New Tree Preservation Ordinance Adopted

Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
Contact: Merni Fitzgerald, Director of Public Affairs
703-324-3187, TTY 711, Fax 703-324-2010
Media Pager: 703-324-NEWS (6397)

Oct. 16, 2007

New Tree Preservation Ordinance Adopted by
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

Law Allows Property Owners to Seek Voluntary Protection of Individual Trees

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted a tree preservation ordinance at its Oct. 15 meeting, protecting four types of trees. Under the new law, individual specimen, heritage, memorial or street trees can be protected from being cut down.

The new measure is not intended to protect large wooded tracts. Instead, the law only affects individual trees that property owners voluntarily agree to safeguard.

The board approved the law because even a single tree can benefit the environment. One mature tree with a 26-foot canopy can absorb the emissions of a vehicle driven 11,500 miles every year.

Homeowners, residents or groups can recommend individual trees for protection. After a public hearing, the board will approve the preservation of specific trees. Easements also may be required to protect a tree’s roots. If needed, property owners will donate the easements to the county.

As defined by the law, specimen trees are those that are notable in their size and quality for their species. Heritage trees have a historical or cultural interest. Memorial trees, as the name suggests, commemorate a memorial. Street trees are those that have been planted by the county on public rights of way.

There is a $2,500 fine for removing a protected tree without permission from the county. The ordinance takes effect immediately, and it has been added to the county code as chapter 120.

The preservation ordinance supports the county’s 30-Year Tree Canopy Goal adopted by the board in July. The county aims to blanket 45 percent of the county with tree cover by 2037. It is important to preserve existing trees because the county expects to lose 4 percent of its canopy during the next 30 years. To reach the goal, the county and the public also will have to plant an additional 2.6 million new trees.

Once achieved, the canopy goal is expected to save taxpayers money. The trees when matured should produce savings equivalent to $5.3 million for air pollution removal and $4.7 million in energy conservation every year. The additional canopy also will have the capacity to absorb more than 10 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually, which could eliminate the need for $1 million in greenhouse gas reduction services each year.

For more information about the new ordinance or 30-Year Tree Canopy Goal, call 703-324-1770, TTY 711, or visit


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