Atlanta approves tree protection ordinance to buy forested land

A proposed amendment to the Tree Protection Ordinance of the City of Atlanta called “Tree Trust Fund” was adopted unanimously by the Atlanta City Council last month. This amendment allows for purchase of forested property that meets certain criteria. The Tree Trust Fund, which has primarily funded new tree planting in the past, may now be used to purchase forested property to protect the existing canopy.

Each property proposed for purchase will be evaluated and vetted individually for suitability. Once purchased, it must be preserved as forested land and be available for free public access.

This change will help to preserve the City’s overall tree canopy, providing important environmental and health benefits that can only be provided by mature forested land.

The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability proposed the amendment with support from the City’s Department of Planning and Community Development, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Atlanta Canopy Alliance, an urban forest conservation alliance made up of The Conservation Fund, Georgia Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and Trees Atlanta.

The purpose of the City of Atlanta’s Tree Protection Ordinance is to assure that there is no net loss of trees within the boundaries of the city. The ordinance also establishes a Tree Trust Fund to be utilized for the protection, maintenance, and regeneration of the trees and other forest resources of Atlanta. The Tree Trust Fund is funded by developers, builders, contractors, homeowners and others who remove healthy trees in the city.

As recently as 2008, 48 percent of the city of Atlanta was covered by tree canopy. Today, three of the top ten counties in the Southern U.S. experiencing tree loss due to development are in the Atlanta metro region (Gwinnett, Fulton and Cobb). In an effort to help raise awareness about the issue and the multiple benefits of tree canopy, the Atlanta Canopy Alliance has written a pledge to help the voice of Atlantans be heard by our city’s policy makers and influencers.