Tree Resources for Property Owners

Overview

Property owners are important partners in keeping Denver's urban forest healthy. City code requires owners to maintain trees on private property along with any trees located within the public right-of-way adjacent to their property. 

Typical right-of-way layouts in Denver neighborhoods:

typical right-of-way layouts in Denver neighborhoods


Street Maintenance & Tree Protection

Property owners are responsible for maintaining tree branches to ensure:

  • Stop signs are completely visible from at least 150 feet away
  • Tree branches are at least 13.5 feet above streets and alleyways
  • Tree branches are at least 8 feet above sidewalks

During maintenance activities such as street sweeping and trash collection, branches under 13.5 feet could be damaged by machinery. In addition, hot exhaust during street paving could scorch your tree. It will recover, but watering before and after is the best way to protect its health.

Property owners are responsible for fixing damage to  branches under 13.5 feet, so it is better to prepare and remove them ahead of time. See pruning tips below.

If you have branches larger than 4 inches in diameter, it is best to have a licensed tree service remove them. Find more information about recycling tree branches at  denvergov.org/recycling.

diagram showing tree branch clearance: 13.5 feet above street, including the parking lane; and 8 feet above the sidewalk

Tree Branch Pruning Tips

For branch removal, use the three-cut method described below:

  1. Make cut 1, about one third of the way through the branch.
    This first cut should be on the underside of the branch only, which prevents bark stripping of the trunk when the branch falls
  2. Make cut 2, which removes most of the branch, leaving only a short stub.
    Most of the limb’s weight is now removed, reducing the likelihood of injury to the tree and making the final cut more manageable.
  3. Remove stub by making cut 3. Do not cut into the branch collar (area to the left of line 3 in the diagram below).
  4. Do not treat or cover the pruning wound.

Diagram of the 3-cut pruning method


Get Help with a Notice or Citation

If you are a property owner who has received a notice of violation from the Office of the City Forester please review the following information closely: 

  1. Chapter 57 of the Denver Municipal Code requires property owners to maintain trees on their private property, along with and any trees located within the public right-of-way adjacent to their property. It is the property owner's responsibility to comply with notices sent in relation to this code within the established timeframe.

  2. The City Forester is directed by municipal code to order the removal or pruning of trees that are determined to be dangerous, diseased, or an obstruction of the right-of-way.

  3. If a property owner does not take action to correct the violation, or does not make efforts to contact the Inspector who issued the notice to request an extension, administrative citation fines may be issued to the property owner.

  4. If a violation continues to go unresolved, the City Forester is directed by code to take action to have the violations corrected, and will authorize a low-bid on-call licensed tree service to remove or prune the tree(s) in violation. The property owner is obligated to reimburse Denver Parks & Recreation (DPR) for the costs of this remediation.

  5. If the property owner does not work with DPR to pay back these expenses, city code requires DPR to place a lien on the property to secure the debt.  If the debt continues to go unpaid, DPR  is directed to send accounts to a collection agency to pursue reimbursement.

  6. Stay in close contact with the Forestry Inspector who issued your notice. They can answer questions, offer extensions, and provide guidance when hiring a tree service contractor.

Appeal a Notice of Violation

Property owners have the right to appeal notices of violation. Within 15 days of the notice being issued, send details of your appeal in writing to the Manager of Parks and Recreation.

Appeal Administrative Citation Fines

Property owners have the right to appeal administrative citation. Within 10 days of the citation being served, send details of your appeal in writing to the Manager of Parks and Recreation.


  • Trees infected with a communicable disease or pestilence that threatens the good health of other trees (like Dutch elm disease) must be promptly removed.
  • Infected wood must be disposed of as deemed appropriate by the City Forester to prevent further infections. Infected wood is almost never allowed to be stored as firewood, and typically must be promptly chipped, buried, debarked and/or burned.
  • Tree stumps are not allowed in the right-of-way, and must be ground out to 6 inches below existing grade.

Hiring a Tree Service Company

Vegetation Ordinance Chapter 57 requires that anyone performing tree care services, including pruning and removal, be licensed as a "Tree Service Company." When requesting services, ask to see evidence of license from prospective companies. Companies on the provided list have passed the minimum test requirements of the Office of the City Forester. Testing does not guarantee quality of work, so please choose a contractor wisely. 

View Licensed Tree Services(PDF, 156KB)

Recommendations

The Office of the City Forester does not endorse any company on the list, however, we do recommend that you receive at least three written, detailed bids and check references before you enter into any contractual agreement with a tree service contractor. If you feel a licensed tree company on this list has provided low quality work or has behaved in an unethical manner, please contact our office at 720-913-0651 or forestry@denvergov.org.  

In some cases, licensed tree companies have additional certifications through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). View ISA credentialed companies.

If you would like to to see if a licensed tree company is also a licensed pesticide applicator, please visit the Colorado Department of Agriculture for contact information. 


Tips for Planting & Replacing Trees

The Denver City Forester stresses diversity when planting or replacing trees on your property. The top recommended shade trees for Denver's climate include:

  • Kentucky Coffeetree
  • Chinkapin Oak
  • English Oak
  • Hackberry
  • Catalpa
  • Bur Oak
  • Sycamore
  • Texas Red Oak
  • Japanese Pagoda
  • Yellowwood

Late September and October is usually the best time of year to plant trees, and many nurseries offer discounts on their inventory.

Please remember that permits are required to remove or plant trees in the public right-of-way. 

Approved Street Trees

One of the things that makes Denver a beautiful, livable city is our diverse urban forest.  Selecting the right tree for your site helps assure a healthy tree that will provide many years of benefits and enjoyment.  Please use Denver Forestry's approved street tree list as a guide for recommended tree species, along with which species are not permitted to be planted in the public right-of-way.

View all approved street trees(PDF, 656KB)


Tree Pruning & Removal Guidelines

Before pruning or removing a tree, you must determine whether it's located on private property or within the public right-of-way.(JPG, 92KB)

While property owners in Denver are responsible for maintaining city trees within the right-of-way adjacent to their property, there are some very important regulations that protect how those trees are managed:

Tree Pruning

Right-of-Way Trees

There are no permit requirements to prune trees in the public right-of-way, however, city code requires that their pruning be completed to industry standards. Owners can prune city trees within the right-of-way adjacent to their property, but must not damage the trees. If a tree in the right-of-way is improperly pruned (topping for example) the City Forester may deem the tree to be irreparably damaged and require reimbursement for the value of the tree.

Private Property Trees

There are no permit requirements to prune trees on private property.


Tree Branch Pruning Tips

For branch removal, use the three-cut method described below:

  1. Make cut 1, about one third of the way through the branch.
    This first cut should be on the underside of the branch only, which prevents bark stripping of the trunk when the branch falls
  2. Make cut 2, which removes most of the branch, leaving only a short stub.
    Most of the limb’s weight is now removed, reducing the likelihood of injury to the tree and making the final cut more manageable.
  3. Remove stub by making cut 3. Do not cut into the branch collar (area to the left of line 3 in the diagram below).
  4. Do not treat or cover the pruning wound.


description of the 3-cut pruning method for tree branches

Tree Removal

Right-of-Way Trees

Chapter 57 of Denver’s municipal code makes it is illegal to remove a right-of-way tree without obtaining an approved permit from the City Forester.  Denver’s street trees provide environmental, social and economic benefits that are of value to all residents. For these reasons, permit requests for the removal of healthy, valuable trees will often be denied. City trees are often worth thousands of dollars and removing them without a permit will require the responsible party to compensate the City of Denver for the lost monetary value of the tree, to the satisfaction of of the City Forester. 

Private Property Trees

The majority of trees on private property may be removed at the discretion of the owner without a permit. However, when a property is in the process of demolition or construction, zoning code grants the City Forester regulation over trees within the front and side setbacks of the property. During demolition and construction, all trees located within these setbacks must be protected and preserved throughout the project, and may not be removed without a permit from the City Forester.

Tree Work Considerations

Tree work is dangerous, and major work often requires highly skilled individuals to complete the work safely. A professional arborist not only needs to been trained in safe tree work practices, but they also need to be well educated to understand the biology of trees.  

Trees are valuable and complex living organisms, and a professional arborist can protect tree health and ensure maintenance work is done safely. For the protection of people, properties and tree health, Denver’s city code establishes that it is unlawful for any person to engage in the business of cutting, trimming, pruning, or removing trees without a license. The City Forester is obligated to establish and monitor a list of licensed tree contractors for the City and County of Denver. 


How to Get a Street Tree Permit

Permits are required prior to the removal or planting of any street trees. These permits are free to the public, but must be approved by a representative of the City Forester. If you are hiring a licensed contractor, they will be responsible for pulling all permits.

Request a permit by sending an email to forestry@denvergov.org with a description of the work to be done.

Free & Low-Cost Trees (Denver Digs Trees)

To grow and diversify Denver's urban forest, free and low-cost trees are available to residents through our partnership with The Park People. The Denver Digs Trees program is accepting applications until February 15, 2022. 

Apply for a Tree

Logo for The Park People and Denver Digs Trees