Tree Protection Ordinances

Setting guidelines for proper tree removal

Atlanta’s tree protection ordinance sets strict rules limiting the removal of trees, protecting trees during construction, and specifying when new trees must be planted. The ultimate goal of the ordinance is to prevent a net loss of trees in the city, and to protect “mature” trees.

In the City of Atlanta, the City Arborist makes decisions regarding day-to-day implementation of the ordinance, and those decisions may be appealed to the Tree Conservation Commission. In particular, a permit is required before any tree with a diameter larger than 6″ can be removed. In many cases, new trees must be planted to replace those that have been cut down. Ordinances will vary within different jurisdictions.

Where Can I find my local Tree Protection Ordinance?

Both cities and counties enforce Tree Protection Ordinances, so if you live within the limits of any city, you need to contact your city council members. If you live in an unincorporated portion of the county, you will need to contact your County Commissioners.

Cities of the metropolitan Atlanta area and their municipality websites:

Seven Good Reasons to support you local Tree Protection Ordinance

  1. It protects existing trees and older “specimen” trees, not just require replanting to “replace” trees that are cut down.
  2. It focuses on planning for tree save areas at the earliest stages of the development process, not as an unfeasible afterthought. A tree plan should be submitted at the same time as the development plant.
  3. It requires planting shade trees in parking lots and along streets where appropriate. Parking lots contribute greatly to the “heat island effect”, and should be planned with shade trees in the design to offset this problem. Street trees are also important, but large overstory trees, such as oaks and maples, should not be planted directly under power lines where they will not be allowed to achieve their shade or aesthetic potential.
  4. It protects trees from unnecessary damage during construction.
  5. It requires sufficient amounts of replanting when trees must be cut down.
  6. It requires that trees along public streets be pruned in a healthy and aesthetic manner.
  7. It sets the goal of no net loss of trees over time in a given area.