The Value of Municipal Tree Ordinances
What exactly is a municipal tree ordinance and why is it important to a town?
More and more municipalities across the nation are starting to recognize the vital benefits that trees lend to a community. From an environmental perspective, trees are key elements in support of thriving ecosystems. Healthy trees help keep the air clean, protect soil from eroding, inhibit flooding, and provide homes to wildlife and a source of food to sustain that habitat. Moreover, tree canopies provide energy-saving shade for homes and splash vibrant seasonal colors throughout the year enhancing the beauty of parks, homes, trails, schools, and athletic fields. Some species are even woven into the historical tapestry of a town. Whether on private or public property, collectively, trees enhance a community’s image, property values, and overall quality of life.
Municipalities have begun to understand that like any other critical natural resource, trees need protection. The tool for providing that protection is a municipal tree ordinance.
That said -- close your eyes a moment and picture all the trees within a municipality not as separate, isolated landscaping on public or private properties, but as part of one community forest. A tree ordinance helps a town maintain a healthy community forest to continue to reap the benefits discussed above. As part of a municipality’s forestry management plan, tree ordinances provide the authorization and standards for planting, replacement, trimming, and removal when a tree is not healthy. Perhaps most important of all, a tree ordinance protects healthy trees from being removed from a site by a developer or property owner without the knowledge, consent, and permission of, and guidance from, the municipality. Through this ordinance, the public has access to the regulations that help protect their community forest and to municipal subject matter experts who may be able to suggest viable alternatives to achieve the developer or property owner’s goals, while protecting thriving trees and forested areas.
Tree ordinances usually generate fees that are used to maintain trees on municipally owned land and right-of-ways. A portion of these monies can also be used for education and outreach regarding the importance of trees, such as Arbor Day tree planting programs for school children and free tree giveaway programs to assist residents in growing their town’s community forest and witnessing the benefits that trees provide firsthand.
Hanover Township has incorporated many of the features highlighted above in two sections of the Township’s Code that establish our tree regulations. Read these regulations in full and review our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about those requirements below: