Regional Tree and Forest Conservation

Niagara Region's Woodland Conservation By-law No. 2020-79 governs the protection and preservation of woodlands in Niagara.

The intent of the by-law is to conserve woodlands and ensure that, where tree cutting occurs, it's carried out according to good forestry practices.

The by-law prohibits the injury or destruction of any tree located within a woodland or designated as a Heritage Tree or a Significant Community Tree, except under certain specified circumstances.

Trees and woodlands regulated by the Woodland Conservation By-law

Woodlands are defined in the by-law on the basis of tree density and size.

The Woodland Conservation By-law applies to:

  • Woodlands that are one hectare or more in total size. The total size of a woodland is determined by the total contiguous treed area on one or more properties and is not related to the size of an individual parcel or property.
  • Woodlands having an area of less than one hectare upon delegation of such authority to the Region by a local municipality in Niagara
  • Heritage and significant community trees identified and designated by the council of a local municipality, but only upon delegation of such authority to the Region

Delegation of authority from local municipalities for woodlands less than one hectare in total size

A woodland may include trees located on multiple properties. Total woodland size is determined by measuring the extent of contiguous woodland area across all relevant properties.

Some cities / towns have delegated authority to regulate small woodlands (less than one hectare in total size) to Niagara Region. Trees located in small woodlands are protected by Niagara Region's Woodland Conservation By-law in:

  • Grimsby
  • Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Niagara Falls
  • St. Catharines
  • West Lincoln

How to apply

A permit application must be submitted at least four weeks before cutting starts. The application must include:

  • A completed Good Forestry Practices permit application signed by the landowner, forester, tree marker and contractor doing the work
  • A silvicultural prescription or forest management plan prepared by a qualified member of the Ontario Professional Foresters Association. It must includes a map showing the location of the woodland where trees have been marked for removal.

Apply for a permit

To apply online, you must register for a Niagara Region CityView account.

With your account, you can:

  • Find out if the Woodland Conservation By-law applies to the trees on your property
  • Apply online for a Good Forestry Practices permit
  • Check the status of an application
  • Submit a woodland by-law complaint

Before submitting a permit application, make sure you have the required documents completed and ready to upload.

Incomplete applications will not be processed.

Register or apply for a Good Foresty Practices permit

Natural heritage features

Natural heritage features in Niagara are regulated by the environmental policies in the Niagara Official Plan. These policies apply to development projects that require Planning Act approval.

Tree cutting by-laws

Many local municipalities also maintain tree by-laws that apply to non-woodland trees, including street trees or trees located within mapped natural heritage features.

Contact your city / town for information about local tree-cutting by-laws.


The Regional forester can conduct site visits for woodland owners. Visits provide direction and advice on tree and forest management and woodland by-law requirements.

Daniel Root
905-980-6000 ext. 3329
Email Daniel Root

Good Forestry Practices permit

  • Good forestry practices

    Good forestry practices are forest activities that enable the forest to grow healthy plants, and maintain ecological processes, wildlife habitats and products.

    Good forestry practices:

    • Minimize environmental damage to the site, such as soil, water and young vegetation
    • Protect forest components, including species diversity
    • Minimize damage to or enhance wildlife habitats
    • Encourage sustainable forest management, improving forest health and continuous and improved forest products over time
    • Provide for worker safety
    • Provide continually and increased economic benefits to landowners
    • Should be consistent with long-term forest management planning
  • Why a Good Forestry Practices permit is needed

    Good Forestry Practices permits are required for woodland management projects that include a commercial sale or exchange of cut trees.

    They are not intended for woodland clearing or for projects related to development.

    A Good Forestry Practices permit is not required for tree cutting that meets one or more of the exemption criteria listed in Section 4 of the Woodland Conservation By-law No. 2020-79.

    To find out if an environmental feature on your property is regulated by the Woodland Conservation By-law or if a Good Forestry Practices permit is needed for your project, contact the Regional forester.

  • Permit process

    To get a a Good Forestry Practices permit, the owner must submit a permit application form along with a prescription or forest management plan prepared by a qualified member of the Ontario Professional Foresters Association. All trees to be cut must be clearly marked by a certified tree marker.

    The application must be submitted at least four weeks before cutting starts. The permit holder must notify the Regional forester at least 48 hours before cutting and when resuming activities after any four-week period of inactivity.

    The Regional forester may set conditions on a Good Forestry Practices permit related to the:

    • Manner and timing in which harvesting trees is to occur
    • Measures to be implemented to mitigate impacts on sensitive natural areas
  • Appeals

    An applicant may appeal to Regional Council if the by-law officer refuses to issue a permit. An application must be made within 30 days after the refusal.

    If an applicant wishes to appeal the conditions of a permit, an appeal to Regional Council must be made within 30 days of the permit issuance.

By-law highlights

  • Tree cutting restrictions

    The Woodland By-law prohibits tree cutting and other activities that cause lasting damage to woodland trees, unless:

    • A Good Forestry Practices permit has been issued by Niagara Region; or
    • The activity meets one of the exemptions listed in the by-law
  • By-law exemptions

    The by-law does not apply to:

    • Trees cut for an owner's personal use, provided that the work follows Good Forestry Practices, that woodland densities are maintained, and that no sale of cut trees, including sawlogs or firewood, occurs
    • Dead trees and hazardous trees or diseased trees identified in a Prescription or Forest Management Plan prepared by a registered professional forester
    • Trees removed by a registered farmer for agricultural purposes using Normal Farm Practices, provided that the land is owned by the farmer, put into agricultural use within three years, and the land is not in a sensitive natural area as defined in the by-law
    • Trees removed for surveying purposes
    • Trees removed to construct a building, including access and utilities where a building permit has been issued by a local area municipality
    • Trees cut in accordance with a tree preservation plan approved as part of a development project
    • Trees cut by a municipality for activities or matters undertaken for municipal purposes
    • Trees damaged or removed by a transmitter or distributor as defined in the Electricity Act
    • Trees located on an approved waste disposal site
    • Trees located on land described in a licence for a pit or quarry, or a permit for a wayside pit or wayside quarry
    • Trees removed for construction or maintenance of drainage works under the Drainage Act
    • Trees grown for actively managed Christmas tree farms, orchards and tree nurseries
    • Trees located on contaminated lands to conduct site rehabilitation activities to remove and / or treat contaminated soils. In these cases, a reforestation plan is needed before approval.
  • Stop work orders

    Where a by-law enforcement officer is satisfied that a contravention of the by-law has occurred, the officer may issue an order requiring the person who contravened the by-law, or who caused it to be contravened, to stop the injuring or destruction of trees.

  • Restoration orders

    Where a by-law enforcement officer is satisfied that a contravention of the by-law has occurred, the officer may issue an order requiring the landowner to replant trees within a specified time frame.

    Failure to comply with a restoration order is a violation of the Woodland Conservation By-law.

  • Penalties

    The by-law allows for fines to individuals on first conviction of up to $10,000 or $1,000 per tree, whichever is greater. Where a corporation is responsible, the fines may be up to $50,000 or $5,000 per tree. Fines may increase for repeat offenders.

    An individual or corporation who fails to comply with an order may be fined up to $10,000 for each part of a day that an offence continues.

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