Oak trees are the magnificent evergreen icons of nature that can be found anywhere in the world. Oak trees are slow growers and can live up to a thousand years if undisturbed with some varieties retaining good health for centuries. It, therefore, does not come as a surprise that most oak species are protected under state and federal laws.

Oak trees are mainly protected because of their age and significance to local communities where they grow. Some of the protected oak trees have been growing for centuries and are therefore seen as remnant habitats that need to be protected to conserve biodiversity or heritage. Some oak tree species are also protected because they are considered vulnerable or endangered.

Can I Remove an Oak Tree from My Garden?

You are allowed to remove trees growing in your garden after obtaining the necessary permits from your local council office. The oak tree may not be under some form of protection but it’s still under a general tree protection law that you must comply with before pruning or removing it. Tree removal prices depend on the size of a tree and the time taken to remove/trim a tree.

Oak Tree Protection: Historical Significance

Since oak trees tend to grow for many years, there is a big chance that any one of them, especially those growing in urban areas, holds some historical significance to the local community. Such trees may be under strict protection because they are used to commemorate certain periods in history or are used as landmarks to signify certain events.  

As an example, the federation trees outside the houses of parliament in Melbourne are Quercus Canariensis oak trees that have been around since 1908. This is a great example of an oak tree that is protected because of its historical significance.  There are similar trees spread across Australia and other parts of the world that cannot be cut or altered in any way without a special permit.   

Oak Tree Protection: Ecological Resource

Any large oak tree growing on public or private property may be protected because it is considered as ecologically significant to the local ecosystem. They may be providing necessary shelter to local bird species or used for medicinal purposes by native communities.

Oak Tree Protection: Endangered Species

Oak trees are among the oldest species to occupy earth’s landscapes. Over the years, several species of oak trees have either disappeared or are considered threatened and need to be protected and preserved. For instance, the Quercus Boyntonii oak species native to North American is considered an endangered species and is protected wherever it grows regardless of its age or size.

Note: Cutting or pruning a tree considered as an endangered species is considered a serious crime in some places. You could attract huge fines or litigation if you are not careful about what you do with an oak tree under this category.

Oak Tree Protection: Cultural Significance

Old giant oak trees may have some cultural significance to local communities and are therefore protected.  Some native communities may use them as religious shrines or symbols for certain cultural events.  

For instance, some communities worship in oak woodlands while others use some oak species as protection against calamities These are, however, usually growing in public places and maintained by the authorities. You need to be careful if contracted to work on any project near such trees.

Oak Tree Protection for Public Landscaping

Due to their size and dense leaf cover, oak trees are often used for landscaping in public places such as streets and roadsides. Such oak trees may be under some form of ordinance or protection from the owners even if they are growing close to your building or compound.

You need to know which oak tree is protected under your state’s laws and why it is protected before you do anything to it. Most tree protection laws prohibit any kind of activity that may jeopardize the health of an old or historically significant oak tree or change its appearance.  Here is how you would be able to tell if the giant oak tree you may have in or around your compound is protected:

1. Size of The Oak Tree

How big is the oak tree in terms of height and trunk diameter? In some cities and states, you may be allowed to remove oak trees with a trunk diameter less than 8 inches and not taller than 5 meters. These are normally very young oak trees that you probably planted yourself or were part of the landscaping.

Such oak trees do not hold any historical, cultural, ecological, or religious significance and can be removed or pruned without a permit. You do, however, need to seek guidance if the oak tree in question is growing outside your property and belongs to the local authorities.

2. Placement of The Oak Tree

Perhaps you have a giant oak tree growing adjacent to your fence that needs pruning or uprooting for some reason. The placement of an oak tree holds a lot of significance and may mean that it’s protected.

 If the tree is growing on a public road or street but too near your house or property, then you need to find out if you need a special permit to have it removed or pruned. If it is inside you compound, you may still need a permit that can be obtained from your local council office. Generally, oak trees growing inside private property are not strictly protected meaning it will be easier to obtain a permit to have it removed.

3. Age of The Oak Tree

How long has the oak tree been sitting there? Generally, oak trees that are a few decades old may be under some form of protection as part of conservation laws protecting old tree species. If you found the oak tree growing where it is after moving in or purchasing a property, then you probably need to find out if it’s protected before you have it removed or pruned.

4. Type/Species of Oak Tree

Some oak trees varieties/ species are considered endangered species and would be under some form of ordinance or protection for preservation.  Examples of oak tree species that may be considered endangered in your state or country include:

  • Quercus acerifolia
  • Quercus Xalapensis
  • Quercus Geogiana
  • Quercus Shumardii
  • Quercus Boyntonii
  • Quercus Hinkleyi, among others

5. Who Owns the Oak Tree?

Oak trees belonging to local authorities or government organizations are generally under protection and can only be removed with a special permit when required. Sometimes, private contractors may need to trim or cut an oak tree to make way for a construction project. Cutting an oak tree under protection without a permit would obviously attract a lawsuit or fines.

6. Your Location

Are oak trees considered native vegetation in your location? In most places, trees considered native vegetation are placed in a different category from non-native species. You may require a special permit to remove a tree that is considered native vegetation in your area.

Can I Remove an Oak Tree Myself?

Mature oak trees tend to be big in terms of height and diameter and would therefore need special cutting and exaction equipment to remove safely. A tree removal company is your best option if you want to prune or remove a mature oak. They may also advise you on the kind of permits needed to remove the oak tree.


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