Public Works and Environmental Services

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our administrative offices are open 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mon - Fri - In-person meetings by appointment only.
703-324-1770 TTY 711
12055 Government Center Parkway
Suite 518, Fairfax, Va 22035
Brian Keightley
Division Director, Urban Forest Management

Tree Removal

Before removing a tree, consider the benefits of conserving the tree and if some pruning and care would be a better approach.

Healthy or Hazardous?

A hazardous tree is a tree, or a portion of a tree, that is in danger of falling and presents a threat to life or property. Sometimes the hazard posed by a tree is obvious, such as when a tree is in visibly poor health or leaning precariously. Other times, serious conditions may exist that are not as obvious to the casual observer. The following are some conditions that may indicate a serious problem exists that may create a hazard to the surrounding environment.

  • Dead branches in the tree or on the ground near the tree.
  • Mushrooms near the base of the tree.
  • Excessive leaf loss or dead leaves in the crown (the upper portion) of the tree.
  • Areas of rotten wood or cavities.
  • Nearby trees have died or have significant damage.
  • Noticeable change in the leaning of the tree.
  • Damage to the ground surrounding the tree from construction, erosion or storms.

Additional information on hazardous trees can be found at the USDA Forest Service.

The responsibility for hazardous trees generally lies with the people or agency that owns or maintains the property. Get information on how to handle emergency situations, who owns the property and who to contact about hazardous trees. Visit Tree Resources - Who Do You Call

If a tree presents an immediate life-threatening hazard, including falling on your house, onto electric wires or it is blocking a public road, call 9-1-1.
  • Stay away and never attempt to approach or touch trees or limbs that contact power lines, as they are considered extremely dangerous.
  • Visit Tree Resources - Who To Call for information on what to do and who to call about hazardous Trees.

Tree Removal

In general, there are no laws or regulations in Virginia that prohibit you from removing individual trees on your own property. However, the following might restrict certain tree removal on your property:

  • If your property is a part of a homeowners association, restrictions on the removal of vegetation may apply. Contact your homeowners association to determine whether restrictions apply.
  • Harvesting of timber on your property is regulated by the Virginia Department of Forestry.
  • Any land disturbing activity, such as removing trees, on more than 2,500 square feet of your property requires a permit from Fairfax County. Contact the Engineer of the Day at 703-324-2268 to determine whether your land disturbing activity requires a permit.
  • Non-residential properties may have restrictions on the removal of trees used to meet certain Zoning Ordinance requirements such as transitional screening, parking lot landscaping, or other zoning obligations.
  • If your property has a Resource Protection Area (RPA), removal of trees or any type of vegetation is prohibited without a waiver. RPA’s are environmentally sensitive areas that protect water quality, filter pollutants, and prevent erosion. You must submit a completed application form to Land Development Services Site Application Center for approval prior to removal of vegetation from an RPA. Contact Land Development Services at 703-222-0801 | TTY 711 for more information about the application process. To find out if there is an RPA on your property, use the County’s Jade mapping application or the Interactive Resource Protection Area Map.
  • Conservation easements exist to protect natural resources on privately owned land. If you want to remove trees from a conservation easement, you would need to be sure of the restrictions specific to your conservation easement. This information should be available in your property records. Please contact Records and Information at 703-324-1895 | TTY 771 for more information about obtaining a copy of your property records. To request a waiver for tree work in a conservation easement, contact the Site Development and Inspections Division - Forest Conservation Branch at 703-222-0801 | TTY 711.

If you believe that your neighbor is removing trees or disturbing land illegally, visit the Reporting Land Development Concerns page for information on how to report such activities.

There are many tree removal contractors and arborists working in our area. An arborist is a specialist in the care of trees.  A certified arborist is an experienced professional who has passed an extensive industry-approved examination covering all aspects of tree care. Certified arborists must continue their education to maintain their certification, so they are more likely to be up to date on the latest arboricultural standards and techniques. Keep in mind that good arborists will only perform accepted arboricultural practices. For instance, topping trees is not an industry accepted practice and you should be wary of any arborist who advertises such services.

The condition of your trees can have a significant affect on the value and safety of your property.  Therefore, it is in your best interest to be an informed consumer when seeking the services of an arborist. Find out how to hire an arborist.

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