Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a question on tree ordinances?  You are definitely not the only one! 

Below are some frequently asked questions on tree ordinances submitted by citizens, tree care managers and allied professionals. 

If you don’t see your question here, contact us to submit your question.  We’ll regularly post additional FAQs here, along with answers from experienced professionals that work in tree regulation here in Georgia.

How many communities in Georgia have a tree ordinance?

A study completed in 2006 showed that at least 143 communities in Georgia, including both cities and counties, have tree ordinances that address public property trees, private property trees, or both.

What is the recommended number of voting members for a tree board?

Tree boards normally have between 3 and 7 voting members, selected at-large, by voting district, or to represent specific constituent groups, with additional ex-officio (non-voting) members appointed from government staff and local agencies.  The number of voting members you appoint would depend on the selection criteria, the size of your community, and the level of interest in trees among your citizens and constituent groups. 

The number of ex-officio members you appoint does not necessarily need to be limited.  At a minimum, the city arborist or forester, planning and public works department staff, the local Georgia Forestry Commission forester or ranger and the Cooperative Extension agent should be invited to attend tree board meetings.  You may also wish to invite representatives from other government boards or commissions as ex-officio members to your tree board.

How many tree ordinances in Georgia establish a tree bank or tree fund for planting or payments in lieu of meeting tree density requirements?

Tree banks and tree funds are established by ordinance in more than 50 Georgia communities to provide alternatives to strict compliance with tree density and tree conservation requirements.  Click here for a list of communities in Georgia that utilize one or more methods of alternative compliance.

A tree bank allows for the planting of trees off-site to satisfy tree density requirements.  A tree fund allows for a payment in lieu of planting or conserving trees to meet tree density requirements.  In half of these communities, the term “tree bank” actually refers to a tree fund, and not to the practice of planting trees off-site.

Both tree banking and tree funds can provide significant relief and flexibility to a property developer in meeting tree density requirements.  Most communities limit the amount of tree density requirements that can be satisfied through these methods in an effort to maintain some tree density on a site.

Tree funds are a significant funding source for purchasing, planting and maintaining trees on public property.  In some communities tree fund monies are also utilized for landscaping, other community forestry activities or the cost of hiring a staff or city arborist.

How much tree canopy should my community have?

Most larger, urbanized communities strive for a tree canopy cover of at least 40 percent.  However, many Georgia communities have considerably more cover and amounts of 50 to 60 percent are common.  It is recommended that communities measure their tree canopy cover, and then set a goal of no net loss of tree canopy, as a minimum.  Many communities choose to set a goal for a higher amount.  Your community should set a tree canopy cover goal based on current data, community values, and public input.

For example, Athens-Clarke County currently has a tree canopy cover of 63 percent.  The city of Milton has a tree canopy cover of 49 percent.  The town of Winterville has a tree canopy cover of 56 percent.

What are the requirements for becoming a Tree City USA?

To be eligible for Tree City USA status, a community must meet four criteria:

  1. Establish a tree board.
  2. Develop a tree ordinance.
  3. Spend $2 per capita on tree care.
  4. Hold an annual Arbor Day Celebration.

For more information on the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program, and to see if your community is currently a Tree City, visit the Arbor Day Foundation website.

Bad Pruning Cuts
Poor quality pruning cuts with branch stubs remaining and torn bark at the locations of the cuts.  The adoption and enforcement of tree pruning standards in a tree ordinance can help to discourage poor quality pruning in your community, in addition to providing education on proper pruning techniques.