Tree Preservation Ordinance

In November, 2002, the Arlington County Board approved a Tree Preservation Ordinance, Chapter 67 (Trees and Shrubs). The Tree Preservation Ordinance focuses on two main areas: 1) the protection of trees on County property (or public vehicular and pedestrian easements maintained by the County), and 2) establishing a mechanism for designating Heritage, Memorial, Specimen and Street Trees on both public and private property, which may result in special protection status. The recommended designation of nine publicly owned trees and one privately owned tree as “Specimen Trees” under this ordinance will provide special protection for these trees. The nine publicly owned trees were nominated for designation by Arlington’s Urban Forestry Commission. The privately owned tree was nominated for designation by the owners of the property where the tree is located.

The Tree Preservation Ordinance stipulates that no designated trees shall be removed or damaged in any way unless the County Board determines that: (a) there is an overriding need for public improvements; or (b) a severe hardship exists for reasonable use of a site. Should the County Board determine to permit such treatment, the Board may require that the tree be replaced with a similar tree or trees to approximate the canopy lost, and must issue a writing specifying the action permitted, the tree and its location, and the findings justifying the permission. However, nothing shall prevent the County Manager from permitting the removal of a tree in the event that the Urban Forester determines that the tree is dead, has become irreversibly diseased or irreversibly damaged by natural causes, or presents a hazard to the public.

Any person or entity who violates Arlington’s Tree Preservation Ordinance by causing, contributing to, or permitting injury to or removal or destruction of a Heritage, Memorial, Specimen, or Street Tree shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500 for each violation.

Arlington’s Tree Preservation Ordinance also states that the provisions governing the preservation of designated Heritage, Memorial, Specimen and Street Trees “shall not apply (a) to work conducted on Federal or State property; (b) to emergency work to protect life, limb or property; (c) to routine installation, maintenance and repair of cable and wires used to provide cable television, electric, gas or telephone service; (d) to activities with minor effects on trees, including but not limited to home gardening and landscaping of individual homes; and (e) to commercial silvicultural or horticultural activities, including but not limited to planting, managing, or harvesting forest or tree crops”.

View the Ordinance here:

Tree & Shrub Ordinance