GM writes a lot about street trees and what you can do to help them stay alive, and, moreover, what you shouldn’t do, like prune them yourself. You might be led to conclude that if a tree is on your property, you can do whatever you like. But that is simply not true. The city has strict regulations about how you can prune or take down a tree on your property. And a resident just flagrantly violated those rules and will likely face a hefty fine as a result.
The rules are fairly complicated, but roughly speaking: if you have a decent sized tree on your property you cannot cut it down or dramatically prune it without either getting an arborist to certify that it’s dying or paying a fairly large fee. The rules have been around for a while, but they were updated last year by Council legislation. Here are the rules in more detail:
In the District of Columbia, there are two designations for very large trees: Special and Heritage. It is illegal to remove trees in either of these designations without a permit.Special Trees are between 44″ and 99.9″ in circumference. A permit to remove a Special Tree can be obtained without cost if the tree is declared by a certified arborist to be dead, dying, or dangerous to person or property. Otherwise, the cost of a permit is no less than $55 per inch of circumference. If a Special Tree is removed without a permit, the fine is no less than $300 per inch of circumference.Heritage Trees are 100″ and above in circumference. Permit to remove a Heritage Tree can be obtained only if the tree is declared by the Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) to be dead, dying or dangerous to person or property. The penalty for removal without a permit is no less than $300 per inch of circumference (a minimum fine of $30,000!) However, a Heritage Tree can be transplanted within the District of Columbia but must live at least 3 years after transplanting, with a fine of no less than $300 per inch of circumference.if the tree dies. One can build around a Heritage Tree with a Tree Save Plan, approved by UFA, but if the tree dies within 3 years, the fine is no less than $300 per inch of circumstances.If a Special or Heritage Tree is topped (unacceptable act of tree pruning resulting in the indiscriminate reduction of the tree’s crown leading to disfigurement or death of a tree), the fine is no less than $300 per inch of circumference.