City Arborist before they can do any work on it.
Louisiana state law has rules in place to protect trees in certain landscapes, including a provision that states cypress trees on water bottoms owned by the state cannot be cut down without a state lease, right-of-way rights or permit. If someone does, they will be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment up to six months. The law also protects any land within five feet about sea level or on fast lands, so any trees that lie within that area cannot be removed even if it’s private property. Baton Rouge city law also outlines that a permit is required for tree removal when clearing land greater than one acre of private property.
In Augusta city limits, there are no special permits or requirements for the removal of trees on private property. Near the Maine shoreland though, trees must be four inches or more in diameter and four and a half feet above ground before they can be removed. There cannot be any land clearings on the shoreland measuring greater than 250 square feet. There has to be enough room in between the cutting such that vegetation and trees remain well-distributed. It’s referenced as the buffer strip. Near ponds and rivers, this strip can extend 100 feet from the water line.
Maryland has several state laws that protect trees and require permits to have them removed by private property owners. The Roadside Tree Law protects all trees near the roadways in the state, and the state only grants removal of a tree on the roadway if it is hazardous or diseased. It must also be replaced by whoever cuts it down. The Forest Conservation Act requires permits for any tree removal by more than one acre or 40,000 square feet. The Seed Tree Law promotes the replacement of removed trees by allowing eligible harvested lands of five acres to plant pine seedlings. Baltimore shares responsibility for the care and maintenance of some right-of-way trees with homeowners. Any roadside trees that lie on private property cannot be removed without a permit from the Baltimore government.
Massachusetts state law has a strong standpoint when it comes to the ownership of trees on private property between two different people. Enacted in 1698, the state illegal tree cutting law reads that any illegal cutting down or damaging of another’s tree makes that person liable for three times the amount of the tree. It’s important that private property owners are absolutely sure the tree belongs to them before they cut down or remove a tree, as they could be brought up on civil charges and pay in replacement fines otherwise. Private property owners also have the right to petition in Boston for public tree removal through tree hearings. There are no other laws in Boston regarding permits or special regulations for tree removal on private property.
Michigan’s ash trees started getting infected with emerald ash borer disease in 2003, and now it has special disposal sites across the state for ash trees. These trees, if on private property, should be removed immediately if diseased to prevent the spread to other trees. The state’s agriculture department will also inspect ash trees on private property if asked by the homeowner. In Lansing, there are no permit requirements or special regulations regarding tree removal on private property.
Minneapolis laws include regulations for tree removal on private property, wherein private property owners must request a tree removal permit from the Forestry Division of the Park and Recreation Board. Forestry has the right to deny the permit if it’s the best interest of the public, and the city also has the right to go in and remove trees from private property if they’re judged to be a hazard to other trees or people in the city. This usually means that the tree will have a disease including Dutch elm, emerald ash borer or oak wilt. The state of Minnesota also has rules and regulations regarding hazard trees and limbs and nuisance trees on private property that may require removal accordingly for the safety of the public.
City regulations in Jackson, the state capital of Mississippi, exclude any provisions for the removal of trees on private property. Tree removals can proceed without a permit in the city, and the city cannot enter and remove trees from private property, meaning that the care and removal of any hazardous or dying trees falls completely to the owner. The city also has no rules regarding the removal of magnolia trees, the state’s emblematic tree.
St. Louis city laws state that private property trees are the responsibility of the owner to maintain or remove. However, the city’s ordinance on trees also states that the Director of Forestry and the city has the right to enter private property and inspect or remove trees that they find to be hazardous to the public, whether they’re diseased, have insect pests that could spread to public or other private trees, or might be at such an angle as to be a hazard to public street ways, signals and sidewalks.
Montana state law has no special laws in regards to the removal of trees on private property. There are no requirements for permits before a tree has to be cut down, and the city has no special regulations wherein the city can enter private property and remove a tree. Billings also has no special circumstances or rules regarding tree removal on private property.
Neither the state nor its capital city of Lincoln has any special regulations or rules regarding tree removal on private property. The care and responsibility for trees on private property lies solely with the owner, meaning that financial payment to remove one will also fall on them. If the tree is overhanging a street or public roadway but lies behind a fence line, its care will need to be handled by the owner, not the city.
Nevada’s tree population continually works to grow, meaning that cities like Carson City create programs to increase the shade cover and general population of trees. However, the city and state do not require that citizens acquire a permit for tree removal before cutting down a tree in their yard. There are also no special regulations in the Carson City municipal code that allow city officials to go in and remove trees from private property for any reason.
Like in Maine, New Hampshire outlines regulations regarding trees near the shoreline. To remove trees within 50 feet of the shoreland, they have to follow a grid and point system. To remove trees between 50 and 150 feet of the shoreland, they have to follow the unaltered state requirements. Beyond 150 feet, there are no requirements for removing trees. In Concord, there are no special regulations or permit requirements for removing trees on private property.
Recently, many townships in New Jersey are starting to preserve more trees by creating ordinances that protect ones on private properties. This means that even if private property owners want to remove trees, they might not be able to. Depending on the township, they can apply for permits to get a tree removed, but the township might reject the permit. The Trenton department of forestry has the right, as laid out in the city’s rules, to remove trees on private property that might be a hazard to other residents only after giving notice to the owner to remove it themselves.
New Mexico’s tree population is sizeable for the state’s climate, so the government imposes no limitations or rules when it comes to the removal of trees on private property. Neither of its two larger metropolitan areas, Albuquerque and the state capital of Santa Fe, have special rules when it comes to tree removal on private property. This means that complete removal responsibility in the case of hazards or dying trees near sidewalks must be handled by the owner, or else they could be liable for damages.
New York state has no specific ordinances regarding tree removal, but it suggests ordinances for community developments. Community developments in New York might have ordinances on trees, depending on the location of the tree and who planted it. Depending on the case, someone living in the community development might have to get a permit for removal, and the development might not allow for removal if it interferes with the look of the community. The city of Albany, however, outlines specific rules where trees six and half feet in circumference or larger cannot be removed from private property without a permit. City officials in Albany also have the right to enter private property and remove trees that are an imminent threat to the public after giving the owner 30 days notice.
Raleigh’s municipal code outlines the difference between public trees on the right-of-way and streets near sidewalks that cannot be touched by any person but city workers and private trees. Private trees can be removed without a permit in Raleigh, but a tree near the sidewalk cannot. Also, trees on private property can be removed by the Urban Forester when that tree could affect the public health and safety of other trees or people. There are also specific trees listed as conservation or champion types that cannot be removed, so residents should make sure their trees don’t fit that list by calling the department first. In Charlotte, property owners must have permits before they remove trees from their properties.
North Dakota has no state laws regarding tree removal on private property. Its state capital, Bismarck, also has no special regulations or ordinances in terms of tree removal. Responsibility completely falls with the private owner of the tree. Bismarck has special municipal ordinances that allow for the city forester to declare a private property tree a nuisance if it’s unsafe or dangerous. There are also certain types of trees prohibited in Bismarck (13-02-12) that produce cotton and can be removed by the city.
Ohio state law has no provisions for tree removal on private property. Its capital city of Columbus has special requirements for the removal of street trees near public sidewalks and adjacent private properties, but the removal of trees on private property are the responsibility of the owner. Cleveland, another large city in the state, also has no provisions in its municipal code in regards to tree removal on private property.
Oklahoma state law includes no provisions when it comes to private property tree removal. The state also has no regulations for city governments when it comes to removing trees for any reason. Its state capital, Oklahoma City, also has no requirements for permits before tree service professionals cut down trees on private property. However, the trees have to be cut down a certain way to avoid endangering public land or individuals. Tree service professionals who are certified in the city will know how to do it properly and avoid any problems. Tulsa also has no regulations in terms of tree removal on private property.
While the state laws in Oregon have no regulations regarding tree removal, the city of Salem protects certain trees types, designated as heritage trees in the city. These trees cannot be removed or cut down without a permit. Also trees that are 12 inches or greater in diameter in some cases will require a Parks Department permit, but that will depend and require private property owners consulting with the Planning Division first. Salem also allows city officials to remove trees if they’re diseased or a hazard to other trees and pedestrians through Chapter 86 of its municipal tree ordinance.
Philadelphia has specific policies concerning private property trees that overhang onto public spaces or other people’s property. According to its overhanging or encroaching trees code, the city’s enforcement officer has the right to issue a notice to the owner, and if it’s not taken care of after 30 days, proceed to prune or remove the tree. However, Philadelphia has no other regulations when it comes to removing trees on private property whose branches do not overhang onto other property areas.
Providence recently passed a zoning ordinance that protects any tree 32 inches in diameter or greater, regardless of where it is (i.e. private or public property). The city also requires that significant trees cannot be removed without permission from the City Forester. There must be a request filed, which has to meet certain criteria, including that the tree poses a risk to others. The City Forester also has the right, under Rhode Island state law, to enter into private property and remove trees that could pose a risk to the health and safety of other trees or people.
South Carolina protects its grand trees from any kind of removal, and the same goes for its capital city, Columbia. There’s a process outlined for getting a grand tree removal permit in the city municipal code that follows:
- “General; procedure. If an owner/developer proposes to remove any protected trees (see (b) above), then he/she must document the request and submit it as part of the landscape plan. The request shall be subject to the approval of the zoning administrator in conjunction with landscape plan/ zoning permit approval.
- Criteria for removal of grand trees. It shall be unlawful to remove a grand tree without the written permission of the zoning administrator. The location of grand trees requested to be removed shall be indicated on the landscape plan and/or tree protection plan. The following criteria shall be utilized in evaluating requests to remove grand trees or stands of trees: topography of the site; proposed grade changes; location of utilities and driveways; location of the trees; proposed tree planting or transplanting to compensate for tree removal; public safety; tree health, condition and longevity; tree species; and any historic, aesthetic or exceptional quality associated with the tree(s).
- Requirements for replacement of grand trees. When removal of grand trees is approved, the following replacement requirements shall apply: Grand trees shall be replaced with shade trees wherever possible. An equal number of density factor units of replacement trees shall be planted to replace the density factor units for trees removed. This planting shall be in addition to the required density factor for the site.”
Sioux Falls requires no permit for private property owners when it comes to tree removal. However, their director of forestry retains the right to control any trees considered nuisances under city ordinance 94, wherein they are considered problems to the public’s safety. This means that the tree might have diseases or insects that could spread to other trees on private or public property that need to be removed for such prevention. South Dakota has no other tree laws in place to death with tree removal on private property otherwise.
Tennessee state law includes no provisions for the removal of trees on private property. However in Nashville, the state capital, there’s a city tree removal ordinance which states that protected trees six inches or more in diameter on properties greater than those for one or two family home residences must have a permit before they can be removed, as they are considered “protected” trees. This might also necessitate a replacement tree, which will be the responsibility of the person who has the tree cut down. Tree removal companies in Nashville must also have permits acquired before they remove any trees on public or private property, which includes a plan as to where they put they tree after cutting it down.
Texas state law allows for city officials to deal with nuisance trees that can have an effect on other trees, either on public or private properties, by removing them, even if they belong to a resident and not the city. In Austin the city arborist does not allow for the removal of trees on private property that have a circumference of 60 inches or more without a permit. The only way a resident can get a permit to remove such a tree is if they can prove it is a hazard to the public or their home. In Dallas and its surrounding suburbs, property owners are completely responsible for the care and removal of their trees and do not require a permit for removal.
Utah state law protects “heritage trees”, which include “rare, threatened, or vanishing species of trees” according to the Utah Heritage Tree Act of 1975. This means any tree designated by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands as indigenous to Utah or very well-adapted to the climate cannot be cut down. In Salt Lake City, outside of this law, the city has no permit requirements or special rules when it comes to the removal of trees on private property.
In Vermont, they have what is called a “tree warden” in every city. While this warden most controls the care and removal of trees on public property, his or her control extends into private property if there’s an infestation that needs to be controlled. In Montpelier, they have a city tree board which has the right to remove trees on private property under the condition the tree is diseased or a hazard to other properties, private or public. The removal will be at the expense of the owner after they are notified by the board. There are no other rules in Montpelier in terms of permits for tree removal on private property.
Virginia state law has no special permit requirements or laws concerning tree removal on private property. In Richmond, there are no also no laws or special requirements for private property tree removal. An ordinance was introduced to the city to preserve certain types of trees, but it did not pass. However the disposal of tree limbs and branches after removal are also the responsibility of owners because the city will not collect them.
Washington state has no law concerning the removal of special trees on private property. In Seattle, there also isn’t a permit requirement for private residence tree removal. However, some public right-of-way trees are maintained by private residences, and removing those require a permit.
The country’s capital maintains certain regulations when it comes to private residences and trees. Tree removal policy in D.C. for residences includes: 1) a permit for pruning or removing any street tree between a sidewalk and curb; 2) a permit for removing trees on private property that exceed 55” in circumference, and 3) homeowners managing trees on the curb. However, the tree owners who adopt those trees will receive benefits from the Washington, D.C. Urban Forestry Administration.
West Virginia state law includes no requirements for private owners of trees when it comes to acquiring a permit for tree removal on their property. There are also no special requirements protecting special types of trees or giving cities special powers over trees on private property. The same is true in its capital city, Charleston. The city has no outline in its municipal code for the removal of trees on private property.
The state of Wisconsin’s legal codes outlines nothing involving trees on private property in terms of removal. The same is true for one of its larger cities, Milwaukee, whose municipal code only covers the care and removal of public trees maintained by the city and not private residence trees. As such it is the responsibility of the owner to take care of the tree’s removal before it becomes a hazard and lands on a neighboring property or public area.
The Forestry Division in Wyoming released a Tree Owner’s Manual to help its residents stay aware of care regulations for trees on private residences. Part of the manual includes information on removal but excludes mention of any permits or special requirements by the state. The municipal code of its capital city, Cheyenne, also excludes any information on special requirements or permits involving tree removal on private property.