As our city grows, there may be situations where a protected tree needs to be removed or injured, or work needs to take place in a ravine or natural feature. These activities are only permitted when the City has reviewed your application and determined that the proposal meets bylaw requirements. The bylaw also requires new trees to be planted as compensation. Submitting an application does not guarantee that you will be issued a permit. Find out if you should apply for a permit by reviewing the following sections.

Trees on private property, 30 centimetres in diameter or more

Any activity that can cause a tree of 30 centimetres or more in diameter, to be injured or removed, on private property, is prohibited unless authorized with a permit under the Tree Protection By-law.

How to measure the diameter of a tree:

  1. Get a measuring tape, calculator and somewhere to write.
  2. Find the trunk of the tree or the largest stem. If a tree has multiple stems, the diameter of the largest stem is used to determine the size of a multi-stemmed tree. Where at least one stem measures 30 cm in diameter or greater, the tree (including all stems) is protected under the bylaw.
  3. Hold the start of a measuring tape at ground level. Measure 1.4 metres (4.5 feet) from the base of the tree at ground level upwards. Place a finger or a temporary mark at this point.
  4. Hold the end of the measuring tape at the 1.4 metre mark and wrap it around the tree at a 90-degree angle to the trunk or stem (not the ground). Measure the circumference of the tree trunk or stem in centimetres.
  5. Using a calculator, divide the measured circumference by 3.14. The total value is the tree’s Diameter at Breast Height (DBH).
  6. If the DBH is 30 centimetres or more, the tree is protected.

Trees on City streets, any size

Any activity that can cause a street tree of any size to be harmed or removed is prohibited unless authorized with a permit under the Tree Protection By-law.

City-owned streets can include common or public highways, roads, and spaces in front of residential homes. In some cases, street trees may be located in the boulevard between the sidewalk and the road, or in a portion of a front yard next to the road or sidewalk.

A survey of your property will show the measurement from your home towards the property line and street curb. If you don’t have a survey of your property, you can also contact 311 to confirm who owns the tree.

Ravines and natural features

All ravines, forests, public parks, golf courses and other natural features identified in the Ravine and Natural Feature Protection By-law are protected. The following activities are prohibited, unless authorized with a permit under the bylaw:

  • Harming or removing any trees, regardless of size
  • Changing the natural land topography, by excavation or adding soil or other materials on slopes
  • Placing or dumping of fill (such as earth, sand and gravel) or refuse (such as garbage, construction material and garden waste, leaves and branches)
  • Constructing new or replacing old structures or retaining walls

Find out if a location is within a Ravine and Natural Feature Protected Area

  1. Using a computer, open the Ravine and Natural Feature Protection By-law Map in your web browser.
  2. Enter the address in the search bar at the top and select the Search button. If multiple search results appear, select the property of interest.
  3. Select “Legend” on the top left to open a menu. Next to “Administrative Boundaries,” select the box with “+” then a submenu will appear below it. Select “Ravine and Natural Feature Protection By-law” by selecting the check box next to it. A new striped layer will appear over the map.
  4. If the property is in a striped area, it is in a ravine or natural feature protection area. Select “+” to zoom in and “-” to zoom out on the map.

We recommend using a computer over a smart device when using the map.

While we aim to provide fully accessible content, there is no text alternative available for some of the content on this site. If you require alternate formats or need assistance understanding our maps, drawings, or any other content, please contact the Ravine and Natural Features Protection Office or a Tree Protection and Plan Review district office.

Trees and land in parks

Trees of all sizes, including their surrounding ground space and air space, located in a City-owned or managed park, are protected by the Parks By-law. The following activities are prohibited:

  • Removing or harming any tree in a park
  • Installing private property (such as, fences, decks, pools, gardens, walls and sheds) or dumping waste (such as grass, debris or pool water) entering park air or ground space
  • Installing decorative lighting without written approval

Activities that can injure trees

Any damage to the trunk, crown, roots and soil can fatally impact a tree. Harmful activities to trees and their protection zones include, but are not limited to:

  • Constructing, demolishing, replacing or changing permanent or temporary buildings, structures, parking pads, driveways, sidewalks, walkways, paths, trails, dog runs, pools, retaining walls, patios, decks, terraces, sheds or raised gardens
  • Installing large stones or boulders
  • Any disturbance to the ground, such as: excavating, digging (trenching or tunneling), scraping or flattening soil or fill, changing the surface level and dumping
  • Storing construction materials, equipment, wood, branches, leaves, soil or fill, construction waste or debris
  • Applying, discharging or disposing of a substance or chemical, such as: concrete sluice, gas, oil, paint, pool water or backwash water from a swimming pool
  • Causing or allowing water or discharge to flow over slopes and through natural areas
  • Driving vehicles and equipment or pedestrians walking over roots
  • Cutting, breaking, tearing, crushing, exposing or stripping a tree’s roots, trunk or branches
  • Nailing or stapling into a tree, such as: attaching fences, electrical wires or signs
  • Stringing cables or attaching lights to trees or within a Tree Protection Zone
  • Removing polluted or contaminated soil or fill
  • Excavating for directional boring or micro-tunnelling

Property owners are responsible for protecting and providing regular maintenance to trees on their property and must follow the Tree Protection By-law and Ravine and Natural Feature Protection By-law.

  • Boundary tree: If any part of a tree trunk is growing across one or more property lines, it is known as a boundary tree and the tree is owned by both (or all) property owners. Either (or any) property owner may apply for a permit if required however, consent must be granted by the other property owners(s).
  • Neighbour tree: If a tree trunk is fully growing on a property, but the tree crown or roots impact a neighbouring property, it is known as a neighbour tree, and the owner of the impacted property may apply for a permit if required. A permit does not determine ownership of a tree and does not authorize an applicant to encroach or enter upon another person’s private property or to remove a tree owned by another without their consent. It is the responsibility of the applicant to resolve any civil disputes.

Builders and developers must consider trees, ravines and natural features when designing and constructing a project. They must understand and follow the City’s requirements before, during and after a project.

Residents and visitors can help protect Toronto’s trees by reporting violations of bylaws.

The City acts as a regulator and protector of trees by enforcing and administering the respective bylaws by reviewing permit applications, issuing permits when applicable, ensuring bylaw compliance and recommending best practices.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) regulates development in or near watercourses, river and stream valleys, the Lake Ontario Shoreline and wetlands and potential areas of interference around wetlands.

Construction

Before you begin construction work, you must consider how it will impact a protected tree, ravine or natural area:

  • Construction-related activities such as building, demolition, excavating, driving vehicles and equipment, storing materials, equipment and soil, and creating waste can harm the tree’s leaves, branches, trunks, roots and soil, and can lead to the tree requiring removal.
  • The proposed construction design may require a protected tree to be removed or injured.

To determine if your construction will impact a protected tree and if you should apply for a permit, we recommend consulting an arborist to assess the site and measure the Tree Protection Zone (TPZ). A TPZ is the area around a tree that must be protected during construction work to preserve the health of a tree. If any construction work on site, including access or storage, will impact a TPZ, you need to apply for a permit to remove or injure a tree. If your construction will not impact a TPZ, you do not need to apply for a permit, however, you are required to protect trees near the proposed construction and complete a Tree Protection Plan in consultation with an arborist. Visit Tree Protection Policy and Specifications for Construction Near Trees.

How to measure a tree to identify the Tree Protection Zone

  1. Get a measuring tape and calculator.
  2. Find the trunk of the tree or the largest stem. If a tree has multiple stems, the diameter of the largest stem is used to determine the Tree Protection Zone (TPZ) for the multi-stemmed tree. Where at least one stem measures 30 cm in diameter or greater, the tree (including all stems) is protected under the bylaw.
  3. Hold the start of a measuring tape at ground level. Measure 1.4 metres (4.5 feet) from the base of the tree upwards. Place a finger or a temporary mark at this point.
  4. Hold the end of the measuring tape at the 1.4 metres mark and wrap it around the tree at a 90 degrees angle to the trunk or stem, not the ground. Measure the circumference of the tree trunk or stem in centimetres.
  5. Using a calculator, divide the measured circumference in centimetres by 3.14. This is the tree’s diameter at breast height (DBH).
  6. Find out if the tree is on private property, on a City street or in a ravine or natural area.
  7. Based on the DBH of your tree, use the Tree Protection Zone Sizes table to determine the area that requires protection.

Tree Protection Zone (minimum sizes)

Trunk Diameter at Breast Height (centimetres) Trees on Private Property (metres) Trees on City Streets (metres) Trees in Ravines and Natural Areas (metres)
Less than 10 cm n/a 1.2 m 1.2 m*
10 cm – 29 cm n/a 1.8 m 3.6 m*
30 cm – 40 cm 2.4 m 2.4 m 4.8 m*
41 cm – 50 cm 3.0 m 3.0 m 6.0 m*
51 cm – 60 cm 3.6 m 3.6 m 7.2 m*
61 cm – 70 cm 4.2 m 4.2 m 8.4 m*
71 cm – 80 cm 4.8 m 4.8 m 9.6 m*
81 cm – 90 cm 5.4 m 5.4 m 10.8 m*
91 cm – 100 cm 6.0 m 6.0 m 12 m*
More than 100 cm 6 cm for every 1 cm tree diameter 6 cm for every 1 cm tree diameter 12 cm for every 1 cm tree diameter

* Or the dripline (the area beneath the outermost branch tips of a tree), whichever is greater.

As-of-right Development

An as-of-right development means the owner of a property is developing their land in accordance with the Ontario Building Code, local zoning bylaws and other applicable laws and is permitted without further approval by City Planning.  If your as-of-right development impacts a protected tree, you are still required to apply for a permit to remove or injure it. You may be asked to revise your construction plan or design in order to protect a tree. If a permit is issued, permit conditions are required. Compensation planting is sometimes acceptable as cash-in-lieu.

The City does not consider the following to be as-of-right construction: pools, landscape features and accessory structures (e.g. sheds, gazebos, cabanas, etc.), standalone garages and basements that extend beyond the above-ground footprint of the building.

Laneway and Garden Suites

In order to support the preservation of existing trees, laneway and garden suites, should not result in the removal of a healthy bylaw-protected tree. Where a design necessitates the injury or removal of a tree, the City may refuse the tree permit, in accordance with Municipal Code Chapters 608, 658, and 813 and the Official Plan. Where there is a potential for damage to private trees due to the proposal of a laneway or garden suite, you are advised to contact City staff to discuss how the design of the suite can be accomplished to protect the healthy tree(s) in question.

Committee of Adjustment applications

If you have applied for a minor variance further to the zoning bylaw or consent to sever through the Committee of Adjustment, the City will review your plans and the minor variance or consent to sever application for its impact to protected trees, ravines and natural features and, if applicable, provide comments to the Committee before the committee meeting.

If your minor variance application is approved by the Committee of Adjustment and your plan directly impacts a protected tree, ravine or natural feature, you are still required to apply for a permit. You may be asked to revise your construction plan or design in order to protect a tree or possibly provide tree compensation planting.

Non-construction

There are some non-construction situations where injuring or removing a tree may be permissible under the bylaw. Note you are still required to submit an application. These situations include:

  • Trees are in poor condition and cannot be maintained in a healthy and safe condition
  • Trees are causing or likely to cause structural damage to load-bearing structures or roof
  • Trees are to be relocated and the City is satisfied that the trees will be sufficiently prepared for relocation
  • The tree removal or injury is required to implement a ravine restoration plan or forest stewardship, management or enhancement plan.
  • The tree removal or injury is required to permit activities associated with the day-to-day operations of a cemetery for the interring or disinterring of remains

The City’s Tree By-law prevents the unnecessary removal of trees to protect and retain healthy trees.

Situations where a tree is considered a nuisance are generally not supported as reasons to remove or harm a tree under the Tree Protection By-law. For suggestions on how to address commonly asked concerns about trees, review the tips below, consult with a private arborist or contact 311.

  • Landscaping: Issues related to landscaping can be resolved by choosing plant species that are tolerant of the existing growing environment.
  • Maintaining trees: Private tree maintenance is considered a part of regular property maintenance and it is the responsibility of the property owner, including the removal of fallen leaves, flowers, fruit, twigs and small branches. The benefits of trees outweigh associated maintenance.
  • Roots and concerns about damage: Tree roots do not cause lifts or cracks in properly-constructed and well-maintained infrastructure. If infrastructure has poor drainage, water can cause it to heave or crack as it freezes and thaws. This creates spaces that tree roots may grow into. Infrastructure failures can typically be repaired without tree removal. You can prevent roots from growing in any existing cracks or openings in the foundation by waterproofing it.

If your application for a permit to remove or injure a tree is denied, you will be notified in writing. You can appeal this decision to Community Council by notifying the City in writing. In response, staff will prepare an appeal report to Community Council. The City Clerk will notify you of the Community Council meeting date. At the meeting, you will have the opportunity to present your information. Community Council’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.

Tree pruning according to good arboricultural practice: A permit is not required to prune a tree, as long as it is done in accordance with good arboricultural practices, to maintain the health of the tree. For any tree work, we encourage you to retain the services of a certified or registered consulting arborist, a registered professional forester or other tree care specialist with similar qualifications.

You must request and receive a permit exception confirmation from the City for the following:

  • Imminently hazardous: A tree that is destabilized or structurally compromised that poses an imminent danger to life or the property must be removed. On private property, the owner is responsible for arranging for the removal of the tree
  • A terminally diseased tree: Not all diseases will cause a tree to die. Trees that are terminally diseased and no longer maintainable may be granted an exception. A permit is still required for trees that are in poor condition.
  • Ash trees: A permit is not required to remove an ash tree that is infested with Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). To obtain a permit exception, contact 311.
  • Dead trees: a permit is not required to remove a tree that is 100 per cent dead.
  • Grade changes: the City of Toronto will require evidence that Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has issued a permit within areas that are regulated by the TRCA, and where no tree removal or injury is planned.

How to obtain a permit exception

To obtain a permit exception, you must send an arborist report and photographs of the tree to your local Tree Protection and Plan Review District Office by:

  • email (include your address in the subject field)
  • in-person
  • fax

You must receive the permit exception confirmation from the City before proceeding with removal or injury of a tree, unless immediate tree work is required to eliminate a dangerous situation. We encourage property owners to plant a new tree on the property, to replace the one being removed.

If the City determines that a tree does not qualify for a permit exception, you may choose to apply for a permit.