What is a Heritage Tree?
Heritage Trees are trees that have been formally recognized by City Council for their unique size, age, historical or horticultural significance. Once accepted by Council, Heritage Trees are designated with a small plaque so they can be identified by the public and listed in the Heritage Tree database.
There are nearly 300 Heritage Trees throughout Portland, and new trees are added each year. Anyone can nominate a Heritage Tree! Heritage Trees are protected by City Code; once designated, no Heritage Tree can be removed without the consent of the Urban Forestry Commission and the Portland City Council.
No tree on private property can be designated without the consent of the property owner. This consent binds all successors, heirs, and assigns. The ordinance further states that it is unlawful for any person, without a prior written permit from the Forester, to remove, destroy, cut, prune, break or injure any Heritage Tree. No Heritage Tree can be removed without the consent of the Urban Forestry Commission and the Portland City Council.
History of the Heritage Tree Program
The Heritage Tree ordinance became part of the Portland City code on May 19, 1993, and the first Heritage Trees were designated in 1994. Previously, an ordinance allowed for Historic Landmark trees (trees #1 and #2 are in this category), and an ordinance provided for Historic Trees (trees #3, #4, #5, and #6 were so designated in 1993).
This ordinance calls for the City Forester to annually prepare a list of trees that - because of their age, size, type, historical association or horticultural value - are of special importance to the City. Upon recommendation of the Urban Forestry Commission, the City Council may designate a tree as a Heritage Tree provided the tree's health, aerial space, and open ground area for the root system have been certified as sufficient.
Can I prune or remove a Heritage Tree?
A permit from Urban Forestry is required before pruning, removing, inoculating, or doing any other tree work on a Heritage Tree, whether the tree is in the City right-of-way or on private property. Permits for tree work excluding tree removal are free and include a consultation by an Urban Forestry Tree Inspector.
A Heritage Tree can only be approved for removal if it is dead, dying, or dangerous. The Urban Forestry Commission and Portland City Council must formally decommission the tree before a permit can be issued for removal.