Trees & Defensible Space
You can submit a tree removal application online. Print and sign this Authorization Form for uploading, then go to the online portal and register for an account or login.
Or download the TRPA Tree Removal Application. The application is $77 to submit. A TRPA forester will visit the property to assess the trees and issue a permit for any marked trees. Contact a TRPA Forester at (775) 589-5294.
Tree removal for defensible space can be permitted by your local fire protection agency. The City of South Lake Tahoe does not conduct defensible tree permits. Contact TRPA for all tree removal inspections and permits in the City of South Lake Tahoe.
Creating and maintaining defensible space around homes is critical to helping manage the threat of catastrophic wildfire in the Tahoe Basin. Following the devastating Angora Wildfire in 2007, fire professionals reported that 75 percent of homes that survived in the burn area had completed some form of defensible space. TRPA rules support defensible space and in most cases trees less than 14 inches in diameter can be removed without a tree removal permit.
Many tree removal projects are for fire safety and you can contact your fire protection agency for permitting and a complete defensible space evaluation. The Living with Fire Guide for the Lake Tahoe Basin is the authoritative guide for vegetation management and wildfire preparedness on properties in the Tahoe Basin.
When is a tree removal permit needed?
A permit is required to remove live trees greater than 14 inches diameter at breast height (DBH) as long as the house is not along the lakeshore.
If the house is along the lakeshore, a permit is required to remove trees greater than 6 inches DBH between the house and the lake. Trees not between the house and the lake only need a tree removal permit if they are live trees greater than 14 inches DBH.
Trees of any size that were planted or retained as part of a permit, or that are in a Stream Environment Zone or backshore area, require a permit for removal. The backshore area is the sensitive area adjacent to the Lake.
Removal of a dead tree that could fall on a house does not require a permit. A conifer is considered to be dead when it doesn’t have any green needles. A deciduous tree must be determined to be dead by a qualified forester. To remove a dead tree that isn’t near a house, contact a TRPA forester to determine if a permit is required.
A permit is required for removal of branches from the upper 2/3 of the total height of the tree, unless the branch:
- Is within 10 feet of a chimney outlet, building or deck
- Is rubbing or pulling on utility lines within your property boundary (always consult your power company before removing branches near utility lines)
- Is dead
Any manipulation of live vegetation within SEZs or the backshore of Lake Tahoe, including trees and shrubs, requires TRPA review.
Trees that are permitted for removal as part of a development project do not need a separate tree removal permit.
How to Determine DBH
DBH stands for “diameter at breast height.” Breast height is 4.5 feet off the ground, measured on the uphill side of the tree. Measure around the outside of the tree at breast height to determine the circumference, and then divide that number by 3.14 to get the diameter. A tree with a diameter of 14 inches has a circumference of 43.9 inches.