Tree Permits


Thinking about planting, trimming or removing a tree on your property? You might need a tree permit.

Trees are essential to Vancouver’s quality of life, and that’s why we prioritize the health of our urban forest by preserving tree canopy and protecting mature trees. The City of Vancouver differentiates trees into two types, and each has its own permitting process:

  1. Street trees
  2. Private trees

It takes a lifetime to grow a tree but only a minute to destroy one. Help protect and preserve your trees from unnecessary removal or destruction. The resources below can set you on a path to success for proper tree care.

Because Vancouver loves trees, failure to obtain a permit before starting work will result in a violation and monetary fines. Check for appropriate permits before removing any tree or performing any pruning or maintenance on a street tree.

Do I Need A Tree Permit?

Answer a few quick questions to find out whether you need a permit to prune or remove your tree: 

  1. Is the tree designated as a Heritage Tree?
  1. Is the tree located within a right-of-way?
  1. Is the tree located on a property larger than an acre?
  1. Is the tree located on a lot that can be subdivided, based on current zoning?
  1. Is the tree on or adjacent to a designated Critical Area or sensitive area buffer?
  1. Is the tree on a lot developed since 1996, and if so, was it planted as mitigation or retained as a condition for the building permit?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you need a permit.

Download a decision tree here: “Do I Need a Tree Permit?” fact sheet.

Urban Forestry Contact Information

Still have questions? Give us a call! We’d be glad to help.

Phone: 360-487-8332


Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed holidays

Best Practices

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.

Be sure to check for appropriate permits before starting work because failure to obtain a permit could cost you money! We assess fines for code violations because our urban canopy is a highly valuable community asset shared by all.

View frequently asked questions for more information and view a list of tree care companies with a street tree worker license.

How to apply for a Street Tree Permit

Street trees are defined as trees in which the trunk is wholly or partially located within the right-of-way. According to VMC 12.004, a permit is required for planting, major pruning and removal of street trees.

  1. Complete a Street Tree Work Permit Application online or print an application.
  2. Submit your application to Urban Forestry.
    • If you complete the application online, the form is automatically routed to Urban Forestry.
    • If you print and complete the application, you may submit it via postal mail or in person to the Permit Center at City Hall.
  3. Urban Forestry will review your application and inspect the tree if necessary. Permit application review may take up to 10 days to complete. We will contact you to let you know if your permit has been approved or denied.
  4. If your permit application is approved, your permit will be emailed to you by City staff. Do not begin any tree work until a permit has been issued. If your permit application is denied, City staff will reach out to you regarding next steps.

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 are a tree care provider interested in obtaining the license, please download the license application.

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.

Questions about pending or accepted street tree permits or current tree removal?

Contact Urban Forestry or call 360-487-8332.

How to apply for a Private Tree Removal Permit

Complete the Private Tree Removal and Replacement 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.

Also see Tree Requirements for Development Projects.

If the tree is on private property, a permit is required for removal in the following situations:

  1. 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.
  2. On undeveloped properties: A Level III, VI or VII tree removal permit is required, depending on proposed activity.
  3. On developing properties: A Level I, IV or a Level V permit is required for proposed developments.
  4. On properties zoned commercial, industrial or multi-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).
  5. 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.

Questions about private tree permits?

Contact Urban Forestry at 360-487-8332 or Community Development at 360-487-7800.

Regulation Information

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. This is why we require permits.

Your planning, conservation and replanting efforts will ensure that the quality of life and character of our neighborhoods are protected and preserved. Scroll down for proper tree management tips and tree care permits.

Interested in Getting Street Trees?

If you do not have street trees and would like to plant, contact Urban Forestry for a site inspection and view the list of street trees to plant. You can also check out our Treefund program or our partner program Friends of Trees.

Interested in Getting Yard Trees?

If you would like to plant yard tree see the list of yard trees to plant. Lean about reduced cost planting options through our Treefund programFriends of Trees, or Yard Tree Giveaway program.

Tree Benefits

Trees increase neighborhood livability by improving air and water quality, reducing stormwater runoff, reducing traffic speeds, providing shade, and providing wildlife habit. Trees also dramatically increase property values and help foster a sense of community. Vancouver’s Urban Forestry Program, part of the city’s Public Works Department, assists neighborhoods with tree planting projects, helps residents select the right trees to plant in the right places, provides education about proper tree care, and helps the community protect and grow the urban forest canopy.

Articles and Papers on the Environmental, Economic, and Social Benefits of Trees

In short, trees just make life more pleasant.

Vancouver’s vision for the future of urban forestry reflects the community’s deep-rooted desire to live in a healthy and vibrant community. The City is committed to managing its urban forests to preserve and enhance this valuable community resource for the good of the environment, the economy, and the health and well being of current residents and future generations.

However, the wrong tree in the wrong place can create more problems than it solves. It’s important to choose the location and species of your trees carefully, and to care for them correctly, so that they can provide the maximum benefits for the entire community. Visit the tree care and planting page for more information on this topic.

View the Healthy Trees, Healthy Watersheds poster, the Benefits of Trees poster, and the WA State Benefits of Trees infographic for more information on how urban trees improve air and water quality in our communities. Print these posters to hang at your home, work, classroom, or community space.