Skip to Content

Sonoma County Tree Permit Requirements

Tree & Oak Woodlands Ordinances

Sonoma County is home to many tree species that provide a wide variety of community benefits in both urban and natural settings.

Conserving trees, forests and wooded areas is key to achieving resiliency and sustainability for Sonoma County, while maintaining or enhancing many natural benefits for local communities:

  1. Cultural: aesthetic, sense of place, cultural heritage, spiritual and religious value, recreation and tourism, historic value;
  2. Environmental: air purification, water quality, carbon sequestration, noise reduction, soil retention, flood mitigation, and wildlife habitat;
  3. Provisioning: forest products, firewood and fuel, fish and game, forage.

Many tree removal activities now require a permit. The following webpage provides general guidance on what trees and what habitats are subject to tree removal permits, how to apply for permits, and what activities are exempt.

On this page:

Tree Ordinances and Local Regulations

The Sonoma County General Plan calls for the protection and enhancement of Sonoma County’s natural habitats and diverse plant and animal communities by establishing standards and programs to protect native trees, plant communities, riparian corridors, and timber resources. The County implements these conservation policies through zoning regulations including: 

  • Tree Protection Ordinance (Code Section 26-88-010(m). Requires a zoning permit and mitigation (e.g. replanting, preservation or in-lieu fees) when removing certain tree species above 6 inches diameter. A use permit is required for certain large trees exceeding specific thresholds as listed below 
  • Oak Woodland Ordinance (Code Section 26-67). Addresses tree removal and development within Oak Woodlands on parcels located in the OAK Combining Zone. The ordinance allows for one-time woodland conversion up to half-acre, but otherwise requires a use permit for most larger-scale projects in Oak Woodlands. 
  • Valley Oak Habitat (VOH) Combining Zone (Code Section 26-67). Requires a zoning permit and mitigation (e.g. in-lieu fee or tree replacement) for the removal of Valley Oak trees within the specified zoning district. 
  • Heritage and Landmark Tree Ordinance (Code Chapter 26D). This ordinance provides a process for a land-owner to nominate a single tree or a stand for special protections based on age, size, shape, rarity, or location. Approximately 50 individual trees have been recognized through this process.  
  • Riparian Corridor Combining Zone (Code Section 26-65).  The ordinance is designed to protect the natural function and biotic value of streams and adjacent areas by prohibiting grading, vegetation removal, structures and roads within designated stream channels or streamside areas. 
  • Commercial Timberland and Timber Harvesting. Commercial timber harvest is primarily addressed through state law, with local involvement in limited circumstances. Permanent conversions of timberland are addressed through Timberland Conversion permitting processes. 
  • Coastal Zone. In the Coastal Zone, tree removal typically requires a Coastal Permit. Please contact Planning staff for more information. 

When do these regulations apply?

Tree Protection Ordinance

Important note: the following section applies outside of the Coastal Zone. For information on Coastal regulations, please contact Planning staff.

Tree removal is typically subject to the Tree Protection Ordinance if the tree is one of the following species, and the diameter is larger than the thresholds specified below. If the tree is located in the OAK, VOH, or TPZ zones (check your zoning) or is located within a designated Riparian Corridor, it is possible that a different ordinance applies. Please continue reading for more information.

Protected Trees

A zoning permit is required to remove the following trees, when equal to or more than 6 inches in diameter. A use permit is required at or above 36 inches in diameter, unless otherwise stated.





Cypress: *Use Permit Not Applicable

Pines: *Use Permit Not Applicable

Oaks in the Oak Woodland Combining Zone (OAK)

The Oak Woodland Combining Zone applies to any parcel that contained at least half-acre of woodlands as of 2013, even if trees have since been removed or were burned as a result of wildfire.

On parcels with this zoning district, the removal of oak trees within an Oak Woodland is typically subject to an Oak Woodland Permit, unless it falls within a specified exception. The ordinanceallows a one-time exception per parcel for up to half-acre of woodland removal, subject to a zoning permit. Outside of this, or other exceptions specified in the ordinance, development in an Oak Woodland, including new structures, new cultivation areas, or other land use that will result in the permanent loss of Oak Woodlands, requires a use permit. You can search your property zoning here.

The Tree Protection Ordinance typically applies to the removal of protected tree species (see list above) other than oaks in the OAK district.

Valley Oaks in the Valley Oak Habitat Combining Zone (VOH)

Removal of valley oaks within a Valley Oak Habitat Combining Zone is subject to the Valley Oak Ordinance. Most removals are subject to a zoning permit and require mitigation.


Each of the above ordinances provide exceptions for specific activities that vary between each ordinance. For details of potential specific exceptions, please review the ordinances directly or contact our planning staff via email or in person.

Outside of the VOH zone, the following common tree removal activities are typically exempt from tree removal permits:




Residential Maintenance

Tree removal should be no more than necessary for residential maintenance activities associated with a legally established residential structure or residential use, including maintenance of structures, fences, residential well and septic systems, and outdoor spaces used in conjunction with a residence, such as paths, yards, gardens, and landscaping. Residential Maintenance Tree

Nonnative Species

Removal of trees that are not locally protected species (see table above).

Trees Under Threshold Sizes

Removal of trees smaller than the size thresholds specified above (except oaks in an oak woodland, which are protected at all sizes). Tree under threshold size

Fire Hazard Mitigation

Tree removal should be no more than necessary to comply with state or local defensible space requirements. Fire Haz Mitigation Tree Removal

Hazardous, Dead, Dying, Diseased

Removal of hazardous, dead, dying, or diseased trees inside the defensible space zone of a structure. Dead tree for removal

Though these activities are typically exempt, we recommend maintaining documentation of the removal in the form of receipts, photographs, etc., since such materials may be required in case of possible code enforcement investigations.

Overlapping Ordinances

If a parcel is subject to multiple ordinances the most protective ordinances will apply. Please contact our staff for more information.

Permit Requirements & Review Procedures

Tree Removal that requires a Zoning Permit

Tree removal in the unincorporated County, outside of the Coastal Zone:

A zoning permit is required to remove native tree species (as listed above) when they are 6 inches in diameter or greater, unless the removal meets an explicit exemption specified in County Code.

In the OAK or RC zoning districts, a permit may be required regardless of tree size. Parcels in the OAK district are typically eligible for a one-time zoning permit to allow up to ½ acre of tree removal.

Tree removal that requires a Use Permit

Removing protected trees that are hardwoods thirty-six inches diameter or more and redwoods forty-eight inches diameter or more typically require a use permit.

Development that is not explicitly exempt or allowed under a one-time zoning permit is subject to a use permit.

exclaimation mark

REMEMBER: This information is provided as general guidance.There may be other rules that your project could be subject to, including but not limited to the Riparian Corridor Ordinance, Valley Oak Habitat Ordinance, or others. Please contact Planning or Natural Resources staff with questions.

The following forms provide application materials, checklists, and descriptions of the permitting process for each ordinance. All of these forms must be submitted electronically.

Tree Protection Ordinance

Zoning Permit: PJR-151 Tree Protection Ordinance Zoning Permit

Use Permit: PJR-150 Tree Protection Ordinance Use Permit

Oak Woodland Ordinance

Zoning Permit: PJR-153 Oak Zoning Permit Application Requirements

Use Permit: PJR-152 Oak Use Permit Requirements and Procedures

Riparian Corridor:

Timberland Conversions:


If you are concerned about tree removals in the unincorporated County of Sonoma and believe removals may be occurring in violation of County Code, you may submit a complaint by following the instructions here. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about tree removal in Sonoma County.

If the tree is a Protected Tree species and 6 inches or greater in diameter measured 4.5 feet from the uphill side of the base of the tree (diameter at breast height or DBH), its removal may be subject to the Tree Protection Ordinance.

No, eucalyptus trees are not protected under the Tree Protection Ordinance. There may be other rules regulating their removal, such as the Riparian Corridor Ordinance, or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, depending on the project and location of the project.

The Tree Protection Ordinance does not differentiate between planted vs naturally grown Protected Trees and both are entitled to the same protections.

No, defensible space implementation and maintenance, subject to either Public Resources Code 4291 or County Code Chapter 13A, is not subject to the Tree Protection Ordinance.

Protected tree removal that is required by an insurance company to insure an occupied dwelling or structure is exempt from the ordinance, if it is within 100’ of the structure. We recommend maintaining documentation from your insurance company requiring the removal.

No, but it would be recommended to document how the tree removal is exempt, and keep any applicable records in case the Department receives questions about the tree removal.

Protected tree removal for personal firewood use is not subject to the ordinance. Commercial firewood harvesting for a business that cuts, splits, chips, sells, stores, and/or delivers firewood would be subject to the ordinance.

If an applicant does not want to replant using the mitigation option in the ordinance, an in-lieu fee may be paid. The fees have been updated using Consumer Price Index data. The fees are based on the diameter and number of trees removed, reflected as the “arboreal value.”

The base fee is $510 per single arboreal value point. For example, the in-lieu fee to remove a six-inch redwood tree under the ordinance would be $510. A 36” DBH redwood would have an arboreal value of six points and have an in-lieu fee amount of $3,060. If a six-inch redwood and 36” DBH redwood are both removed as part of the project, the total arboreal value is seven points and the in-lieu fee is $3,570.