Tree Cutting Bylaws


Before you reach for the chainsaw to cut down an unsightly or bothersome tree, you may need to see if local bylaws restrict your right to cut down trees, even on your own property. At the municipal, county or even neighborhood level, ordinances and bylaws often restrict residents from cutting down trees. The laws are on the books for a number of reasons, from environmental conservation to historical preservation to safety or noise issues.

Large Tree Preservation

  • In some places, your right to ax a tree depends on its trunk circumference. In Toronto, for example, you cannot cut or otherwise injure any trees with a diameter of at least 12 inches (or 30 centimeters), measured from a point at least 4.5 feet or 1.4 meters above the ground. Despite growing on private property, these trees are considered part of Toronto's urban forest, and are protected by Toronto Urban Forestry department. In exceptional cases, you may acquire a permit to harm or remove these protected trees. In the town of Orleans, Massachusetts, similar bylaws protect larger trees in public areas. In order to cut any such trees, the tree warden must hold a public meeting with due warning and apply for a permit.

Scenic Locations

  • In the town of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, trees on private property may receive reprieves not due to their size, but due to their location. Any tree located along a designated "scenic road" cannot be altered. Hopkinton bylaws demand that any parties wishing to cut down trees on their property have a public hearing, during which time the planning board can consider whether the tree's location constitutes a scenic spot. The town's conservation commission or historical commissions may also designate roads as "scenic." Tewksbury, New Jersey, also regulates tree removal on scenic grounds. Individuals cannot remove trees from private property if they measure at least 6 inches in diameter and are situated within 20 feet of a designated scenic road. In addition, if the removal of a stand of trees, each measuring at least 12 inches in diameter, will negatively impact a neighborhood's physical appearance, Tewksbury ordinances expressly prohibit it.

Impact on Neighbors

  • In addition to its regulations against the removal of scenic trees, Tewksbury, New Jersey, forbids its citizens from cutting down any trees which, situated within 10 feet of a property line and measuring at least 8 inches in diameter, would compromise their neighbors' privacy if removed. In Portland, Oregon, you cannot receive a tree-cutting permit if the tree removal will compromise the property values or aesthetics of the neighborhood.

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