Protecting Trees in CA
October 11, 2004 11:53 PM   Subscribe

We have big trees on our property in San Mateo county, CA. Really big trees -- about 120 feet tall, some Coastal Redwood. Is there a clever way to legally protect the trees forever (from being cut down) by deeding them in some way?
posted by kk to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
>Is there a clever way to legally protect the trees forever (from being cut down) by deeding them in some way?

I hope not. I do hope, though, while they are yours, you do as you please with them, and don't let people cut them down.

After you sell the property (or, God forbid, in the very far future pass away [everybody does]) it's the new person's to do with as they will.

I suppose there might be some sort of government protection program you could look into. But that is totally different than trying to force a possible buyer into not using their purchase as they see fit.
posted by shepd at 1:17 AM on October 12, 2004

Erect a "dedicated to the memory of..." plaque. Surely then no one would have the nerve...
posted by nthdegx at 2:06 AM on October 12, 2004

Here is Athens, GA, we do have the Tree that Owns Itself. What worked in the 1800s might (but probably wouldn't) work for you.
posted by ewagoner at 8:12 AM on October 12, 2004

Donate/will the land to a land trust.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:22 AM on October 12, 2004

You could make any conveyance subject to an executory interest that would give the property back to you or your successors in the event that a subsequent owner tried to cut down a tree. This is not my area of expertise and I don't really know how that would work practically.
posted by norm at 8:24 AM on October 12, 2004

Depending on your legal jurisdiction, this is doable.

Basically, you want to create a binding covenant on the property, and then transfer the covenant to an interested third party (usually a preexisting, preservation-oriented land trust).

The covenant can be as restrictive or open as you like, and will be recorded on the deed to the property, so that it's binding on all future owners (for as long as the organization holding your covenant exists).

Drawbacks: this *will* reduce your property value. In many cases, this is an intentional side-effect, as it can reduce your tax burden. Also, things get complicated if the land trust that holds your covenant ever dissolves. Finally, if you make the covenant TOO restrictive there's a fair chance that a future owner can invalidate it in court (eg: if you fail to allow someone to cut down the trees because they're dead and might fall on a nearby kindergarten, or something).

Farmers & ranchers do this sort of thing all the time, in order to keep their family properties agricultural, rather than letting them get bought by developers and turned into a subdivision. Search around on Google and you'll likely find lots of info, especially from farming states.

On preview: this is basically what PinkStainlessTail said.
posted by aramaic at 8:27 AM on October 12, 2004

Response by poster: Very helpful! Thanks. My original hope was to deed the trees only, rather than the entire property. Looks like that is the only way.
posted by kk at 10:01 AM on October 12, 2004

Is there no US equivilant to a Tree Protection Order?
posted by dmt at 2:10 PM on October 12, 2004

Isn't there already something in place? My cousin lives in a different county (between Big Sur and Carmel), and I think he had to cut down a couple to build his house. For every redwood he cut, he had to plant two. Not quite the same as preventing them from being cut down in the first place, but not so bad.
posted by LionIndex at 4:35 PM on October 12, 2004

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