A tree warden is the appointed individual in each Vermont community responsible for making determinations about the care and stewardship of shade trees in public ways and places. Municipal shade trees include those trees planted by the municipality in downtowns and village centers or on other municipally-owned land, and trees on public property or in public right-of-ways that have been designated as shade trees. State law in Vermont, as in all New England states, requires the legislative body of each municipality to appoint a tree warden.
Tree Warden Statutes
The tree warden's duties and responsibilities are officially outlined in the Vermont Tree Warden Statutes that were first adopted in 1904 and were amended and updated in 2020.
While many tree wardens are trained arborists, foresters, or natural resources professionals who take on the role of tree warden as a volunteer, many others are already municipal employees within the public works department, parks department, or highway department.
Read Statutes (Vermont Statutes Online)
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a tree warden do?
A municipal tree warden makes decisions about the care of existing shade trees in public ways and places, which may include the need for pruning, root care, protection against disease or pests, and removal. The tree warden may also advise the municipality about tree planting on municipally-owned land or in the right-of-way of municipal roads.
Many tree wardens expand upon the basic responsibilities of the role and play an active role in their local urban and community tree stewardship efforts. This can include leading or assisting with public tree inventories and tree health assessments, participating in the municipal tree committee or board as an ad hoc member, or developing municipal bylaws and plans to ensure the long-term maintenance and management of the public tree population.
Who is my tree warden?
Effective November 1st, 2020, municipalities are required to report the name and contact information for their appointed tree warden to the Commissioner of Forests, Parks & Recreation in accordance with the updated tree warden statutes. View Tree Warden Contact List, updated April 2022.
How can my municipality's tree warden help me?
The tree warden shall control all shade trees within the municipality.
A shade tree is defined as a shade or ornamental tree located in whole or in part within the limits of a public way or public place, provided that the tree is either (a) planted by the municipality or (b) is designated as a shade tree pursuant to a municipal shade tree preservation plan. Public place is defined as municipal property, including a municipal park, a recreation area, or a municipal building. Public way is defined as a right-of-way held by a municipality, including a town highway.
Shade Tree Removal
Each municipality manages trees on public land, which includes municipally-owned parks, buildings, and properties i.e. cemeteries; this varies by municipality, as well as the public right-of-way. Within the public right-of-way, while the adjoining landowner owns the land, the municipality has the authority to maintain the trees - and all other public infrastructure like sidewalks, fire hydrants, street lights - within that land area.
According to the Tree Warden Statutes, the tree warden has the sole authority to make a determination regarding the removal of a shade tree, which - again - is a tree on a public way or place that has either been intentionally planted by the municipality or has been specifically identified and designated as a shade tree by the municipality. If a citizen has a concern regarding the health of a public shade tree or wishes to have a public shade tree removed for any reason, they need to first contact their tree warden.
In the event that the tree warden determines that a shade tree will be removed, they must post public notice and notify abutting landowners unless the shade tree is (a) a hazard to public safety, (b) must be removed to comply with State or federal law or permitting requirements, or (c) is infested with or threatened by a known forest pest and is within a designated infestation area. If the removal of the tree is appealed, the legislative body of the municipality will hold a public hearing and make a final decision after public comment is received.
Shade Tree Care and Planting
If you notice a need for public shade tree care such as pruning, mulching, or pest control, and/or an opportunity to plant tree(s), contact your tree warden. They can help assess the need and how the work might fit within the municipal shade tree care management plan.
In many cases, the tree warden is the person most familiar with the tree population in your town, thus possessing a wealth of knowledge. Keep your eyes peeled in your local bulletin for tree warden updates or events; many Vermont tree wardens are very engaged, so take advantage of the services they offer.
Want to connect to other tree wardens to share ideas, questions and examples? Join the Tree Warden Listserv.
We recognize the importance of providing Vermont's appointed tree wardens with the resources that will allow them to best fulfill their responsibilities. These documents and information that will aid public tree management throughout the state. The Vermont League of Cities and Town's Municipal Assistance Center has also developed a Tree Law webpage.
Resources for Tree Wardens
Roles and Responsibilities
Vermont League of Cities and Town's general overview of tree law and municipal officials’ authority and obligations.
Tree Law Frequently Asked Questions
Vermont League of Cities and Town's overview of major changes and additions to the law.
Shade Tree Preservation Plans
Plans describe a municipal shade tree program and can extend the jurisdiction of the tree warden beyond the core duties now specified in the law.