When is it allowed to cut trees?
Felling a tree is subject to the strict requirements of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG). To protect breeding birds, a grace period has been set that applies to all federal states. From March 1st to September 30th it is forbidden to saw trees on private property. Paragraph 39 has been known to hobby gardeners for years because pruning is generally prohibited during this time.
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From October 1st, tree felling is permitted on private properties until February 28th. This permit is only valid if it is reliably ascertained in the context of the tree approach that the felling does not affect wild animals, damage or destroy their breeding and resting places.
Private trees are subject to tree protection statutes
The form in which the Federal Nature Conservation Act is actually implemented and, if necessary, expanded is a matter for the federal states and municipalities in Germany. As a result, it is the responsibility of the regional administrations to protect the trees on private property within the framework of a statute. Since cities and municipalities adapt their tree protection statutes to the local framework, for example in Saxony, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein different requirements apply than in Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg. The following table gives a rough overview of the trunk diameter up to which trees can be felled on private property:
|Tree species||Trunk diameter||multi-stemmed|
|Deciduous tree||up to 80 cm||up to 50 cm|
|Conifer||up to 100 cm||up to 60 cm|
|Fruit tree||up to 150 cm||up to 100 cm|
In some federal states, trees on private properties can be felled all year round, regardless of the trunk diameter. The state of Hesse puts house and allotment gardens on a par with public green spaces and forests. Private trees can be sawn off at any time, provided that it is not a breeding and resting place for wild animals. Hamburg permits the felling of fruit trees on private property.Youtube
Inquire about regional tree protection statutes
Some municipalities do not have a tree protection statute at all, others go far beyond the general requirements outlined above. The state of Lower Saxony includes large shrubs from 3 meters high in the felling ban. It is not advisable to rely on rough nationwide guidelines for cutting trees. In the worst case, you will face severe fines if you cut down trees on your private property that are subject to a permit.
Please contact the lower nature conservation authority at the district office in advance to inquire about the specific requirements for your home region. An informal request to your municipality or city administration also sheds light on the darkness. Sometimes you can download the relevant application forms from the website of the responsible municipality.
Without tree protection statutes, there is a risk of deforestationDespite increasing environmental awareness, property owners shamelessly exploit the liberal stance of their municipalities. Where a tree protection statute is dispensed with, private tree felling actions take on worrying proportions. The chairman of the Nature Conservation Union in Münster (NABU) recently drew attention to the urgency of well-founded guidelines. In an open letter, Peter Hlubek denounced numerous actions to which healthy trees fell victim, sometimes even when birds that can be proven to have been protected were breeding in them. A tree protection ordinance ensures at least that every tree intended for felling is carefully examined.
Example: Tree Protection Ordinance Aachen
A summary of the city of Aachen gives an insight into the concrete requirements of a tree protection statute. The German Nature Conservation Union (NABU) is particularly active in NRW, which is reflected in regional statutes. As a famous university town, thousands of nature-loving students watch over every single tree with eagle eyes, which does not pass the following tree protection statute without a trace:
- Scope : built-up districts, development / development plans outside of agricultural and forestry use
- Deciduous trees : Felling prohibited from a trunk circumference of 80 cm
- multi-stemmed deciduous trees : no felling if a stem is at least 50 cm in diameter
- Conifers : Felling prohibited from a trunk circumference of 100 cm
- multi-stemmed conifers : no felling if a stem is at least 60 cm in diameter
- Fruit trees : subject to approval from a trunk diameter of 1.50 m
The trunk diameter is measured from the trunk base at a height of 100 centimeters. If the base of the crown is below 100 centimeters trunk height, this is considered the measuring point. Birch, spruce, poplar, arborvitae, corkscrew willow, false cypress and juniper are exempt from the ban on felling.
Replacement planting is mandatory
Not only in Aachen, but in many municipal tree protection statutes, a mandatory replacement planting is included. For every commenced meter of the determined trunk diameter, an equivalent tree must be planted. In North Rhine-Westphalia a minimum trunk diameter of 18 to 20 cm is required, measured at 100 cm above the ground. If a replacement tree does not grow, the measure must be repeated. If a replacement planting is not possible, the private property owner has to make an adequate compensation payment.
Walnut tree is not a fruit treeThe walnut tree is out of line in some ways. In contrast to most trees, a massive flow of sap makes pruning in early autumn inevitable. Although the local walnut tree spoils us with crisp fruits in autumn, it is not one of the fruit trees. As a result, the regulations for deciduous trees apply to tree felling. Federal states, such as North Rhine-Westphalia, include chestnuts in this exemption.
Special case border trees
Boundary trees give property owners an especially tough nut to crack when they have to give way. If the location of the tree is directly on the property line, several owners have a say. If the tree is in the garden of condominiums, similar concerns should be noted. This also applies if a resident has a special right of use for the part of the garden in question on which the tree grows. As a rule, it must first be voted at an owners' meeting whether the tree can be felled.
frequently asked Questions
Under what conditions can trees be felled within the grace period in accordance with the Federal Nature Conservation Act?
The wording of the Federal Nature Conservation Act states that various restrictions apply to the felling of trees. If there are trees outside of the forest, on commercial properties, orchards, in allotments or public green spaces, trees may also be felled between March 1st and September 30th. However, if there is an occupied bird's nest in the tree, it must not be felled until the end of the breeding season. If the nest is used repeatedly, the tree is subject to year-round protection and must not be sawn off at all.
I noticed that a number of municipalities do not have a tree protection statute. What are the arguments against protecting trees on private property with a statute?
There are primarily concerns that in anticipation of a planned tree protection statute, more trees could be felled than necessary. Furthermore, the risk of precautionary felling must not be underestimated once the tree regulations have been introduced. Practice has shown that property owners cut down private trees before reaching the specified trunk size, just to avoid the imponderables of a permit.
What costs are to be expected if I commission a specialist company to cut trees on my private property?
The costs depend largely on the method used. When removing a tree piece by piece from the crown to the ground, you have to reckon with around 600 euros. If a tree can fall free, the bill is around 450 euros. This includes the disposal of the clippings and any permits.
Can I freely choose the type of tree for a replacement planting?
Usually not. If your municipality has issued a permit for tree felling, a corresponding replacement planting will be ordered at the same time. Local woody plants are preferred because they are perfectly adapted to the local framework and provide food and living space for our animal world. The state of Lower Saxony goes to great lengths to come up with appropriate proposals and recommends a long list of more than 50 suitable substitute plants from A, such as maple, to Z, such as two-pronged hawthorn.
How much does a permit process for felling trees on private property cost?
The municipality concerned determines the fees incurred. As a rule, there are costs for the on-site appointment of an expert and for administrative work. For example, the city of Hanover charges 25.10 euros for every half hour or part thereof for the expert's visit. A flat rate of 25.10 euros is charged for administrative activities. In total, you will have to pay around 50 euros.
What fine is a private property owner incurred for sawing trees without a permit?
The amount of the fine depends on the federal state in which the illegal tree felling occurred. Those affected get the cheapest in the East German federal states, Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt with up to 15,000 euros. You have to dig deep into your pockets in Lower Saxony, Hamburg and Bavaria with up to 50,000 euros. Grace your budget when your garden with the felled tree is in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, because you have to pay up to 100,000 euros here.
In many cases, regular pruning prevents property owners from having to struggle with the legal regulations for tree felling. Not only does the growth of deciduous trees remain under control with scissors and saws. By pruning annually, conifers can be adapted to the local space conditions very well without being subsequently disfigured by brown spots.