The Legal Issues Surrounding Tree Removal

You may think that the trees growing on your property are yours to do with as you please, but this isn't necessarily true. Some laws and regulations that govern tree removal. Here are four factors that determine whether and when you are free to cut down a tree:

The Nature of the Land

Some jurisdictions also consider the type of property the tree is growing on. They may consider whether the area is developed, whether it is a residential property or whether it is a swamp. For example, the city of Seattle, Washington, doesn't allow people to cut down trees growing in environmentally critical areas such as wetlands. At the same time, the city will not allow you to cut down a tree with a diameter of at least six inches if it's growing on an undeveloped land.

The Number of Trees

The number of trees you want to cut down also matters; in most cases, you may be allowed to remove a few trees without permission; you will be required to get a permit if you wish to remove many trees. The number may be evaluated as a percentage of trees on the property or as an absolute figure. For example, in Lacey, Washington, you must always ensure that your property has at least four trees per 5,000 square feet of the total land area.

The Species of Tree

The species of the tree you want to cut down also matters because some trees are protected by the government. Most states protect are rare or endangered trees that can go extinct if they aren't protected. In most cases, you aren't allowed to cut down such trees without getting approval from the authorities. In some cases, you will only be allowed to remove a protected tree if it's hazardous. For example, the city of Sacramento, California allows people to cut trees on private property without permits, except for the protected trees, such as the oaks.

The Size of the Trees

The size of a tree determines how much it benefits the environment. For example, big trees absorb more carbon dioxide from the air than small trees. At the same time, it's much difficult to replace a big tree than a small one.

For this reason, most jurisdictions prohibit the removal of big trees, where size is determined both by height and diameter. For example, in Atlanta, Georgia, you can't cut down a pine tree whose diameter is at least 12 inches. In San Jose, California, you can't cut down a tree that is at least two feet above the ground.

This is one of the reasons you should be wary of DIY tree removal; you can easily do something illegal without knowing (remember ignorance is no defense). A professional tree removal company, on the other hand, is well versed in these laws and regulations and will help you avoid breaking the law.