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Tree Protection By-law

General information

The Tree Protection By-law takes effect on January 1, 2021. This consolidated by-law replaces the Urban Tree Conservation By-law and the Municipal Trees and Natural Areas Protection By-law, which will be repealed at that time.

Under the Tree Protection By-law, the following protected trees cannot be injured or removed without a tree permit from the City:

  • All City-owned trees throughout the urban and rural area
  • All trees 10 cm or more in diameter at breast height on private properties within the urban area that are subject to a Planning Act application for Site Plan, Plan of Subdivision, or Plan of Condominium
  • All trees 10 cm or more in diameter at breast height on private properties within the urban area that are over 1 hectare in size
  • All distinctive trees on private properties 1 hectare or less in size, where distinctive trees are defined as:
    • Trees measuring 30 cm or more in diameter at breast height within the inner urban area (urban lands inside the Greenbelt)
    • Trees measuring 50 cm or more in diameter at breast height within the suburban area (urban lands outside the Greenbelt)

The protections on privately owned trees also apply to identified urban expansion or growth areas shown on schedules in the by-law. The areas covered by the various parts of the by-law can also be viewed on geoOttawa under the Forestry heading.

The by-law also provides protection to all City-owned natural areas by regulating activities that might cause negative impacts. Refer to Part III of the by-law for more information.

Not sure whether the by-law applies to you? The City has developed a new Decision Tree tool to assist residents and staff in determining what kind of permit, if any, is needed to remove a tree. For an overview of the process, refer to this flowchart.

Exemptions

Property owners do not need a permit to remove dead or hazardous trees on their private property where the tree is an immediate threat to public health and safety. Photos should be taken prior to removal of dead or hazardous trees in such cases to provide evidence of the condition of the tree and the reason for exemption. Note that a permit is not required to prune private trees however, pruning should be done in accordance with good arboricultural practices.

Private Ash trees that are infested with the emerald ash borer can be removed without a permit. All ash trees removed must be disposed of within the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Regulated Areas.

The by-law also provides exemptions for certain types of activities, such as normal farm practices, maintenance of power lines, aggregate extraction in accordance with provincial regulations, and professional surveying.

Background

The Tree Protection By-law was developed in response to community feedback and recommendations made in the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan. It is an essential part of the City’s integrated approach to retain, replace and renew our urban forest canopy.

The by-law includes several new or improved provisions including:

  • Reduced size threshold for distinctive trees in the inner urban area with the goal of protecting more trees that will make up the urban forest of the future
  • Detailed tree protection requirements to ensure that trees are adequately protected against damage or destruction
  • Clear compensation requirements for both City-owned and private tree removals
  • Improved tree information requirements for distinctive tree permits
  • Special fines that can be imposed in addition to regular fines, in situations where there could be financial gain from the illegal tree removal.

Submit your Tree Information Report online

You can now submit your Tree Information Report online. The online form allows you to submit all information required to apply for a tree permit, including your Tree Information Report.

Submit your tree Information Report here!

To see how the by-law applies to your situation, refer to this flowchart. For more information on what needs to be included in the Tree Information Report refer to Schedule C of the Tree Protection By-law.”

Tree permits and compensation

The Tree Protection By-law requires permits to be obtained before City-owned trees or protected privately owned trees are removed. It also sets out requirements for compensation to be provided when trees are removed, so that they can be replaced.

Tree permit application fees

For the removal of a City-owned tree or a distinctive tree that is unrelated to an infill development, the application fee is $150 per tree, up to a maximum of $750. For tree removal associated with infill development, the fee is $500 per tree up to a maximum of $2500. If the tree removal is a part of a development application under the Planning Act, as a part of a Site Plan or Plan of Subdivision application, for example, the tree permit fee is included in the development application fee.

The application fees are contained in Schedule D of the by-law.

Applying for a tree permit

You can apply for a tree permit by submitting your Tree Information Report online.

Submit your tree information report here!

Posting of permits

If a tree permit is granted for a City tree or a distinctive tree, it must be posted in a prominent location on the property that is visible to the public. Distinctive tree permits are required to be posted on the property and on the tree itself, for at least seven (7) days before the removal of the tree. Permits posted on the property should remain in place for at least seven (7) days following the removal as well.

Compensation

Compensation for City-owned trees is determined using a specific tree valuation formula to calculate how much is owed in addition to a replacement tree. The City may accept financial compensation in lieu of the replacement tree.

Compensation for privately owned trees will vary depending on the circumstances of the removal. In non-development scenarios, replacement of the tree at a 1:1 ratio will be required. For infill development, tree replacement is required at a 2:1 ratio for distinctive trees 30 to 49 cm in diameter and at a 3:1 ratio for distinctive trees 50 cm or greater in diameter. Financial compensation may be accepted if some of the required compensation trees cannot be accommodated on the site. Developments proceeding under the Planning Act will be required to provide suitable numbers of new or replacement trees through the required Landscape Plan.

The compensation requirements are provided in Schedule B of the by-law.

Protecting trees

The primary purpose of the City of Ottawa’s Tree Protection By-law is to ensure that trees are protected from injury or destruction. The by-law identifies guidelines to follow when working around trees since trees can be seriously injured if their roots are compacted, cut or damaged.

The Tree Protection By-law requires that anyone working near protected trees must, unless otherwise authorized by the City:

  • Erect a 1.2 m high fence around the outer edge of the critical root zone (CRZ) of trees prior to beginning other site work, and maintain the fence until the work is complete (see the City’s Tree Protection Specification [ PDF 377KB ] for more information)
  • Not place any material or equipment within the CRZ of the tree
  • Not raise or lower the existing grade within the CRZ of a tree
  • Not extend any hard surface or significantly change landscaping within the CRZ of a tree
  • Not attach any signs, notices or posters to any tree, except as required by this by-law for trees to be removed
  • Not damage the root system, trunk or branches of any tree
  • Ensure that exhaust fumes from equipment are not directed towards any tree's canopy

The critical root zone (CRZ) is established as being 10 centimetres from the trunk of a tree for every centimetre of trunk diameter. The trunk diameter is measured at a height of 1.3 metres for trees of 15 centimetres diameter and greater and at a height of 0.3 metres for trees of less than 15 centimetres diameter.

It is an offence under the Tree Protection By-law to fail to adequately protect a tree that has not been approved for removal.

Enforcement

Offences and Penalties

Under the Tree Protection By-law, an offence may include the destruction of a tree or injuring a tree without a permit, failing to adequately protect a tree that is identified for protection, failing to comply with the conditions of a tree permit issued under the by-law, or failing to comply with a stop work order.

If convicted of an offence, the penalties range from a minimum fine of $500 to a maximum fine of $100,000. For failing to adhere to a stop work order, the minimum fine is $500 and the maximum fine is $100,000 for each day or part of a day that the offence continues; in this case the total of all daily fines is not limited to $100,000.

The by-law also includes a special fine which may be charged in addition to the regular fines for situations where the person contravening the by-law may have the opportunity for economic or financial gain from the contravention.

What do you do if a tree has been removed illegally?

If you see a tree being cut down, there are several ways to check if a tree permit has been issued:

  1. Check if there is a development sign on the property. If there is an active planning application for the property, there will be a large sign with information about the proposal. Call the City’s Planner identified on the sign and ask if tree removal has been approved.
  2. Check if there is a distinctive tree permit posted on the property and/or on the tree. The by-law requires that all distinctive tree permits are posted on the property for 7 days prior to removal and 7 days following the removal. Notice of the permit must also be posted on the tree itself for 7 days prior to removal.
  3. Call 3-1-1 and ask if a tree permit has been issued for the address

If you determine that a tree permit has not been issued for a tree removal or if it is unclear if a permit has been issued, please phone 3-1-1 and indicate the address of the tree removal. A service request will be sent out to the City Forestry Inspector for the area and they will visit the site to investigate.

If you have, or believe that you have, witnessed an illegal tree cutting, please note down any pertinent information related to the removal to provide to the City’s Forestry team if requested.