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When Do I Need a Tree Permit?

Planting your very own tree is a very exciting time. However, during all of this excitement, we here at Mr. Tree, your local tree service, want to remind you of a very important aspect that may have to occur first and that you may have forgotten about.

Before you get to planting your tree, or if you decide you would like to have a tree removed or pruned, you need to first determine if you need a tree permit. You do not want to start work on your tree and then realize you do not have the proper authorization to do so.

When Do I Need a Tree Permit

It is important to note that these rules and regulations can vary from city to city, so please be sure to check your local government’s website as to whether or not you need a permit.

Street Trees

Is the street in front of your house looking a bit bare and you would like to spruce it up by planting a new tree? Go for it, but first, you will need to acquire a permit. In Portland, you cannot plant a street tree without acquiring the proper permission first. Despite this being the space in front of your house, it is technically city property and you will need permission before planting.

You can tell that a street tree is on city property if it is found in any city right-of-way. Additionally, a tree that is found straddling private property and the street is also considered a street tree.

If you would like to get rid of a large tree that is found in front of your property, but it is technically a street tree, you cannot just go outside and chop it down. You will need to acquire a permit first before taking any removal action. This is also true in for pruning; if the tree is overgrown, but instead of getting rid of it you would simply like it to be a bit smaller, you need to acquire a permit before pruning.

Furthermore, if you’re looking to do any other tree work such as cabling, bracing, or pesticide application on street trees, you will need to obtain a permit. This also applies if you would like to permanently attach (six or more months at a time) any sort of items to a street tree.

However, there are instances when you do not need a permit when dealing with street trees. If you are removing tree suckers or self-sown trees that are less than half an inch in diameter, you do not need a permit. Additionally, if you are looking to prune branches off a tree that are less than half an inch in diameter at the attachment of the branch, you do not need a permit. You also will not need a permit for root pruning if the roots are less than one-fourth of an inch in diameter at the attachment.

If you live in Portland, click here to get your respective permits.

Heritage Trees

It does not matter whether or not a heritage tree is found on private property or city property, any action requires a permit. As a reminder, heritage trees are large, individual trees that hold a unique value and earned this specific distinction based on size, aesthetic, rarity, age of the tree, or for historical context or additional ecological reasons.

If you are unsure as to whether a tree is a heritage tree, the Portland Parks and Recreation website has a lot of information, including a database that is a very beneficial tool. If you are still not entirely certain, please feel call your local tree service and they can assist as well. If you are in Portland, we are happy to help!

The first heritage tree is an American elm that was found on private property and earned the designation in 1973. If you have one of these on or right outside of your property, you will need to acquire permits before doing anything, even pruning.

Private Property

Things can get a bit tricky when it comes to talking about trees on private property. You may think that since it is your property, you can do whatever you like. However, this is not always the case, especially when it comes to removing trees.

If you are living on a property that has an active development permit, you are required to have a permit before removing a tree. This also applies to properties that are going to be developed or redeveloped in the near future.

Additionally, if the tree is 12 inches or greater in diameter at breast height, you need a permit before removing the tree.

There are also Overlay Zones and Plan Districts here in Portland, and if your property is within these areas, you need a permit before removing any trees. If you are not sure as to whether your property is found within one of these areas, double check by clicking here.

Finally, if you are looking to plant a tree on your own private property, there is no permit required. Go for it! In terms of the upkeep of private trees, you will not need a permit if you are planning on cabling, bracing, or applying pesticides to your tree. You may also permanently attach whatever you would like to the tree, without a permit.

When it comes to pruning your private tree, it depends. If you would like to root prune your tree, you do not need a permit. If you would like to fully prune your tree, you do not need a permit unless your tree is a native tree in certain Overlay Zones. This list can help determine if you are in those zones.

As we are a local tree service, we tailored the above to rules and regulations found in Portland. However, the rules vary from city to city so reach out if you have questions where you reside. In many instances, you will need a permit to make any changes to your trees, even when on private property. To be safe, always double check before taking action and if a permit is required, we can assist with this process.