The City of Boston has been making great strides in urban forestry conservation over the past year. The latest development underlines the city’s resolve to enhance and protect its green spaces through a significant tree protection ordinance. Let’s dissect the context, the ordinance’s details, and its potential impact.

The Backstory

In the fall of 2022, Boston announced its 20-Year Urban Forest Plan (UFP), which offered a detailed analysis of the urban tree canopy across public and private land in the city. The UFP proposed a comprehensive set of recommendations aimed at preserving and expanding the urban tree canopy over the next two decades.

The Boston City Council and the City Environment Department have since been exploring various options to implement the UFP recommendations. This includes reinforcing the new Urban Forestry Division and promoting equitable workforce development in urban forestry through initiatives like Powercorps Boston. A notable development is the proposal for a tree protection ordinance that could have significant implications for both public and private trees in the city.

The 2023 Tree Protection Ordinance

The 2023 Ordinance Establishing Protections for the City of Boston Tree Canopy was filed by Boston City Councilors Arroyo and Braedon, along with the support of several fellow councilors. If implemented, this ordinance could fundamentally alter the way tree care and management are approached in Boston, impacting both private and public trees.

The ordinance outlines guidelines for the maintenance, removal, and replacement of trees, and calls for a permit to remove privately owned trees. It also proposes strict enforcement measures for trees removed without a permit. Additional provisions include establishing a Street Tree Stabilization Fund for the purchase, planting, and maintenance of trees and an Urban Forestry Committee to govern tree canopy in Boston.

Impact on Private Landowners and Developers

Although the initial draft tree protection ordinance encompasses both private and public trees, there have been suggestions to separate the ordinance, with public trees being dealt with first, followed by a separate ordinance for private trees. This strategic move can be viewed as an attempt to ensure the successful implementation of the ordinance without triggering unintended consequences.

Developers, private landowners, and local communities will play a pivotal role in enforcing the tree protection ordinance on privately owned land. It’s a move that recognizes the necessity for partnership and collective effort in preserving our urban forests.

Next Steps

A Better City, an organization committed to improving the economic health and quality of life in the Boston region, will monitor the progress of the draft tree protection ordinance. They also plan to host a working session involving City Councilors and Urban Forestry Division staff to discuss potential amendments to the ordinance.

The proposed tree protection ordinance underlines Boston’s commitment to urban forestry. By creating a blueprint for the preservation and expansion of tree canopies, the city is setting a strong precedent for environmental conservation and resilience against extreme heat. However, the success of this ordinance hinges on the cooperation of all stakeholders involved.

While we wait to see how this unfolds, the current focus on urban forestry could pave the way for new business opportunities for companies providing tree service in Boston, from tree maintenance to replacement and everything in between. This may be the perfect time for businesses to ramp up their services and align their practices with Boston’s green initiatives.

Want to know more?

For more information on Boston’s potential tree protection ordinance, please contact Isabella Gambill, the Assistant Director of Climate, Energy, & Resilience. Stay tuned to our blog for future updates on this and other relevant news on urban forestry in Boston.


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