TREE ORDINANCE LEGISLATION- FACT SHEET

Special Session of the Texas Legislature 2017

Proposed legislation regarding cities’ authority to enact tree ordinances.

SB 14 (Sen. Hall) and HB 70 (Rep. Workman) preempt the authority of cities to restrict property owners from cutting down trees on their property. In essence, this bill prevents cities from setting any requirements regarding tree damage or removal by any property owners, including builders and developers.

Who does this legislation affect?

Over 80 cities and towns in Texas have written ordinances to protect trees in various ways. The quality of life for citizens in these municipalities would be directly impacted by this legislation.

Who is NOT affected?

  • Property owners in unincorporated areas of Texas currently have no prohibitions on tree cutting. They are already free to cut or remove trees as needed.
  • Citizens of cities without tree ordinances are also not affected; except if they would decide to adopt a tree ordinance in the future.

Why do cities need to set requirements for tree removal?

  • Most of these ordinances do not regulate what homeowners do with trees, but are directed toward land development, using various restrictions and/or incentives to preserve certain trees. Examples could be preventing clear-cutting on property that is in the floodplain, or preventing cutting of heritage trees of a certain diameter.  Landowners who are developing property where cities have jurisdiction must meet certain requirements, like providing for storm water management and drainage.  These restrictions (as well as many others) are in the best interest of the public good because they benefit all citizens in many ways.    
  • Storm Water Management and Water Quality: Tree foliage absorbs and filters rainwater and helps to slow down stormwater during flood events. Mitigating for stormwater damage when trees are removed is a major cost to property owners. Excessive removal of trees in urban areas could result in millions of dollars in engineered stormwater controls if trees no longer provide this service.  Larger trees transpire over 300 gallons of water each day which increases water quality.  
  • Air Quality: Trees absorb air pollution and add back oxygen to the air, all of which improves air quality for communities. Reduced air quality adds to health care costs.
  • Cooling: Trees in urban areas can cool the air by between 2 – 6 degrees C. When placed around buildings, trees can reduce air conditioning costs by 30%.  In urban areas, trees can reduce energy bills by millions of dollars across the city.

How to contact your State Representatives:

Who Represents Me: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx

For more information contact Steve Houser: steve.houser@txhtc.org