Can I cut down a tree on my property?

Can I cut down a tree on my property?

Everything you need to know about cutting down a tree on your property. 

It depends! Most cities have tree preservation bylaws in place to protect some tree species and developing trees. Generally speaking you will need a permit to take down a protected tree and to be approved you’ll need to meet specific criteria. 

If a tree on your property is not protected by the city. It is always advisable to consult with a certified arborist to determine whether tree removal is actually necessary. There could be other ways to save your tree using techniques like pruning, cabling and bracing. 

Let’s explore some more of the questions around removing a tree on your property. 

Can I remove a tree from my property?

For the most part you’ll need a permit to remove a tree on your property, as most Greater Victoria region city bylaws are in favour of preservation where possible. 

If you want to take down a tree there are a number of factors that come into play like; the size of the tree, proximity to your home, it’s condition, and whether it’s deemed hazardous.

First, find out who you need to contact. The City of Victoria, Districts of Saanich and Langford etc, all have a separate set of regulations and application process. Let’s start with the City of Victoria. 

The Victoria Tree Protection bylaws

The purpose of the Tree Protection Bylaw is to provide for the protection and preservation of trees on private property, including those that are undergoing development. If you would like to prune, remove, or work in the protected zone, a permit may be required. 

What are the conditions for Tree removal in Victoria? 

The same tree protection bylaw outlines the conditions where a tree permit may be issued to cut or remove a bylaw protected tree. For instance, when:

  • a tree is considered hazardous and the risk cannot be mitigated using other methods
  • a tree is causing serious damage to your property
  • a tree is located within the building envelope defined in the issued development or building permit
  • a tree is dead, dying, diseased, or presents a hazard

Learn more about the conditions you need to meet for removing a tree.

See related: Should I Remove a Tree – Pros and Cons

What classifies as a protected tree?

You may need to apply for a tree permit if you are planning to prune or remove a protected tree on your property. Protected trees include:

  • A tree with a diameter over 30 cm
  • A hedge that contains any single stem with a diameter over 30 cm
  • Garry Oak (Quercus garryana), Arbutus (Arbutus menziesii), Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia) or Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) over 50 cm in height measured above natural grade
  • A replacement tree
  • A tree that is protected by a restrictive covenant in favour of the City
  • A tree of any size that is on a slope where the slope grade is greater than 33 per cent over 10 metres
  • A tree of any size that is within 15 metres of the natural boundary of a watercourse

Are arbutus trees protected in BC?

Arbutus trees are protected in the city of Victoria and Saanich. They cannot be removed without special permits, which may be provided to remove dangerous trees.

Are Garry oak trees protected in BC?

In BC, Garry oak is not grown for timber production; in fact, it is considered an endangered species as it grows mainly on private lands which are being developed for urban dwellings.

What tree species are protected?

Trees Protected – when at least 2m tall or 4cm in diameter:

  • Arbutus
  • Garry Oak
  • Pacific Dogwood
  • Pacific Yew

Trees Protected when- diameter at breast height (1.4m) is 30cm or more:

  • Douglas Fir
  • Grand Fir
  • Big Leaf Maple
  • Western Red Cedar

What about tree pruning?

Generally speaking you do NOT need a permit to perform basic tree pruning on a protected tree when done in accordance with sound arboriculture practices. However, there are some special cases where pruning might require a permit. 

Are you planning to prune: 

  • Branches with a diameter >10 cm 
  • More than 25% of the total live foliage and bud bearing branches?

If yes to either, then a permit is required. 

Also Read: The Advantages of Pruning Trees

In Saanich, you will require a Tree Cutting Permit when pruning a:

  • Significant Tree;
  • Tree protected via a Covenant;
  • Tree’s root system; or to
  • Perform pruning that meets the definition of “altering” a protected tree (as defined in the Bylaw).

Tree Permits in your City

The ATC has put together a great resource on tree permits in Victoria. Please navigate to that page for more information on permits, what you will need and how to apply. 

The Verdict?

If a tree is NOT protected by the city bylaws, then yes you are allowed to prune or remove that tree. 

However, most trees in Greater Victoria fall under that “protected tree” category, so more often than not, you will need to complete a tree permit application.

If you live in Saanich, learn how you can apply to cut down a tree on your property. Langley residents should refer to Langley City Bylaws

Your best source of more information on this topic is going to be the What You Need to Know About the New Tree Protection Bylaw PDF, created by the City of Victoria