Maryland’s Roadside Tree Law

Monday, January 29, 2018
Millions of trees grow along the more than 30,000 miles of improved roads in Maryland. The trees growing along our roadways and in our communities are an important urban and community resource. They provide aesthetic, environmental, economic, and social benefits.  Passed in 1914, the Maryland Roadside Tree Law and its regulations were developed to protect Maryland’s roadside trees by ensuring their proper care and protection and to ensure their compatibility with an efficient and dependable public utility system.  The Maryland Forest Service protects these trees along our public road rights-of way through enforcement of the Roadside Tree Law.
Before a roadside tree is trimmed or cared for in any way, a Tree Care Permit must be obtained from the Maryland Forest Service.  The permit process helps to protect our roadside trees and ensures that:
  • Only beneficial and necessary tree trimming, root cutting, fertilization, or other maintenance practices will be done and done correctly to roadside trees.
  • Tree hazards are documented and corrective action, including removal and replacement, is done in a timely and safe manner by MD Licensed Tree Experts or a public agencies’ Roadside Tree Care Experts.
  • The right tree (correct species) is planted in the right location, thereby avoiding future problems and conflicts with sidewalks, overhead and underground utilities, and sight distances.
  • A permit may not be required if a tree or its branches are an immediate danger to person or property such as if uprooted or if its branches are broken and contact a power line.
A permit is required by local governments, utility companies as well as individual homeowners to trim, remove or plant a tree within the road right-of-way.  To clarify, a roadside tree is defined as any tree that grows all or in part within a public road right-of-way.  This tree may also be called a street tree.  Any work (including the removal of a tree having a permit) performed on a roadside tree must be done by a MD Licensed Tree Care Expert or a MD Roadside Tree Care Expert, an employee of a public agency. 
When tree care is performed on a roadside tree without a permit, a fine may be assessed or more severe actions taken by the Department of Natural Resources.
For more information, please contact:

Marian Honeczy

Supervisor, Urban & Community Forestry

Maryland Department of Natural Resources 
Forest Service
580 Taylor Avenue
Tawes State Office Building, E-1
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
(410) 260-8511 Fax: (410) 260-8595