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Tree Laws and Programs

Image facing Tree Canopy




The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is largely guided by the Forest Preservation Strategy (2000) and the more recent Forest Preservation Strategy Update (2004). These documents outline goals for improving and increasing forested areas, tree canopy, and street trees, as well as actions that the County will take to meet goals over time.



The goals of the Forest Preservation Strategy are to:

  • Increase the amount of reforested and protected riparian forest in the County. Riparian forests are wooded areas associated with streams or waterways. These forests have a certain species composition and wildlife community associated with them. 

  • Increase the amount of protected upland forest in the County. Upland forests are wooded areas associated with well-drained soils usually found at the tops of hills or areas well above ground-water levels.

  • Improve the urban street tree maintenance program to meet state law and national standards. Urban street trees are trees that are maintained by the Montgomery County Department of Public Works.

  • Increase the amount of urban and suburban forests and canopy cover on private properties in the County. Of the forested land in Montgomery County, 64 percent is in private ownership.

  • Ensure the long-term health and protection of forested areas on public land. In Montgomery County, most publicly owned land is readily accessible. For example, the stream-valley park system crosses all types of land use and has miles of trails and many areas for parking. These public lands are subject to stresses from intensive recreational use, disturbance to riparian buffers, soil compaction, damage from deer browsing, and invasion from nonnative pest species.

In addition, the Strategy adopted the tree canopy coverage goals for urban areas nationwide established by American Forests. The goals are expressed as a percentage of land area in different urban land use classes, such as suburban residential, urban residential, and central business district.


Montgomery County Forest Conservation Law

Originally enacted in 1992, the Forest Conservation Law aims to save, maintain, and plant forested areas for the benefit of County residents and future generations. The Forest Conservation Law is implemented by the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC).

Image of Osage OrangeThe purpose of the law is to:

  • Establish procedures, standards, and requirements to minimize tree loss as a result of development, and to protect trees and forests during and after construction or other land-disturbing activities

  • Establish procedures, standards, and requirements for afforestation and reforestation of land, subject to an application for development approval or a sediment control permit

  • Establish a fund for future tree conservation projects, including afforestation and reforestation

  • Provide a focused and coordinated approach for County forest conservation activities.


Visit the  Forest Conservation Law on M-NCPPC's Web site to find out whether Forest Conservation provisions apply to you and to learn what you'll need to do to comply with the law.


Roadside Tree Law

The Roadside Tree Law seeks to conserve trees in the County’s right-of-ways. Currently, property owners who want to cut down or trim a roadside tree for any reason must obtain a tree permit from the State. The Roadside Tree Law requires property owners also to obtain a County right-of-way permit. In addition, the bill requires a permittee who removes a roadside tree to plant another tree at or near the site and pay into a dedicated tree replacement fund. The replacement fund will be administered by the County’s Department of Transportation that will use the funds to plant two additional trees in a right-of-way for every tree removed.

Read the Roadside Tree Law (PDF, 996KB)

Visit the Department of Permitting Services to obtain a County right-of-way permit


County Street Tree Planting Program

An important part of the County's Forest and Trees Strategy is the Street Tree Planting Program administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Street trees are those growing within public rights-of-way, or adjacent to streets and roads. The benefits of trees range from cooler summertime temperatures and to calmer traffic to cleaner air and water. Urban trees also provide habitat for wildlife. The County is responsible for maintaining all trees within the rights-of-way.

Image of County Street Trees



Since spring 2003, DEP has been targeting street tree plantings to achieve multiple environmental objectives, such as:

  • Reducing peak storm water flows

  • Cleaning storm water runoff

  • Removing air pollutants

  • Reducing urban temperature impacts

  • Reducing energy needs and costs of heating and cooling




Street trees are being planted in communities where satellite imagery has detected low tree canopy coverage. The emphasis is on planting in communities located within priority watersheds for water and air quality protection, as identified through the County Implementation Strategy.

Street trees are planted every spring and fall in public rights-of-way and medians throughout the County. To request a new street tree or maintenance of an existing street tree, call 311.


Trees and the Law - Neighbor-related Disputes

If you feel that your neighbor has a tree that is hazardous to your property, contact the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Some of the resources available on their site include:

  • Housing Code Enforcement Resources

  • Code Enforcement Handbook

  • Frequently Asked Questions

If you wish to file a complaint, use the online complaint form or call 311.


Tree Canopy Law

On July 30th 2013, County Executive Isiah Leggett signed the Tree Canopy Bill into law. It took effect on March 1st, 2014. This law will establish new trees across the County to help ensure a better future for the County's residents and environment.  If you have additional questions about the Tree Canopy Law, email

Read the full Tree Canopy Conservation Law (PDF, 73KB)

Looking for information about the Roadside Tree Law?  Visit the Department of Permitting Services.

Annual Reports

Frequently Asked Questions About the Tree Canopy Law

What is the Tree Canopy Law?

The Tree Canopy Law requires property owners to plant new trees during development. Planting trees helps offset the impacts of development on the natural environment.


Does removing a tree on my property count as development?

Development is when a property owner is required to get a sediment control permit in order to complete the work they are planning for their property. When development on a property is enough to require a sediment control permit, then the property owner has to abide by the Tree Canopy Law. Most small tree projects on residential properties, like removing one or two trees, or trimming trees, do not require sediment control permits, and therefore, are not a part of this law.


What activities require a sediment control permit and need to follow the Tree Canopy Law?

A sediment control permit is required, and therefore, the Tree Canopy Law applies, to any activity that:

  • disturbs more than 5,000 square feet of land including cutting trees;

  • any new primary residential or commercial building; or

  • 100 cubic yards or more of earth movement on or off the property.

These requirements were not changed by the Tree Canopy Law.


Am I required to plant trees if I want to: remove a hazardous trees, build a swimming pool, build a deck, garden or playground?

No. Unless a sediment control permit is required, you are not bound by this law. The Tree Canopy Law does not apply when hazardous trees are removed, or to build most decks or gardens. However, many swimming pools do require a sediment control permit and would be included in the law.


Image of Tree in Residential Zone

Why do we need to replace the trees?

Trees contribute to the economic and social vitality of every community. They clean the air and water, reduce the cost of cooling and heating homes and businesses, increase biodiversity and increase our general sense of well-being. There are a wide array of benefits from trees and tree canopy.


If I can’t, or simply don’t want to plant the trees, what is the fee for each tree?

The Tree Canopy Law sets the fee at the current rate set by the Department of Permitting Services for bonding a tree in the right-of-way. As of September 2013, the rate is $250.00 per tree.


How will the fees be used to plant trees? 

Fees collected from the Tree Canopy Law will be used to establish new trees as close to the disturbed area as possible. The Tree Canopy Law limits the use of the fees to only planting trees. County staff cannot be hired with the funds nor can other tree budgets be supplanted by these funds. The intention is to add to existing resources. Look for more information in spring 2014! 


What about farm land? Will farmers have to pay fees?

No, most agricultural activities do not require a sediment control permit and therefore, the Tree Canopy Law does not apply. A few activities on farms, such as building a new house, do require a sediment control permit and are subject to the Tree Canopy Law.


Where do you get a sediment control permit?

Sediment control permits are processed through the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services. The Tree Canopy Law will be handled along with the sediment control permit.


How is the Tree Canopy Law different from the Forest Conservation Law?

The Forest Conservation Law (FCL) generally applies to properties over 40,000 square feet when a sediment control permit is required or when subdivision occurs. Both laws require mitigation for disturbance to environmental resources but they apply to different types of activities. The Tree Canopy Law does not apply to any activity that requires mitigation under the Forest Conservation Law (FCL). Some activities are exempt from mitigation under the FCL. In this case, both laws apply but mitigation is only required under the Tree Canopy Law.


State Laws and Programs


Roadside Tree Law

The Roadside Tree Law, enacted in 1914, requires a permit for planting, removing, pruning, or any activity that may harm a tree in the right-of-way. Download a permit application and then contact our local MD DNR Forest Service office at (301) 854-6060 for guidance on submitting your application.

If you have a roadside tree adjacent to your property that needs maintenance, please contact County Department of Transportation (DOT) at 311. If you would like to have a roadside tree planted adjacent to your property, you may make a request to the DOT at 311.

Image of Roadside Tree's

Maryland Forest Conservation Act

The Forest Conservation Act is a state law, enacted in 1991, which requires that any person making application for a subdivision, grading permit or sediment control plan on a tract of 40,000 square feet or more must submit a Forest Stand Delineation (FSD) and a Forest Conservation Plan (FCP).

For a complete list of Maryland laws pertaining to trees and forests, visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources page.


TREE-Mendous Maryland

Image of Tree Nursery


The State of Maryland's TREE-Mendous Maryland program makes high-quality native trees and shrubs available at reasonable prices for public land planting. The trees may be planted in places such as community open spaces, school grounds, government facilities, and rights-of-way. They may not be planted at private residences. Plan your orders in advance for fall plantings. Fall is the BEST time to plant trees!

Download an order form for TREE-mendous trees.

Learn more about the planting and care for trees.




Questions about TREE-Mendous Maryland? Email


Forest Conservation Advisory Committee

The Forest Conservation Advisory Committee (FCAC), with its 22 voting members, represents the public, various County departments, the County Planning Board, and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in advising the Executive, Council, Planning Board, and other relevant agencies on forestry policy issues, laws, and guidelines.

The Committee also has a number of duties. It must:

  • Recommend a comprehensive approach to urban forestry

  • Advise on a tree inventory

  • Review and comment on policies and programs related to forestry

  • Promote and seek funding for a sustained forestry program

  • Promote and foster a strong sense of community through urban forestry

  • Communicate with other boards, agencies, and community residents about forestry issues

  • Promote volunteerism

  • Act as a general information resource

Members serve 3-year terms without compensation but are eligible for reimbursement for travel and dependent care for the meetings they attend. Meetings are held at the call of the Chair but not less than nine times per year.

To learn more about the FCAC, read the enabling legislation (PDF, 25KB)



All FCAC meetings are open to the public. They are held in the DEP conference room at 255 Rockville Pike, Suite 120, Rockville, Maryland 20850. Meetings are scheduled from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

2016 Meeting Schedule

January 19
February 16
March 15
April 19
May 17
June 21
July 19
August – No scheduled meeting
September 20
October 18
November 15
December – No scheduled meeting

2015 Meeting Minutes

2014 Meeting Minutes

2013 Meeting Minutes

2012 Meeting Minutes


2011 Meeting Minutes 


2010 Meeting Minutes 



Documents Developed by this Committee:


Useful Links