Roadside Tree Law

Trees along a snow covered road


  • Roadside Tree Permits
    (Must be printed and mailed with check)
    • Roadside Tree Project permits are issued for a specific tree or group of trees for specific tree care operations. This is the permit form to use if you do not have a Roadside Tree Blanket permit, for individual homeowners, or if your Roadside Tree Blanket permit does not authorize the desired work. Click here to obtain an application for a Roadside Tree Project Permit. Once completed, please mail to your local Department of Natural Resources Forest Service office for processing.
    • Roadside Tree Blanket permits are issued for comprehensive and continuing programs of general tree care such as those administered by State agencies, counties, municipalities, corporations, and public utilities. Click here to obtain an application for a Roadside Tree Blanket Permit.

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.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service protects trees along our public road rights-of way through enforcement of the Roadside Tree Law.

Before Trimming a Roadside Tree

Before a roadside tree is trimmed or cared for in any way, a Tree Care Permit must be obtained from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service. A roadside tree is any tree that grows all or in part within a public road right-of-way. A permit is also needed to plant a tree within the public road right-of-way.

Any work (including the removal of a tree having a permit) performed on a street tree must be done by a Licensed Tree Care Expert.

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

Why Permits are Necessary

Permits are a good tool that help to protect our street trees. Issuance of Tree Care Permits is important to ensure:

  • Only beneficial and necessary tree trimming, root cutting, fertilization, or other maintenance practices will be done and done correctly to roadside trees.
  • Tree hazards are documented and corrective action, including removal and replacement, is done in a timely and safe manner by trained professionals (Licensed Tree Experts).
  • The right tree (correct type) is planted in the right location, thereby avoiding future problems and conflicts with sidewalks, overhead and underground utilities, and sight distances.

Who Should Apply for a Permit?

If you believe a roadside tree is a hazard, or if you are replacing or maintaining community street trees as part of an overall plan, you should apply for a roadside tree permit before any tree care work is performed.

How to Apply for a Permit

A request must be made to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service office in the County where the tree exists. Request must include location (street address) of 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. If the roadside tree straddles two properties, both owners must sign the same application. The actual submittal (& fee) can be accomplished by an agent of the owner (ie: Licensed Tree Expert) at the owner's expense.

The Application Review Process

After the request has been received by the local 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, the application will be approved or denied by the Forest Ranger
  3. After the review is completed, the Ranger will leave with or mail to the applicant the application with review comments added.
  4. 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 proper Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service Regional Office with a check or money order (made payable to the Department of Natural Resources) in the amount of $25.00 for the permit.

Upon approval and receipt by the department of the signed application and fee, a permit will be issued and mailed to the applicant's address shown on the application. After the permit is issued, the applicant may proceed with the work. Permits are valid for one year from date of issuance. If work is not done within one year, a new inspection and permit is necessary.

The Department of Natural Resources is the permitting agency but does not perform the tree work. The department will notify the local jurisdiction that the permit has been issued. Local tree care involvement varies per town and county, and if customary, the county or municipal government will schedule the work to be done. Upon receipt of the permit, the homeowner may hire a Licensed Tree Expert to perform the work allowed per the permit.

The Appeal Process

If your application is denied and you wish to appeal, you must make a written request for a reevaluation of the application. This request must be made within 10 working days of notification of permit denial. The request must be in the form of a letter which clearly notes additional circumstances not previously known that warrant a reevaluation and be attached to the denied application. The request should be addressed to the Department of Natural Resources Project Manager, as shown on the application.

The Project Manager then will inspect the tree(s) and respond in writing to the applicant listed on the application.

About Tree Replacements

Permits issued for tree removal require replanting a tree(s) as a condition of approval unless otherwise noted. Tree planting is the responsibility of the applicant and must be completed within one year of removal. (Spring planting is recommended.)

  • The type of replacement tree(s) will be recommended by the Forest Ranger based on the location of other adjacent tree(s), width of the planting strip, proximity to utilities, character of the neighborhood, and any other pertinent site factors known. Tree types are chosen from the approved recommended tree list and are readily available from your local nursery.
  • Applicant must properly care for the tree(s) after installation.
  • Once a tree is planted in the right-of-way it becomes the property of the local, county, or state government, as established previously.

Roadside Trees and Utilities

Commonly Asked Questions

About the Roadside Tree Permit Process:

Q:Where should I send my permit application for processing?

A: Permit applications should be sent to the Department of Natural Resources Forest Service in the county where the work is being requested. For a listing of Department of Natural Resources Forest Services offices, please refer to: County Map

Q: Where will I find the Ranger's final determination?

A: After completing the on-site examination, the reviewing Ranger's remarks were added to the application that was returned to the applicant. See the application's section titled, "Response to Request."

Q: The Ranger has approved my application. What happens next?

A: The applicant must sign and return the approved application with the fee to the proper Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service Project Office. Once the approved and signed application and fee have been received, the department will issue a permit to the applicant.

Q: Who will do the tree care work?

A: There are a few options: 1) In some jurisdictions, a copy of the permit will be provided by the department to the local public agency so that the tree work will be added to their work roster and performed by that jurisdiction. The Department of Natural Resources does not perform the tree work or removals nor have any influence on the local jurisdiction's work schedule. Specific questions regarding a jurisdiction's schedule should be directed to that jurisdiction's public works office, not to the Department of Natural Resources. 2) Once the homeowner has received the permit, they may hire a qualified and Licensed Tree Expert (licensed by the Department of Natural Resources) to perform the approved tree care work. Before hiring a contractor, verification should be obtained to ensure that the selected contractor is licensed or that the license is current.

Resources available:

Contact Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service office for permits and permit questions.

Contact Person:
Marian Honeczy
Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service
580 Taylor Avenue
Tawes State Office Building, E-1
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
(410) 260-8511 Fax: (410) 260-8595
E-mail: Marian.Honeczy@Maryland.Gov