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 A tree removal permit is required for removing protected trees within Leon County.*
Tree removal permits can be issued as stand-along permits for individual property owners, but are more frequently issued in conjunction with other environmental permits required for the development of a property.  Tree removal and protection requirements are contained in the Environmental Management Act, Chapter 10, Land Development Code (LDC) of the Leon County Code of Laws. 

Underbrushing alone (with no associated earth work or tree removal) may be allowed without a permit in areas outside of environmentally protected areas.  Ground disturbance, or any use of equipment that causes ground disturbance is prohibited without a permit.  The Environmental Services Division should be contacted prior to performing any underbrushing or development activity.*

Pertinent tree removal criteria are summarized below:

Key Definitions [LDC, Sec. 10-1.101]:
Critical protection zone (CPZ) shall mean that area surrounding a tree within a circle described by a radius of one foot for each inch of the tree's diameter at breast height (DBH) measured from the trunk.


A Tree

DBH, diameter breast height, means the diameter of a tree measured at a height of 54 inches above the naturally occurring ground level.  Trees with gross abnormalities or buttressing at breast height should be measured above and immediately adjacent to the irregularity.  Trees that fork at breast height should be measured below the breast height and recorded as a single trunk.  Trees that fork below breast height will be recorded as separate DBH for each stem.

Tree shall mean any self-supporting woody plant having at least one well-defined stem a minimum of two inches DBH, and which normally grows to a minimum height of 25 feet in the county area.

Tree removal shall include the following acts:
        (1)  The actual removal of a live tree;
        (2)  Any unmitigated encroachment within a distance of three-fourths of the radius of the CPZ of a 
                protected tree;                                                                      
        (3)  Any damage to 30% or more of the crown of a protected tree within the vertical projection of its 
                critical protection zone; or                            Width Of a Tree           
        (4)  Any other action or activity likely to significantly damage or cause a 
                premature death of a protected tree (ex: herbicide).

Which trees are protected in Leon County?

The following trees are protected and shall not be removed or damaged without permit approval:
Any        Any tree located within a canopy road protection zone, a special development zone, a 
                required buffer or easement area, a preservation or conservation area as described in 
                Sec. 10-4.202, including areas located within a wetland, waterbody, natural 
                watercourse, undeveloped floodplain, severe or significant grades or native 
                forest areas.  Any tree planted to meet replanting, reforestation, or landscaping 
2"+         Trees two inches DBH or greater located on an undeveloped parcel. 
4"+         Dogwood (Cornus florida) trees of four inches DBH or greater.  Trees with a DBH or 
                 four inches or greater which are located in the lot perimeter zone of any development 
                site except for sites being developed for detached single-family residential use.  The lot 
                perimeter zone is the area of a development site which falls between a property line 
                and the minimum building setback corresponding to that property line.
12"+      Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) or Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) trees of 12 inch DBH 
                or greater.
18"+      Trees having a diameter of 18 inches DBH or greater.
Other    Any exceptional specimen trees identified by the County Administrator or designee. 

Which protected trees may be removed without a permit by exemption?
The Environmental Services Division shall be contacted prior to removing a tree via exemption in order to verify the exemption status.

1.  Single Family Residence:  The removal of trees less than 36" DBH on lots upon which there is an existing, 
      lawfully occupied single family dwelling provided that such trees are not protected within the first tree 
      protection category identified above.*
2.  Emergency, Safety Hazard, Disease or Pest Infestation:  Protected trees may be removed in cases of an 
      emergency, acts of nature, disease or pest infestation where tree removal would protect the general 
      public health, welfare or safety.
3.  Nursery Trees:  The removal of any tree planted and grown in the ordinary course of business of a 
      lawful plant or tree nursery.
4.  Bona Fide Silviculture:  Activities associated with a bona fide silviculture operation on land that has 
      received an agricultural exemption from the Leon County Property Appraiser are exempt from the 
      tree removal requirements.
5.  Archaeological Project:  Limited excavation within the CPZ of any protected tree when necessary 
      for an archeological project.
6.  Invasive/Exotic Trees:  The removal of invasive/exotic trees identified on Leon County's List of 
      Invasive Plant Species.

*  Removal of multiple trees or large areas of vegetation may require separate stormwater permitting to mitigate increases in runoff.