Tree Protection & Removal

Tree Protection

People love living in Lacey for its “northwest look and feel.” As our community and the South Sound region continue to grow, maintaining that character is increasingly challenging. In the past, when quarter-acre lots were the norm, builders were able to work around and save trees as homes were built. Now, with state growth management laws encouraging smaller residential lots and higher densities to avoid sprawl, urban tree protection can be difficult.

The urban forest provides many environmental, psychological, and economic benefits. It is critical in providing a healthy environment for people, fish, and wildlife. It affects our health and sense of well-being. It provides economic benefits by reducing the need for power, and water treatment. Most benefits can be measured, some cannot, and all are significant.

The goal of managing city trees is to improve canopy cover and the aesthetic and physical benefits of trees to a community, while protecting the infrastructure from tree damage. This can have positive environmental and economic benefits to the community. In short, the urban trees should be compatible and functional, while minimizing maintenance costs.

The Urban Forest Management Plan is the overarching policy document that guides the City’s urban forestry vision and efforts. The City developed the Plan in 2006 and updated it in 2013 and again in 2021 with the assistance of the City of Lacey’s contract forester, an ad-hoc tree advisory group and the Planning Commission.

Residential Tree Removal

A residential property owner can remove up to three trees during a five-year period provided the required minimum ratio of four trees per each 5,000 square feet of total lot area remain on the site or are re-planted. 

A free land clearing permit exemption is required and must be obtained from the City prior to removing any trees, including those deemed hazardous or diseased. 

Hazardous and diseased trees are permitted to be removed following a site visit by the City’s Arborist, and do not count towards the minimum tree removal requirement. See Table 14T-66 for payment responsibility.

Permit Requirements

No tree removal is permitted on any residential property located within the City of Lacey without a land clearing permit or exemption. In certain cases, a class IV forest practice permit may also be required.

Permit Exemption

The following situations typically qualify for issuance of a permit exemption:

  • Removal of hazard trees and ground cover in emergency situation involving immediate danger to life or property or substantial fire hazards as determined by the City Arborist;
  • Removal of three or fewer trees in any 60 consecutive months, or ground cover for the purposes of solar access, general property and utility maintenance, landscaping or gardening;
  • Removal of trees and ground cover within a maximum of 10 feet of the perimeter of a single-family or duplex dwelling structure construction line, and any area proposed to be cleared for related driveway and utility purposes; and
  • Removal of obstructions required for vision clearance at intersections.

In all cases, the standards for tree density must be maintained.

Application for Permit Exemption

Properties owners must submit a completed permit exemption form, including a drawing of their property indicating all tree(s) to be removed.

There is no charge to obtain a permit exemption. If a property owner wishes to remove more than three trees within five years because they believe them to be diseased or hazardous, a “Request for Review” by the City Arborist needs to be submitted. The City Arborist is a recognized expert in tree preservation and management with whom the City has contracted in the interest of achieving professional assistance and consistency in tree protection decisions.

For explanation of payment of forester services, see Table 14T-66.


If you hire a contractor to remove the trees(s), the City requires that they have a Lacey endorsement to their State Business License. The City also recommends, for your protection, that the contractor be licensed and bonded. Any contractor who is removing a tree within the City must also sign and submit an agreement that they have read and understand the City of Lacey’s Tree Protection Regulations.

Department Contact
Grant Beck

Planning and Development Services Manager

TEL: 360-491-5642


Community & Economic Development


phone: 360-491-5642

Monday - Friday: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm