Urban Forestry Permits

Removing a tree isn’t quite as simple as grabbing a handsaw and a wheelbarrow. Because trees play an important role in the local environment, the City of Seattle imposes restrictions on the amount of vegetation and trees a property owner is allowed to remove.

Environmental restrictions, zoning, tree health, and other factors come into play when undergoing tree maintenance. If you are planning on pruning, planting, or removing trees in your area, be sure to keep the following in mind.

Do I Need A Permit?

Whether or not you need a permit is contingent upon a few factors, including:

  • the site condition
  • zoning
  • the health and species of the tree

All tree removal and replacement typically requires permitting. While some pruning may not require a permit, large-scale pruning jobs typically do. This includes pruning branches or roots that are larger than two inches or which make up more than 15 percent of a tree’s foliage-bearing area.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) also requires Urban Forestry Permits for tree maintenance when those trees are in the public right of way. This includes trees in planting strips, or the space between the sidewalk and the street. Permitting is typically required for pruning, removing, and planting trees.

For more specifics about Seattle’s tree service permitting requirements, visit the SDOT’s website. You can find the SDOT’s Urban Forestry permit application here.

Property Designations

Your ability to acquire a permit for pruning or removing trees depends on property zoning, tree conditions, and a few other factors. You may not be able to remove some trees because of their location, species, or health. Keep the following rules in mind about tree services on various types of property.

Developed Property

Developed property includes residences and areas with structures that are not under construction. Most homes that fully constructed are not currently being built or renovated fall under this category. In terms of tree removal on developed property, keep the following in mind:

  • Property owners are not permitted to remove any exceptional trees, or trees that are exceptionally large in size or have historical or ecological value.
  • Residents are not permitted to cut down more than three trees six inches or greater in diameter per year.
  • Hazardous trees, or trees which a professional and certified horticulturist deems a hazard, may be moved from properties without restriction as long as they have been assessed by a professional.

Developing Property

Homeowners with property under construction or beginning development typically have more flexibility with tree removal if trees prevent them from using their property. The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection will review your permit application and assess your project.

Undeveloped Property

No tree removals are permitted for trees six inches or greater in diameter without a certified hazardous tree designation.

Environmentally Protected Areas

Residents may not remove trees or vegetation from environmentally critical areas — such as slopes, wildlife habitats, or wetlands — without prior approval and permitting.

How to Apply for a Tree Removal Permit in Seattle

Step 1: Do Your Research

Access your property’s information to find out about zoning, lot size, and any environmentally critical areas by using the City of Seattle’s interactive map. Seattle’s Public Resource Center also provides free coaching sessions for homeowners who are seeking additional information on tree removal and restoration permitting and approvals.

Step 2: Initiate the Approval Process

In order to remove a tree deemed hazardous, you’ll need the following information:

  • A Hazard Tree Removal Application
  • A Hazard Tree Evaluation by a certified professional
  • A  letter written by a certified professional supporting the decision to remove the tree
  • Photos detailing the project and showing evidence of hazardous conditions
  • A detailed site plan
Step 3: Submit the Application

There are three ways to submit your application:

  1. In person at the Public Resource Center (20th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower)
  2. Via email to prc@seattle.gov
  3. Via mail:

Public Resource Center
700 Fifth Ave., Suite 2000
P.O. Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019

Once Application is Submitted

The approval process will vary based on demand. The city will send your approval or denial confirmation  via email or mail.

Our team at Washington Tree Experts is well versed in the requirements for tree and vegetation removal. We’re ready and equipped to assist homeowners with the permitting process and to assess  the health of trees all around the Puget Sound as part of the application process we often work with municipalities outside of Seattle, each with their own unique requirements for tree removal.

Contact us for more information or to learn more about the details involved in tree removal.