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For Immediate Release

Sonoma County Supervisors approve updated tree ordinance

SANTA ROSA, CA | April 17, 2024

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an expanded version of the county’s tree protection ordinance, which will preserve more of the county’s trees and help to combat climate change given that woodlands pull carbon from the atmosphere.

The updated Tree Protection Ordinance protects more native species, lowers the size threshold of protected trees to support forest health, and exempts removals for public safety, defensible space and basic property maintenance. A second ordinance specifically enhances protections for oak woodlands, a sensitive and valued natural resource.

“Trees and woodlands are essential elements of Sonoma County’s rural and urban lands. They provide a range of fundamental services to the community including clean air and water, wildlife habitat, natural cooling and climate moderation, cultural and historical value,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. “Climate change, natural disasters and development continue to imperil the health, diversity and distribution of local trees and the benefits they provide. This action will help mitigate those hazards.”

The original Tree Protection Ordinance, adopted in 1989, protected 11 tree species with trunks nine inches in diameter or greater. The updated ordinance includes 31 tree species with trunks six inches in diameter or greater. The protected species include: big leaf maple, black oak, blue oak, boxelder, California black walnut, California buckeye, canyon live oak, coast live oak, two cottonwood species, interior live oak, madrone, Oregon ash, Oregon oak, red and white alder, valley oak, two willow species, two cypress species, grand fir, six pine species, redwood, western hemlock.

To mitigate the impact of removing trees, the ordinance requires new trees to be planted or payment of an in-lieu fee. The supervisors increased the fees based on changes to the Consumer Price Index since 1989. Fees in the original ordinance ranged from $200 to $1,400, and are now $500 to $3,500 per tree removed, depending on the size of the tree. A use permit would be required for the removal of protected hardwoods greater than 36 inches and redwoods greater than 48 inches, and an appraisal would be required to determine the fee for removing those trees.

The updated tree protection regulations will increase climate resiliency by preserving the county’s tree and forest resources, which act as important carbon sinks, pulling greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. The policies will help the county achieve the objective of carbon neutrality by 2030 by maximizing carbon sequestration and minimizing the loss of the county’s carbon sinks.

The tree policy was developed after Permit Sonoma conducted an extensive three-year outreach campaign including eight public meetings, more than 30 meetings with representatives of targeted stakeholder groups and a community survey with more than 500 respondents.

The new policy will be effective 30 days after Board of Supervisors approval. For more information and to read the text of the adopted ordinances please visit the Comprehensive Tree Ordinance Update website.

Media Contact:
Matt Brown, Communications Specialist
(707) 565-3040
575 Administration Drive, Suite 104A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403