Frequently Asked Questions
Originating from a valley oak woodland and augmented by the addition of thousands of other trees subsequently planted by its residents, Woodland adopted the moniker, the “City of Trees.” These trees provide many benefits to the community. The maintenance of our leafy and shady community forest provides a foundation for future planting and tree stewardship.
Trees are an important element in promoting the well-being of the citizens of Woodland. A generous and diverse canopy of trees enhances the scenic beauty of the city and the quality of life for its residents; protects water quality; reduces air pollution; absorbs carbon dioxide, reducing the effects of global warming; provides habitat for birds and mammals; provides cooling shade and reduces energy consumption; enhances public health, and increases property values.
For these reasons it is in the community’s interest to protect and manage Woodland’s tree resources. With this goal in mind, the Woodland Tree Foundation prepared the following “Frequently Asked Questions” about the care of trees, current City tree policies and its tree ordinance, and the critical value of trees in the fight against climate change.
Need a shade tree? The City of Woodland and the Woodland Tree Foundation currently offer free trees to all Woodland residents, including the planting of the trees by volunteers. For more information see woodlandtree.org or email: or call 530-302-5932
- Why is it important to protect trees?
Trees provide many benefits. They provide wildlife habitat upon which many native species depend. They provide shade and help cool homes and buildings, and reduce the “Heat Island Effect” from concrete and pavement that absorbs solar energy, causing urban areas to be hotter than the surrounding rural landscape. The shade and cooling that trees provide will help cities adapt to climate change as the world gets hotter. Trees absorb and sequester carbon dioxide which is incorporated into wood as the trees grow, removing CO2 from the atmosphere, countering climate change.
Trees reduce peak rainfall runoff rates that discharge into drainage systems and creeks, allowing more rainfall to absorb into the ground which helps conserve groundwater while reducing flooding. Trees are aesthetically pleasing and exert a calming influence on people. Recent research indicates that tree-shaded neighborhoods contribute significant public health benefits to residents. Studies have shown that property values are increased in neighborhoods that have a healthy canopy of shade trees.
- Why is it important to protect trees on private property?
Currently, the City of Woodland has 14,166 publicly managed trees (streets, public parks), representing 10.7 % of the current urban forest canopy according to the recently completed “Urban Forest Master Plan.” The remainder of the tree canopy (89.3 %) is comprised of trees that are located on private property. Trees provide benefits to the community without regard to property lines. To adequately account for the benefits that trees provide, trees on both public and provide property should be reasonably preserved. City efforts to encouraging the protection of certain trees on private property is consistent with the public good and the realization of Woodland’s potential as a more livable and healthy community.
- How do trees allow Woodland to mitigate the effects of climate change?
Trees help with climate change in two ways. First, as a tree grows large over several decades, it absorbs significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the air (a greenhouse gas), converting it into wood biomass. .
Thus, trees help counter the effects of greenhouse gas emissions generated by various sources like cars, trucks, factories, and power plants. Second, by providing cooling shade, trees help adapt to a hotter future climate by reducing the demand for electricity, some of which is generated by the use of fossil fuels which increase greenhouse gas emissions.
- Why should we preserve valley oaks?
Aesthetically, valley oaks are the quintessential key tree species for the California’s Central Valley and are endemic (only occur in) to California. Valley oaks in particular impart a unique element of natural beauty in fertile valleys with their characteristic asymmetrical silhouette. Valley oaks are an important native species that is adapted to the climate and soils of Woodland. These trees require no summer water, so they can grow to a large size without compromising water supplies. Water is a resource that is predicted to become less reliable in the future as climate change proceeds. Valley oaks also provide important habitat to a range of native species, such as Swainson’s hawks, acorn woodpeckers, scrub jays, and owls.
A city-wide survey conducted by the Woodland Tree Foundation in August 2018 counted about 880 valley oaks over 12 inches in diameter measured at chest height (54 inches). About 80% of these oaks are located on private property
- Why should other large trees be protected?
Healthy large trees provide many current benefits to the City of Woodland, and will continue to do so for decades into the future. Careless removal of these trees will eliminate the benefits these trees currently provide. Even if we replace a large tree with a new tree, it can take decades to regain the benefits that an existing tree provides.
- What is Woodland’s Urban Forest Management Plan?
On March 19, 2019 the Woodland city council approved an Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP), which was funded by a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) grant awarded in 2017. The UFMP was developed with input from community citizens and City staff. It describes what Woodland desires for its urban trees located in parks, along streets, businesses, parking lots, apartments and front and back yards. The UFMP identifies the objectives, goals, and specific activities that if implemented will ensure that Woodland can attain a healthy and adequate tree canopy. A key goal is to increase shade tree coverage (canopy cover) to reach 25% by 2035. As of 2017, Woodland’s canopy was measured at 14%.
- How does protecting existing trees relate to the City’s Climate Action Plan?
Woodland’s Climate Action Plan attempts to address global warming (the scientific consensus that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, are causing the Earth to warm above historic levels). The Climate Action Plan identifies goals and policies to achieve both a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and actions to better prepare for levels of warming that are already underway from past emissions (adaptation).
The Climate Action Plan also targets a goal of 25 percent city-wide canopy coverage from shade trees. As this goal is achieved, the City of Woodland will contribute to climate change mitigation by sequestering carbon dioxide in its growing trees and by reducing the electricity demand for air conditioning. In addition, the increased shade from an enhanced canopy will help the City adapt to climate change by keeping buildings cooler than they would otherwise be.
- How does protecting oaks and other large shade trees relate to the United Nations’ recently released climate change study?
The UN climate change study summarized more than 6,000 scientific studies and has identified 1.5 degrees C. as the maximum temperature increase above historical levels that will give a high certainty of preventing possibly catastrophic and irreversible climate change. Such possible effects could be the breakup of large ice sheets that could cause significant sea-level rise, or the release of large amounts of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) from arctic permafrost if temperatures increase further from current levels.
If properly maintained, valley oaks can live for 300 years or more, with each tree absorbing many tons of carbon and reducing greenhouse gases that warm the planet. Also, the shade that they would provide would keep Woodland cooler in spite of increasing global temperatures, reducing the demand for electricity.
- Why should small oaks (down to 12-inch diameter) be given protection?
The young oaks of this size are the large oak trees of the future, and if protected will provide environmental benefits (shade, wildlife habitat, clean air, flood flow reduction, beauty) for centuries. If given protection and suitably located near buildings, they will ensure that Woodland has beautiful mature native oaks now and into the future to bestow benefits to future generations, perhaps creating some semblance to the native tree canopy that the first Woodlanders enjoyed when they first settled here in the nineteenth century.
- I have an oak tree that looks diseased and I am worried about it falling down and damaging my house or injuring someone. What is the process for removing the tree?
A homeowner should hire a private certified arborist to evaluate the tree. The arborist will evaluate whether the tree should be removed due to decline, disease, or structural unsoundness, or whether the tree’s life can be prolonged by removal of dead limbs or pruning live limbs to reduce their weight and the risk of breakage. By pruning a valley oak correctly, the homeowner may be able to safely enjoy the shade and beauty the mature oak provides for many decades which would be lost if the tree were simply removed. In addition the the homeowner would likely save thousands of dollars required to remove the tree.
- What trees are protected under Woodland’s current tree ordinance?
Woodland’s current tree ordinance provides protection for Street Trees, Landmark Trees, Specimen Trees, and Heritage Trees, and trees located on City property such as parks. Street Trees are trees located in planting strips between the sidewalk and the street and are considered public trees. Landmark Trees are trees noted for their historic or public significance. Specimen Trees are noted for being a mature and especially aesthetically pleasing tree of a given species. Landmark and Specimen Trees are not designated automatically but must be approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission (in the case of Specimen Trees) and by both the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Historical Preservation Commission in the case of Landmark Trees.
Any citizen may nominate a tree for Landmark or Specimen Trees status. Street, Landmark and Specimen Trees receive protection and a property owner must receive a permit from the City before they can be removed. Heritage trees are valley oak trees 33 inches or greater in diameter, and must be replaced if they are approved for removal during site preparation for a development project. (see Question 12).
Currently, there are fifteen trees protected as landmark trees:
- Five Canary Island palms at Woodland Public City;
- Three valley oaks, and one paradox walnut at City Park;
- Two valley oaks at Beamer Park
- A valley oak tree on West Street in front of Lee Middle School
- A valley oak in the quad at Douglass Middle School
- An American elm tree located in the public parking lot near 430 Third Street
- A cork oak located on the southwest corner of First Street/Marshall Avenue
For any work on a street tree proposed by an adjacent property owner, a permit must be obtained from the City of Woodland, except minor pruning which is allowed without a permit.
Trees on non-commercial private property that are not Street Trees, Landmark Trees, or Specimen Trees are not protected regardless of size or species under the current ordinance. That means any homeowner can prune or remove them for any reason without restriction by the City of Woodland.
- What tree protections apply in the current Woodland tree ordinance when a property owner wants to develop his or her property?
For projects requiring a development permit for (eg, commercial, industrial, new housing), a developer must indicate which trees 6 inches or greater in diameter the developer plans to preserve and which ones are planned for removal, and a tree protection plan for the preservation of all Street, Specimen, Landmark, and Trees of Aesthetic Value (trees in healthy condition measuring at least 9 inches in diameter).
For trees that are planned for removal, the developer must indicate the reason for the removal. The City of Woodland must approve the tree protection plan. For any Street Tree approved for removal the developer must replace it at a ratio of two replacement trees for each 6 inches of diameter per removed tree. For Specimen, Landmark, and Heritage trees approved for removal, the developer must replace the trees at a ratio of four replacement trees for each 6 inches of diameter of the removed tree.
There are currently no protections for removal of trees located on single family residences.
- Do other cities in California protect trees on private property?
Yes, many northern California cities, realizing the public benefits of trees, now provide some level of protection for trees on private property, including single residential lots. For example, the cities of West Sacramento, Sacramento, Palo Alto, Rancho Cordova, Santa Rosa, Visalia, Walnut Creek, Cupertino, Folsom, Citrus Heights, Martinez, Berkeley, and Napa have adopted tree protection regulations. City ordinances typically include requiring a permit to remove a tree over a certain size and species, and can provide more protections for native species such as valley oaks, madrone, western sycamore, California buckeye, and coast redwood.
These ordinances typically share the following features: (1) permit removal of trees that are diseased, dead, or hazardous; (2) permit removal of a tree that prevents an allowed use such as a swimming pool, dwelling expansion, garage, etc. If a tree is removed, ordinances typically require that the tree must be replaced on the property. Otherwise an in-lieu fee may be required to fund the planting of replacement trees on public property controlled by the city; (3) provide protections to native trees typically over a diameter of 6-to 12 inches, and protection to certain larger non-native trees typically over a range of 18-36 inches in diameter.