There are two kinds of permits required for trees in the City of Vancouver: one for street trees and one for private trees. Failure to obtain a permit before starting work will result in a violation and monetary fines, so check for appropriate permits before removing any tree or pruning any street tree.
If you wish to remove a tree or perform major pruning on a street tree, check if any permits are required before doing any work.
Do I Need A Tree Permit?
The trees and natural features of our city help to define the character of Vancouver. Vancouver's urban forest is also an integral part of the physical infrastructure of our city, as are streets, residential neighborhoods, parks and stream corridors.
View the "Do I Need a Tree Permit?" fact sheet.
To maintain a healthy urban forest and quality of life in Vancouver, the City of Vancouver enforces Street Tree and Tree Conservation Municipal Codes. Because it only takes a minute to improperly prune or remove a tree but a lifetime to grow one, it is imperative to protect and preserve mature trees from unnecessary removal or destruction.
The benefits of mature trees outweigh the total cost of their care over thirty years. Trees provide innumerable environmental, social and economic benefits to all of us. These benefits include: a sense of community, a more pleasant environment, improved water and air quality, enhanced wildlife habitat, and many others. These benefits are maximized when the trees are mature. A healthy urban forest is essential to maintaining a healthy community and functioning ecosystems. A balance between current growth and the conservation of natural resources for future generations is necessary to protect the vital resource that is the urban forest.
The goal of Vancouver's Urban Forestry Program is to manage our tree canopy in a holistic manner to provide equal benefits to all residents. Vancouver Municipal Codes ensure that the pressures of urban growth do not unnecessarily diminish our tree canopy.
For all tree work, hire a qualified tree care provider (ISA-certified arborist) to ensure proper care of your valuable assets, to minimize future maintenance needs and costs, and to reduce hazards.
According to VMC 12.004, a permit is required for planting, major pruning and removal of street trees. Street trees are defined as trees in which the trunk is wholly or partially located within the right-of-way.
Street Tree Permit Application Process
Step One: Complete a Street Tree Work Permit Application online or download the pdf.
Step Two: Submit your application to Urban Forestry. If you complete the online application, the form will be submitted to Urban Forestry upon completion. If you print off and complete the application, you may submit via fax, postal mail, or hand delivery. Street Tree Work Permit applications are NOT accepted at the Development Review Services Permit Counter.
Step Three: Urban Forestry will review your application and inspect the tree if necessary. Permit application review may take up to one week to complete. We will contact you to let you know if your permit has been approved or denied.
Step Four: If your permit application is approved, you may pay for and pick up your permit at the Development Review Services Permit Counter. Do not begin any tree work until a permit has been issued.
A Street Tree Worker License is required to perform major pruning on street trees. View the list of companies possessing a current valid Street Tree Worker License
If you do not have street trees and would like to plant some, contact Urban Forestry for a site inspection and list of appropriate trees to plant.
The Street Tree Manual is an educational document that includes tree care standards, best management practices, and lists of both prohibited and approved tree species.
Contact Urban Forestry at (360) 487-8328 for information about street tree permits.
Tree care providers:
A Street Tree Worker license is required to perform major pruning on street trees. Click here to download the License application.
Permit Application for tree removals on private property.
According to VMC 20.770, a permit is required for removing private trees in certain situations. A permit is not required for pruning private trees.
If the tree is on private property, a permit is required for removal in the following situations:
- On developed, single-family residential properties: either a Level I permit (for site disturbance or building) or a Level III permit (for nuisance or hazard trees) may be required, depending on when the lot was developed, the size of the lot, and the underlying zoning.
To determine if a permit is required for tree removal on your single family lot, refer to the flowchart on page two of the "Do I Need a Tree Permit?" fact sheet.
- On undeveloped properties: a Level III, VI or VII tree removal permit is required depending on proposed activity. (An undeveloped property is defined as a parcel with no buildings or structures on site now and no development planned for at least six more years.
- On developing properties: a Level IV or a Level V permit is required for proposed developments.
- On properties zoned commercial, industrial, or multiple-family: a tree removal permit is required, even for nuisance and hazard trees. A level II permit is required for building additions or site disturbance; a Level III permit is required for nuisance and hazard trees (non-development related removals).
- On properties containing or adjacent to sensitive areas: a Critical Areas permit is required for any proposed tree removal which occurs in or near a designated sensitive area, such as a wetland, stream corridor, priority habitat, steep slope or any associated sensitive area buffers. Please contact Community Development at (360) 487-7800 or refer to VMC 20.740 for additional information about Critical Areas permits before beginning any work.
You may submit your completed private tree permit application to the Development Review Services Permit Counter via postal mail or hand delivery. Private Tree Work Permit applications are NOT accepted at Urban Forestry. Mail completed applications to Permit Counter PO Box 1995 Vancouver, WA 98668. For hand delivery, drop off at the Permit Counter at City Hall, 415 W 6th St Vancouver, WA 98668.
For more information on private tree permits, contact Urban Forestry at (360) 487-8328 or Community Development at (360) 487-7800.
Your planning, conservation and replanting efforts will ensure that the quality of life and character of our neighborhoods are protected and preserved. You can assist the Urban Forestry Program by supporting and participating in community forestry activities such as a tree planting, properly caring for trees, and remembering to check for appropriate permits before pruning or removing a tree. Help us make Vancouver a community that grows with trees!