Maryland's Roadside Tree Law Summary

Passed in 1914, this law and its regulations protect our roadside trees by ensuring their proper care and protection adjacent to public utilities.

Millions of trees grow along the more than 30,000 miles of Maryland roads. These trees are an important community resource. They provide aesthetic, environmental, economic and social benefits.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forest Service protects trees along our public road right of way through enforcement of the Roadside Tree Law.

Trimming or Removing a Roadside Tree

A roadside tree is any tree that grows entirely or in part within a public right of way. Before you remove, trim, or care for a roadside tree, you must obtain a Tree Care Permit from the Maryland DNR Forest Service. A permit also is required when underground construction, such as tunneling, trenching, or boring, impacts a roadside tree's roots. You also need a permit to plant a tree within the public road right of way.

Roadside Tree Law Permit Application

Any work (except the removal of a tree included under a permit) performed on a street tree for compensation must be done by a roadside tree care expert (employed by a public agency) or a licensed tree care expert.

If you perform care on a roadside tree without a permit, you may receive a fine or more severe penalty from the Department of Natural Resources.

How to Apply for a Permit

Request a permit at the Maryland DNR Forest Service office in the DNR region where the tree is growing. Include the location (street address) of the tree or thicket, adjacent property owners' names and addresses, the type of tree care requested and why care is needed.

If the request is approved, the property owners who have the roadside tree within the public road right of way in front of their property must sign the application. The submittal and a fee can be handled by an agent (licensed tree expert) of the owner at the owner's expense.

The Application Review Process

After the request has been received by the local DNR Project Office, the review process will be as follows:

1. A forest ranger will complete an on-site examination to determine if the proposed tree care is necessary. The ranger can approve, modify, or deny the application.

2. Per on-site observations, recommendations are added to the application, which is then returned to the applicant.

3. If your application is denied, you will receive an explanation of the decision and possible corrections with the returned application.

4. If your application is approved, the property owners must sign the application and return it to the Maryland DNR Forest Service office shown on the application.

Upon approval and receipt of the signed application and fee, DNR will mail a permit to the address on the application.