In this article, I would like to focus on tree cutting/pruning in the 0 to 100-foot shoreland zone, for towns that have adopted the newest state tree cutting rules. In this area, we use the "point system" to help us determine what, if any, cutting is allowed. We start by mapping and gridding the shorefront off into sections, and then we measure and map the existing trees. The measurement must be made at 4 ½ feet above ground level (Diameter at Breast Height or DBH). Each tree is given a point designation, based on its size (in general, the larger the tree, the higher the point value). We must maintain a minimum of 24 points before any surplus trees/points may be removed. To discourage the removal of only the small trees, no more than half of the 24 points, in each grid section, may come from trees that are 12 inch diameter or larger.
Trees that are dead, dying or dangerous (as determined by a licensed arborist) are usually allowed to be removed, but often times, if this takes a grid section below the minimum required points, new small trees will be required to be planted to take their place, unless new growth is present. Any tree that is smaller than 2 inches in diameter (DBH), but taller than 3 feet is considered a sapling. A minimum number of saplings must be left, if possible, in each grid section. Any vegetation that is 3-feet tall or shorter is considered ground cover. No ground cover is allowed to be removed except for one 6-foot wide winding path to the water. A tree may not be stripped of live limbs any higher than the lowest one-third of its height. Dead limbs are okay to remove at any height.
The actual shoreland zone goes back a total of 250 feet from the water, but the first 100 feet is the most critical and the most heavily protected. No more than 40 percent of the basal area of trees over 4 inches DBH may be removed from the entire 250-foot shoreland zone in any 10 year period. There are also limits to the size of cleared openings that can be created in both the 0 to 100-foot zone and the 100 to 250-foot zones.
Fines for violations can be substantial. Each town has a code enforcement officer that is in charge of enforcing the tree-cutting rules. Some towns now require a permit for any shoreland zone tree cutting. If you have questions, you should contact your town code enforcement officer and/or a competent arborist. Keep in mind that you are ultimately responsible for whatever cutting is done, so it pays to know the rules and/or work with an arborist that you trust completely to stay within the rules. After all, the rules are in place to help keep our lakes and streams clean, which is a good thing.
The author is general manager of Q-Team Tree Service in Naples and is also a licensed Arborist. He can be reached at RobertFogg@Q-Team.com