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Pruning (Private and Non-Heritage) Tree Permit - Frequently Asked Questions

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When Is a Pruning Permit Required?

For private property trees, a permit is required to prune native trees in Environmental Overlay Zones or the Pleasant Valley Natural Resources Overlay Zone

For Street or Heritage tree pruning applications, go here.

Check to see if the private tree is native and located in: 

For all other private property trees, pruning permits are not required.

Directions for Checking the Overlay Zone or Plan District

  1. Go to Portland Maps at www.portlandmaps.com/
  2. Type in the address of the property and hit "Search"
  3. You may have to click on the correct address if you are given a list of matching addresses
  4. Click on the "Maps" link
  5. Click on the "Zoning" link
  6. Look for following "Overlay" designations: "c", "p", or      "v"
  7. If the tree is in a "c", "p", or "v" overlay zones, a permit is required to prune native trees on private property

Private Tree Pruning Exceptions

A permit is not required for pruning trees in the following situations:

  • pruning trees located within 10 feet of a building
  • pruning to abate an immediate hazard
  • pruning for trail maintenance when not exceeding a height of 8 feet and width of 6 feet across the trail

Qualifying for a Permit

Pruning is limited to 5 native trees per calendar year per 10,000 square feet of site area.

Private Tree Pruning Permit Applications require a pruning plan from a certified arborist

All pruning work must meet industry standards. Pruning on regulated trees done without a permit or pruning that does not meet the standards may be treated as a code violation and be subject to civil and criminal penalties and tree replacement.

Trees may not be topped.


Timeline and Process

Private Tree Pruning Permit Applications processing time varies. Incomplete applications will delay the process. 

Pruning permits are valid for 30 days. 

certified arborist must supervise or conduct the pruning.

Permit process

  1. Complete the Private Tree Pruning Permit Application and submit it to Urban Forestry along with a Certified Arborist’s pruning plan.
  2. Once receiving a permit, the permittee has 30 days to conduct the tree work. A qualified Certified Arborist must perform or oversee the tree pruning work. Work must be conducted in accordance with nationally accepted pruning standards.

Why does the City require permits for pruning trees on private property in environmentally sensitive areas?

Certain areas of the city have significant natural resources or environmentally sensitive features, such as native vegetation, wetlands, stream corridors, and forests. The City acknowledges these sensitive areas by restricting certain activities in order to protect important resources that provide benefits to the public. These benefits include retaining native vegetation, wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors, improving hydrology, and preserving the scenic values of natural resources.
Engaging property owners is essential to care for this valuable resource. Requiring permits helps the City:

  • Engage with property owners about the importance of maintaining trees properly
  • Provide tree care information so tree health, form, and benefits are optimized

Pruning plan

A pruning plan must be developed by a qualified arborist. The pruning plan must include:

  • The date the trees were evaluated
  • A site plan showing, to scale, the location of the tree(s) to be pruned in relation to buildings, other trees, and lot lines
  • A detailed description of the nature, extent, and timing of the proposed pruning activities. The pruning work must be conducted or overseen by the arborist.

Qualified arborists

are individuals with relevant education and training in arboriculture or urban forestry, and must currently have one of the following credentials:

  • International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist
  • American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA) Registered Consulting Arborist

Allowed Pruning Activities

Not all types of pruning are permitted in environmental or Pleasant Valley Natural Resources overlay zones. The following types of pruning activities may be permitted:

  • Hazard pruning - the pruning of hazardous portions of a tree in order to abate the hazard. Pruning to abate an immediate danger does not require a permit.
  • Young tree pruning - the pruning of young trees to develop good structure, including a strong and well established central leader, strong branch attachments, and adequate spacing and distribution of scaffold branches. Young tree pruning occurs on an ongoing basis the first ten years after tree planting
  • Crown cleaning - the removal of water sprouts and dead, dying, diseased, crowded, weakly attached, and low vigor branches from a tree's crown.
  • Crown thinning/weight reduction - the pruning of branches to reduce the weight of limbs or increase air circulation or light penetration.
  • Crown restoration/crown shaping - pruning to influence the shape of the tree’s crown, generally to improve the structure, form, and appearance of trees that have been improperly pruned, vandalized, or damaged by storm.
  • Crown raising - the removal of the lower branches of a tree in order to provide clearance for vehicles, pedestrians, and buildings. The City of Portland requires maintaining clearance standards 7.5' above the sidewalk, 11' above residential streets, and 14' above main arterial streets. Pruning private property trees for trail maintenance when not exceeding a height of 8 feet and a width of 6 feet does not require a permit.
  • Clearing infrastructure - pruning to reduce conflicts with infrastructure, such as buildings or utility lines. No permit is required to prune trees located within 10 feet a building.
  • View windowing/vista pruning - selective thinning of branches in specific areas of the crown to allow a specific view, usually by creating a “window.”

Prohibited Pruning Activities

Here are some examples of pruning activities that will not be permitted. This list is not inclusive.

  • View clearing – indiscriminate pruning of large swaths of a tree to clear a viewpoint.
  • Height reduction/crown reduction - pruning to reduce the height or overall size of the tree’s canopy.
  • Topping - using severe heading cuts to reduce the height of the tree.

Go to Private Tree Pruning Application Page


Resources & FAQs

How to Prune Properly

Local Tree Care Providers

Pruning and Care of Young and Mature Trees Brochure (1.24 MB)

Introduction to tree pruning document (1.08 MB)

Tree Pruning Brochure (12.25 MB)


Read the Tree Code, Title 11