Legislation to Protect and Replace Trees on Private Land: Ordinances in Westchester County, New York
John C. Cooper
Abstract: As the density of development has increased in New York City and its northern suburbs over the past 2 decades, there has been increased concern about the preservation of trees on private land. This paper presents a snapshot of how these ordinances have developed, the present situation, and the future of this area of regulation. Many of the 41 town or villages in Westchester County, New York, have some form of tree preservation ordinance. (Westchester County is an affluent suburban area immediately north of New York City, and has seen its population more than double in the past 20 years.) Important features of these ordinances include the types of private property or subdivisions covered by the regulations, use of the concept of clear-cutting protection, tree classification and coverage, tree density, and enforcement mechanisms. Three types of ordinance can be differentiated. In the first type, large lot sizes are regulated, while the second type, demonstrates a variety of concerns about tree size and type. These ordinances are generally too weak to substantially protect private trees. The third type of ordinance, more recent in passage (or amendment), contains sufficient detail for strong enforcement in the areas of concern. A set of model regulations is recommended for all ordinances that control trees on private land.