Maryland's Roadside Tree Law Summary

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Passed in 1914, this law and its regulations were developed to protect our roadside trees by ensuring their proper care and protection and to ensure their compatibility with an efficient and dependable public utility system.

Millions of trees grow along the more than 30,000 miles of improved roads in Maryland. The trees growing along our roadways and in our communities are an important urban and community resource. They provide aesthetic, environmental, economic and social benefits.

Maryland DNR Forest Service protects trees along our public road right-of-way through enforcement of the Roadside Tree Law.

Trimming or Removing a Roadside Tree

A roadside tree is any tree that grows all or in part within a public right-of-way. Before a roadside tree is removed, trimmed, or cared for a Tree Care Permit must be obtained from the Maryland DNR Forest Service. A permit also is required when underground construction such as tunneling, trenching, or boring impact the root zone of a roadside tree. A permit is also needed to plant a tree within the public road right-of-way.

Roadside Tree Law Permit Application (DOC, 348 kb)

Any work (except the removal of a tree included under a permit) performed on a street tree for compensation must be done by a Roadside Tree Care Expert (employed by a public agency) or a Licensed Tree Care Expert.

When Tree care is performed on a roadside tree without a permit, a fine may be assessed and more severe actions taken by Department of Natural Resources.

How to Apply for a Permit

A request must be made to the Maryland DNR Forest Service office in the DNR County/Region where the tree exists. The request must include location (a street address) of a tree or grouped trees, adjacent property owner(s) name and address, the type of tree care requested and why.

If the request is approved, the permit procedure requires that the property owner who has a roadside tree (within the public road right-of-way) in front of his/her property signs the application. The actual submittal (& a fee) can be handled by an agent of the owner (i.e. Licensed Tree Expert) at the owner's expense.

The Application Review Process

After the request has been received by the local DNR Project Office, the review process will be as follows:

1. A Forest Ranger will complete an on-site examination of the tree(s) to determine if the proposed tree care is necessary and/or to approve, modify, or deny the application as appropriate.

2. Per on-site observations, recommendations are added to the application, which is the provided to the applicant.

3. If the application is denied, comments explaining the decision and giving alternatives are added to the returned application.

If the application is approved, the property owner)s) must sign the application and return it to the Maryland DNR Forest Service office address shown on application.

Upon approval and receipt by DNR of the signed application and fee, a permit will be issued and mailed to the applicant's address shown on the application.