How to Advocate for Trees

Every community should enjoy the benefits of a healthy urban forest.


We rely on members of the community to speak for the trees in their neighborhoods. Trees Atlanta can help with guidance, resources, and tools. Here’s how you can start:

Organize a Canopy Conversation

A Canopy Conversation is about channeling concern into collective action. Trees Atlanta collaborates with your community leaders to facilitate a Canopy Conversation in your neighborhood.

The purpose of the meeting is to increase awareness of the critical role of trees in your community and share the importance and urgency of protecting the canopy. Trees Atlanta works with you to create an agenda relevant to the needs of your community. We can discuss the current state of your neighborhood’s canopy, concerns related to tree loss, planting and maintenance, and local threats to trees. We connect neighbors and advocates who are eager to put tree protection strategies into action.

Let’s get started. To request a Canopy Conversation for your neighborhood, please submit a request. 

Meanwhile, you can view the canopy coverage data for your neighborhood, NPU, or even exact block (available only for City of Atlanta neighborhoods), using  the Tree Canopy Tool developed by Georgia Tech for Trees Atlanta.

Speak for the Trees

    • Be a trusted adviser. The scientifically proven benefits of trees are numerous. Whether you have a yard or live in a high rise, you can walk the talk: care for the trees on your property, street side, or neighborhood. Trees Atlanta offers a range of workshops, classes, and planting projects where you can learn more, including becoming a Trees Atlanta Certified TreeKeeper. People seek advice from people who they trust and lead by example.
    • Vote in neighborhood, zoning review, and NPU meetings. In Atlanta, our “Neighborhood Planning Unit” (NPU) system depends on residents who vote to approve or reject building permits with code exception “variance” requests. If you are not in Atlanta, your city (or municipality) likely has a public review process, too.

      Tree protection is protection of people’s well-being. We need to balance development needs with environmental and health needs. Homeowners and builders can design to minimize land disturbance, reduce building footprints, and reserve space needed to plant and grow large canopy trees. A tree may be removed in an hour, a house may be “flipped” in a few months, but it takes generations for a canopy tree to grow to maturity.
    • Contact your City Council if construction projects are designed to destroy excessive canopy. Engage your City Council early in the process. They need to know your concerns so they can represent and help you. Large numbers of calls, letter, or visits to your Councilmember is a highly effective approach. City of Atlanta City Council contact info.
    • Understand your Tree Protection Ordinance. Most cities in the metro Atlanta area have laws in place that define the process for removing and protecting trees on both private and public property. In the City of Atlanta, a permit must be approved prior to removing any tree larger than 6” (hardwoods) or 12” (pines). Removing healthy trees is prohibited by the Tree Protection Ordinance, except in specific circumstances. Removal of “dead, dying, or hazardous” (DDH) trees also require a permit for removal and must be visibly posted during the application process. When a yellow or orange permit sign is posted, the public may “appeal” the removal of healthy trees.
    • Report illegal tree destruction or damage. If you see a neighbor, builder, or “tree company” potentially damaging or destroying a tree, speak up. Removal of any mature tree in the City of Atlanta REQUIRES a permit and posted notice of removal. Call 311 or 911 to report illegal actions; take photos as evidence. Please also see: How to Save a Tree.
    • Bring a friend and enjoy nature. As many benefits of trees there are to convince us, it might be the power of a simple, meaningful experience in nature that inspires someone to truly appreciate trees! Take a friend on a tour of the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum or learn how to bird watch. Invite your family to come plant a tree with you. Take a child on an adventure through a nearby forest. Offer to help your neighbor prune a low tree branch. We can spark new advocates by extending a hand and nurturing new appreciation for nature.
    • Host a TreeSpeaker. Do you have an upcoming meeting or event where you’d like someone to speak about the mission and work of Trees Atlanta? Complete this form so that Trees Atlanta can best match your request to a TreeSpeaker. Please allow at least one month’s advance notice prior to the date of your event.


Network with Tree Advocates

There is a wealth of individuals, community groups, and nonprofit organizations that coordinate and organize around tree protection issues. Community-based organizations can be found through social media or word of mouth. These hyper-local groups that form to work on specific projects or appeals are particularly important, and can connect you to decision makers and influencers. 

    • Join Your City’s Tree Board. Cities with tree ordinances frequently also have a requirement to organize a “tree board” comprised of community members as well as city employees and/or elected officials.
    • Know the Atlanta Tree Conservation Commission (TCC). In the City of Atlanta, the TCC is a board comprised of local experts and residents who review appeals and hearings involving tree removals. The TCC website contains helpful resources regarding the City of Atlanta tree protection ordinance, review board, and appeals process.
    • Become a Trees Atlanta TreeSpeaker. Interested in training to speak at community event and lead advocacy efforts with Trees Atlanta? Check out our Certified Volunteer training programs, for more information.