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Is it illegal to cut down an oak tree?
Oak trees are one of the most common species in North America and as such have laws that control whether they can be removed from residential properties or not.
It is not illegal to cut down an oak tree, just as long as it is not protected in your city. If your Oak tree is smaller then local rules for tree removal, then you should be OK to remove it without a permit.
If it is larger and considered protected, you will need to apply for a permit.
Let me explain…
Every city in the US have tree protection laws which oak trees fall under. They do not have their own separate set of laws.
Laws vary from city to city, so you will need to read the Tree Removal Ordinance for your particular city to see whether your oak tree is protected.
Protection laws normally only apply to medium to large specimens, but again you will need to double check to be sure.
Below is some more specific information for oak tree protection laws generally, and for California and Florida.
Are Oak trees a protected species?
Oak trees are specifically protected by name in some cities California and Florida (e.g. Los Angles), but in most cases fall under to the general tree protection laws as outlined by each cities tree ordinance.
If your city allows the removal of all trees smaller than trunk diameter 8” and your Oak tree is smaller, then you are able to remove it without a permit.
If it is larger than 8” then you will need to apply to the city for a permit to remove the tree.
Florida and California Oak tree laws
California Oak tree laws
Removal of Oak trees from private property in California does not require a special permit unless the tree is a protected species. What trees are protected?
To answer that you would need to read the specific tree ordinance for your city.
Laws on the removal of all trees including Oak trees vary and one rule in Los Angles will be different to rules in San Diago.
To view the tree protection laws for your city visit our tree laws and permit page here. Select your state, then city to be directed to the ordinance.
If you do happen to remove a native tree like oak tree and they are protected in your city, you could face heft fines.
Florida Oak Tree Laws
If you live in Florida, you will need to think twice before you remove or trim trees. All cities and counties have strict laws that regulate the pruning and removal of trees.
I would love to just lay out the specific laws here, but the issue is they varies from one county/ city to the next, so you will need to check the tree laws for your city.
If you are still unsure after reading the tree ordinance for your city or county, I suggest that before you remove a tree, contact your city hall or local certified arborist and ask them directly. Local arborist should know all the laws for each county off the top of their head so they will soon tell you if you need a permit.
General Tree protection Laws
Tree removal and pruning laws have been established in all cities to preserve and maintain the canopy cover and all the benefits it brings to a city. Most of these laws are city specific, but some such as noxious weed removal laws are more general to states.
The retention of trees in cities and the planting of trees on new developments significantly improves the quality of life of the people who live there.
Not only do trees reduce temperatures in summer, and clean the air, but numerous studies have found trees lower stress levels and provide habitat for native birds who’s singing further reduces stress.
If you do have an oak tree on your property that is protected by city or state removal laws, you will need to make an application for a permit to remove the tree.
The process generally takes about 2 week from filling out the form to having the permit in your hand.
One critical factor for gaining approval to remove your oak tree is the reason you give for why you want to remove the tree.
“It’s dropping too many acorns” is not a good enough excuse to get approval.
The tree would need to be unsafe, unhealthy or causing damage to the foundations of your home.
Go to this article for more information on how to win approval from council for tree removal.
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