Navigating DC’s special tree removal laws and regulations can be difficult as a homeowner. We’ve put together the information below (taken from the District Department of Transportation) in order to help you through the tree removal process in DC.
The information below refers to trees on private property. If you are interested in the process of removing a DC street tree please see DC’s Department of Transportation website.
Urban Forest Preservation Act (2002 & 2016 Update) States:
- A special permit is required for the removal of all Special Trees (trees between 44” and 99.9” in circumference).
- If the tree is healthy and is not an exempt species, Special Tree Permits require planting replacement saplings or paying a replacement fee to the DC Tree Fund. (See Issuance of Special Tree Removal Permits)
- Trees greater than 100” in circumference are considered Heritage Trees and cannot be removed unless hazardous.
- Special Tree Fines: Failure to obtain a Special Tree permit or failure to comply with the permit’s conditions comes with a fine of $300 per inch of circumference of the tree(s) in question.
As a company we can help you through the application process for a DC Special Tree Removal Permit; however, we have no say in the decision to grant the permit and ultimately the responsibility for obtaining the permit lies with the homeowner. We will not perform tree removals that do not comply with the Urban Forest Preservation Act regulations.
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Goals of Special Tree Removal Permits:
The goal of this regulation, as stated by the District Department of Transportation, is to provide environmental benefits to the city including:
- Mitigating the heat island effect.
- Reducing energy used.
- Improving air quality.
- Reducing water pollution.
- Maintaining quieter and more beautiful neighborhood.
Issuance of Special Tree Removal Permits:
One of the requirements below must be met in order to receive a special tree permit.
- An International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist must declare that the tree is hazardous.
- The property owner declares on the permit application to:
(a) Plant saplings whose aggregated circumference are equal to or exceeds the circumference of the trees being removed.
(b) Pay the DC Tree Fund a replacement fee of $55 per inch (of the circumference) for each tree being removed.
(c) Perform a combination of a & b.
- Your tree is an exempt species. Exempt species include Acer platanoides (Norway maple), Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven), and Morus (Mulberry). Exempt species still require you to obtain a Special Tree Removal Permit but they are exempt from meeting the conditions outlined in #1 & #2.
How to Obtain a Permit:
- Obtain an application online, by email, or at the Public Space Permits Office.
- Hire an ISA-certified arborist to inspect the tree, complete a report and make a recommendation.
- Submit completed application to Public Space Permits Office.
- You will be notified of the decision by phone or email.
- If approved, you can obtain the permit from the Public Space Permits Office
The original Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002 defined special trees as any tree with a circumference of 55. The replacement fee was $35 per inch of the circumference and the fine for not complying with the regulations was $100 per inch of circumference.
The 2016 Amendment to the Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002 decreased the size of a special tree to between 44” and 99.9” circumference, defined trees with a circumference of 100 inches or more as a Heritage Tree, and increased the noncompliance fine to $300 per inch of circumference.
Book a meeting with our arborists online or call 703.573.3029 for a special tree removal consultation.