• Jake Kirkwood

When Do You Need a Permit to Remove a Tree in D.C.?

Updated: Aug 21

Tree removal is calculated on a case-by-case basis and is only performed if absolutely necessary. If you think your project will require tree removal, here are some general guidelines.


First, you will need to determine if the tree is on your property and ensure it is not a Public Space Tree.


Public Space Trees


A Public Space Tree is any tree that is located outside your property lines in the Public Space Right-of-Way (ROW) distribution.


What is the Public Space Right-of-Way distribution?


This ROW area includes parking (i.e. landscaped areas, front yards), sidewalks and roadways. Sometimes this area can be difficult to determine. Part of your yard that you maintain could be public space. That is why it is important to have us perform a survey in order to determine what can or can't be removed. See Figure 1 below for an example of a typical survey with a public space tree located in the ROW.


Figure 1: Typical Existing Conditions Plan (Row Dwelling)

For more information on the variety of Public Space Tree permits; visit Public Space Tree Permits.


If the tree in question is in fact on your property, then you will then need to determine if you need a permit based on the tree size.


Special Tree (DDOT Permit Required)


A Special Tree is defined as a tree that has a diameter of 14 to 32 inches, or a circumference of 44 to 99.9 inches. Special Trees require a permit for removal.


Figure 2: Special Tree (This tree has a 14-inch diameter)

In order to obtain a permit, a Tree Replacement fee, also known as the Tree Fund, will need to be paid. The cost of the Tree Fund permit fee is dependent on the circumference of the tree at "breast height", or 4.5 feet. This value is multiplied by $55.00 to obtain the full amount of the fee.

  • Example: The Special Tree in Figure 2 has a circumference of 44 inches measured 4.5 feet off of the ground. The cost of the Tree Fund permit fee would be 44 x $55 = $2,420.00.

For more information on Special Tree permits; visit DDOT Special Tree Permits.


Heritage Tree (Removal Only Under Special Circumstances)


The next category of trees that require a permit are Heritage Trees. A Heritage Tree is a tree that has a circumference of greater than or equal to 100 inches; or a diameter greater than 32 inches. These size trees are not allowed to be removed, unless an arborist determines the tree is hazardous to property and/or people. DDOT will need to confirm the arborist's findings before issuing a permit. If the tree is not hazardous to life or property or is not an exempt species, a permit will not be issued for removal.


Figure 3: Heritage Tree (Diameter > 32 inches)


Exempt Species


There are a few trees exempt from requiring a tree to be hazardous in order to be removed or requiring a Tree Fund fee to remove. Mulberry Trees, Norway Maple Trees and Ailanthus Trees are all species that are exempt from these specific permit requirements. However, a DDOT permit will still need to be obtained for removal. These species of trees apply to both Heritage Trees and Special Trees.

  • Acer Plantanoides (Norway Maple) Tree

  • Morus (Mulberry) Tree

  • Ailanthus Altissima (Tree of Heaven)


Concequences For Not Obtaining a Permit


If either a Heritage Tree or a Special Tree are taken down without a permit, there will be a fine of $300.00 per inch of circumference.


Example: If a tree that has a circumference of 105 inches is removed without a permit, the fine will cost a total of $300.00 x 105 = $31,500.00!



Have questions? Give us a call (202) 386-7375 or send us an email at info@demarr-engr.com.



This article is brought to you by DEMARR Engineering, PLLC, a Washington, DC Civil Engineering Firm. For a list of Civil Engineering and Land Surveying services we provide in Cardozo and the rest of Washington DC, visit https://www.demarrengineering.com/washington-dc or email us at info@demarr-engr.com for more information.


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