Getting Started

Whether your community is considering developing their first tree ordinance, or already has an ordinance in place and wants to improve it, the following 10 basic steps will guide you through the building process.


  1. Appoint a tree ordinance development coordinator
  2. Build a tree ordinance working group
  3. Educate, inform, and gather input
  4. Assess current conditions
  5. Identify community forest issues
  6. Define a community forest vision and set goals
  7. Build your tree ordinance framework
  8. Draft, review and revise your tree ordinance
  9. Adopt and implement your tree ordinance
  10. Maintain your tree ordinance

Designing and building an effective tree ordinance is time consuming and typically takes at least 1 year from initiation to adoption.  Depending on community policies, procedures, current workload and level of enthusiasm, the development timeframe can be shorter or longer.  You should take all the time you need to create a tree ordinance that is focused, complete and effective in achieving community forest goals.

It should take a minimum of 3 to 6 months to establish your working group, assess current conditions, identify tree management issues, define community forest goals and create your vision (Steps 1 through 6). 

The processes of educating and informing staff, elected officials and the public and gathering their input should be frequent and ongoing throughout the entire process.  Throughout tree ordinance development maintain public awareness of tree issues, tree benefits and values, proper tree care and progress on the tree ordinance development project.

Writing your ordinance, distributing it for review, revising to incorporate input received from public officials, staff, the working group and the public will take another 3 to 6 months (Steps 7 through 9).  When the drafting process is complete, the ordinance should be ready for presentation to government officials, with adoption and implementation to follow.  Don’t be discouraged if your tree ordinance development process takes more than a year, as long as you are continuing to make progress toward adoption.

You can plan on your “final” ordinance, after it is adopted and implemented, needing some fine tuning.  Step 10 in this process is to review, periodically or as needed, the ordinance to identify areas of improvement.  You may need to reconvene your working group to provide guidance on significant changes to the regulations.