Private Tree Removal

Many California ecosystems are adapted to periodic fire, and will naturally recover after experiencing a burn. Native trees and shrubs may resprout from branches and bases, even when they appear burned. Many species of oak trees have thick bark that helps protect the vital parts of the tree from fire damage.  Even completely burned vegetation can offer habitat and cover to wildlife, and roots that help hold soil in place. In many cases, simply letting nature take its course is the best approach to post-fire ecosystem recovery.

Basal resprout

The California Native Plant Society's (CNPS) Fire Recovery Guide provides in-depth information regarding post-fire tree care and recovery, soil erosion control, and native plant recovery. 

Trees that pose a health and safety hazard, or that private landowners otherwise desire to remove, should be assessed by a certified arborist or Registered Professional Forester (RPF). 

The Napa County Resource Conservation District (RCD) has many helpful resources for landowners whose property burned.  Their Post-Fire Website includes brochures regarding burned woodland, hazard trees, and tree removal.  The Napa County RCD also offers visits to landowners' properties to provide guidance and education regarding erosion control, water quality, and the benefits of leaving trees in place. To schedule a site visit with RCD, contact Bill Birmingham, RCD Conservation Program Manager, at [email protected] or (707) 252-4188.

The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides on-site technical assistance for privately-owned forested properties related to erosion control, debris removal, and/or replanting. Contact Emma Chow, District Conservationist at [email protected] or 707-252-4189 x 3111 for more information, or visit the NRCS Post-Fire Disaster Assistance website.

Neither RCD, NRCS, nor the County can assess whether specific trees are dead or dying, or should otherwise be removed.  Only a certified arborist, RPF, or other qualified professional can make this assessment.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What steps should I take before removing trees on my property?

There are many things to consider when deciding whether or not trees should be removed.  The first step, as noted above, is to contact a certified arborist or RPF to assess tree health. You may also contact RCD for additional guidance.  See below FAQ if the trees are near a stream or you're planning another project associated with tree removal. 

I have burned trees near a stream on my property. What should I do?

Napa County Conservation Regulations (Napa County Code Chapter 18.108) restrict vegetation clearing, including tree removal, within stream setbacks (NCC Section 18.108.025). These setbacks vary according to slope, as shown in the table below.

Slope
 Stream Setback
< 1%
35 feet
1-5%
45 feet
5-15%
55 feet
15-30%
65 feet
30-40%
85 feet
40-50%
105 feet
50-60%
125 feet
60-70%
150 feet

Please contact Brian Bordona, Napa County Supervising Planner, at [email protected] or (707) 259-5935 if there may be trees that require removal within stream setbacks on your property. Tree removal within the riparian zone may also require permits from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), or the US Army Corps of Engineers, and coordination with the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, which can be reached at (707) 259-8600. 

Does it matter what type of trees I would like to remove?

Certain types of trees are considered commercial timberland by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).  These include Douglas fir, redwood, and ponderosa pine.  Much of the western part of Napa County contains these species and is considered timberland.  Please contact Kim Sone, Unit Forester, at [email protected] or (707) 576-2344 if there may be timberland requiring removal on your property.

Can I remove trees and install a vineyard or other project in their place?

Tree removal associated with a new vineyard, winery, or other project may be subject to additional approvals from Napa County.  Allowed uses vary according to zoning, slopes, and other factors. New vineyards on slopes over 5% require an Agricultural Erosion Control Plan (ECPA), as detailed in the Conservation Regulations Brochure. A new winery requires a Use Permit, and a new residence requires a building permit.  

Are there financial resources available to assist with tree removal?

The NRCS EQIP Catastrophic Fire Recovery assistance program can help private forestland owners/operators recover from catastrophic fires that have happened in the past 36 months.  Contact Emma Chow at the number/email above for more information.