Community Tree Ordinance
What is that?
Why is it important?
- A tree ordinance is a formal long-term policy for dealing properly
and effectively with tree care and public policy.
How do you get one in place?
- A tree ordinance sets up permanent procedures and establishes legal
- Not having a tree ordinance is like not having any other ordinance:
there is no policy that is consistent, rational, and public.
- The primary goals of a tree ordinance are:
- to establish a permanent and official policy for the community
- to declare standards for selection, planting, maintenance, etc.
- to provide a reasonable basis for dealing with the public
- It is also a powerful tool for defending long-range public interest
through such practices as tree preservation, greenspace protection, etc.
Where can I get more information?
- Find a copy of existing local code and a sample tree ordinance
- It’s a lot easier and a lot more effective to begin with what already
- You may have to change both the sample and the code to suit the
needs of your community and its trees
- Work with a small group representing various interests
- If the ordinance is to pass, you will need broad support from the
- Try to include people from local government, park & street
maintenance, the tree care profession, utilities, and the general public
- Make the ordinance clear, reasonable, and concise
- If people don’t understand it, they won’t obey it
- Steer between being too rigid and being too loose
- Detailed specifications and standards can be put in a separate
- Keep the process as public as possible without hampering your work
- The impression of an open and inclusive process will be your best
- Negotiation and compromise are the key to resolving some of the
issues, because different interest groups often have different opinions
- Follow standard procedures to get the ordinance into law
- Start with the community lawyer, so the process follows legal channels
- When the ordinance is acceptable to all, meet with the mayor or
- Publicize the ordinance widely after it becomes law
- Members of the community need to be made aware of what it says
- Make sure local government, agencies, services, and street supervisers
know how to apply it
Start with a sample
ordinance or obtain one from another community similar to yours.
Detailed guidelines on ordinances and their provisions are available
For other information, advice and help on this topic, call offices of
your State Urban Forestry Coordinator or University Extension service, visit
urban forestry web sites.