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Tree Removal Permit in Austin

by Keith Brown
June 19, 2011

Be careful before you remove a tree in your yard if you live in Austin. Many of the trees in Austin are protected. Possibly even some in your yard! The city’s tree protection ordinance is somewhat complicated. Here is some info to get you started.

  1. In residential settings, trees 19″ DBH (diameter at breast height, approx 4.5′) and larger are protected
  2. In commercial settings, trees 8″ DBH and larger are protected
  3. Trees 24″ and larger are classified with heritage status
  4. Removing or pruning out more than 25% of the canopy of a protected tree requires a permit


Your reasoning and motivation for tree removal will have a big impact on the outcome of your permit. Here are a few factors:

  • If your tree is dead, dying or unsafe then permits are granted with no fee for the application and no mitigation is required
  • If you want to do a tree removal for cosmetic or construction site use reasons, you will have to mititgate
  • Trees that are classified as heritage require three times the normal rate of mitigation
  • Tree removal applications for heritage trees larger than 29″ DBH must appeal to the Urban Forestry Board

Mitigation does not necessarily mean “pay a fine.” In fact, the city prefers that your mitigation efforts be directed toward improving the forest on your property. The base line for mitigating non-heritage trees is $200 per inch of DBH. This can be accomplished several ways:

  1. Taking care of existing trees on your property
    • tree pruning
    • fertilization maintenance program
    • incorporating organic material into the soil
    • mulching
    • creative hardscape changes to improve the trees living space
    • providing irrigation (if not already present)
  2. Planting new trees
  3. Paying a fine

There are potentially two forms needed for a tree removal permit. The first form is called a Tree Ordinance Review Application. This is the primary permit application that will detail any requirements from the city. The second form is called a Tree Risk Evaluation Form. This form should be filled out for any tree that is being removed because of a risk to the health and/or safety of people, property or other trees. You can find both forms on the city’s website or right here:

The tree risk evaluation form must be filled out by an ISA Certified Arborist or the city will not accept it. There is also value in hiring a certified arborist to prepare your tree ordinance review application. An experienced arborist will know how to work on your behalf to reduce mitigation for removed trees. There is a LOT more the the city of Austin’s tree protection ordinance than what I’ve listed here. Especially pertaining to construction sites. Here is a video from the city of Austin’s arborist department:

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