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Properties with Most Trees Removed

Click on the map below to see an interactive map of where the greatest number of healthy trees were permitted for removal between January 1 and June 30, 2022.  Each 'X' marks where more than 200 trees were permitted.  Click on each 'X' for permit detail.

Note: Healthy tree loss stopped being reported by the Arborist Division after June 30, 2022.

map of sites where most trees destroyed

latest news flash

 

Latest Tree Ordinance Changes Had No Effect

The 2022 changes to the Tree Ordinance that took effect April 2023 have not reduced tree loss according to the City's published tree data.  Since the changes went into effect, tree loss has surged. When comparing the last three quarters of 2023 to the same period in 2022:

  • Healthy tree removal increased by 44%.
  • Illegal tree removal grew by 42%, although the growth in illegal tree removal is understated because the number of trees cleared illegally on 33 acres at 2811 Forrest Park Road is unknown and not included. 
  • Removal of dead, dying, and hazardous trees rose slightly by 4%.

(Click on image below to enlarge.)

2022 changes to tree ordinance impact2  

We don't know if these tree loss trends continued in the first quarter of 2024 because the City stopped publishing tree loss data at the end of 2023.  City Planning Commissioner Jahnee Prince has instructed the Arborist Division to wait until the City's new interactive dashboard is ready before any more tree data is released to the public.  This withholding of quarterly data means the City is not in compliance with Sec. 158-103(f) of the Tree Protection Ordinance.

Before 2020, tree loss data was provided on a fiscal year (FY) basis, from July 1 to June 30. Starting in the third quarter of 2019, the City began providing data on a quarterly basis, allowing us to compile the data by calendar year (CY). The chart below shows that tree loss has significantly increased in all categories over the past four calendar years, with a notable upsurge in healthy trees, both permitted and illegally removed, starting in 2021:

  • Healthy tree removal has increased by 121% since 2020.
  • Illegal tree removal has nearly doubled in the past four years.  (It's more than doubled since an unknown number of trees cleared on 33 acres in 2023 are not included.)
  • The removal of dead, dying, and hazardous (DDH) trees has not grown as much, but is still 7% more than 2020 (which is 21% more than the previous year, FY2019).

(Click on image below to enlarge.)

all tree catagories thru cy 20233


Please click on each tree category below to understand more about the tree loss we are seeing in each category.

Heathy Trees

Key takeaways:

  • Healthy tree removal has increased by 121% over the past three years.  Prior to 2021, there was no growth trend in the number of healthy trees removed.  

  • Our Tree Ordinance currently focuses on preserving trees on lots zoned as single-family residential, but the majority of our tree canopy loss is now happening on multi-family and commercial developments.

DDH Trees

Key takeaways:

  • DDH tree removals are not growing as fast as other categories of tree removal, but are still 7% more than 2020 and 40% more than the average number removed before 2020.

  • Very few DDH permit applications are denied and the DDH approval rate in 2023 is back up to the all-time high approval rate we saw in 2020, when the city arborists were not conducting onsite inspections due to Covid.  During the six years prior to Covid, approval rates were around 81%.  Since Covid, approval rates have been consistently higher, between 89% to 94%.

Illegally Removed Trees

Key takeaways:

  • Illegal tree removal has more than doubled since 2020.

  • Current fines with no court citations have been ineffective in curbing illegal tree removal.

  • The Atlanta Police Department no longer stops illegal tree removal as it is happening and there is no other City agency able to fill the gap.
   

50% Canopy Goal Not in Phase 2 Tree Ordinance Rewrite Directive

As the most recent changes to the Tree Ordinance were going into effect in 2023, City Council passed a non-binding resolution to establish a goal of achieving and maintaining 50% tree canopy cover. The resolution also requested a study every five years to evaluate the effectiveness of the Tree Protection Ordinance in meeting that goal. We agree that this 50% canopy goal should help guide the development of tree-related initiatives and monitor the success of those policies and programs. 

However, Phase 2 of the Tree Ordinance rewrite is currently underway with no real commitment to achieving a 50% canopy goal.  Instead, the official "directive" given by the City to the Tree Ordinance Rewrite committee is to:

•  Promote the preservation and management of trees in Atlanta,

•  Identify and specify opportunities for efficiently and equitably increasing canopy appropriately located throughout the city,

•  While minimizing impacts to developers, home and property owners, the public sector and other stakeholders.

Why Phase 2 of the Tree Ordinance Rewrite May Not Save The Tree Canopy

The directive given to the Phase 2 Tree Ordinance Rewrite committee is purely aspirational, with no actual measurable goals.  For the 50% canopy resolution to be effective, City Council must commit to:

  1. Setting better standards for tree preservation,

  2. Limiting the amount of land that can be disturbed in site development, and

  3. Raising recompense fees to the current rate it costs to replace removed trees inch-for-inch.  Presently, the mandated recompense fees do not begin to cover the actual costs of tree replanting.

None of these commitments are included in the current directive, whereas the commitment to "minimize impact to developers" is. At some point, City Council must realize that an effective Tree Ordinance will impact developers' profits, and there is no "minimum" profit loss the development community will accept as long as City Council lets them keep avoiding it.

Also, changes being presently discussed in our Zoning Ordinance rewrite, which is occurring at the same time as the Tree Ordinance rewrite, do not include rezoning for greater tree preservation and planting. When asked how the new Zoning Ordinance will help save the tree canopy, the response is: "The Tree Ordinance rewrite will address this issue." However, zoning ordinances are integral to preserving land for trees, and yet the Zoning and Tree Ordinance rewrites are occurring in silos..

   

See a tree coming down? Click here for what to do!

Arborist Sign Postings Online

The orange and yellow
sign postings on private property are listed by zip code on the City Arborist Division's website. Please click here to see which trees may be coming down near you, and when the deadlines are to file an appeal.

Sign postings on public property may be found here.

Need to Look Up a Permit?

Click here for instructions on how to look up a tree cuting permit in Accela, the City of Atlanta's online permitting database.  If you already know how to use Accela, click here to go straight to the database.

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