Bill Text - HB108 (2012)

(New Title) relative to trees and roadside growth.

Revision: April 12, 2012, midnight


4Jan2012… 2090h





AN ACT relative to trees and roadside growth

SPONSORS: Rep. Sheffert, Rock 15; Rep. Nevins, Rock 15; Sen. Stiles, Dist 24

COMMITTEE: Municipal and County Government


This bill:

I. Modifies the method of appointing tree wardens.

II. Provides that governing bodies of cities and towns have authority over certain trees situated within the limits of town public ways, village commons, parks, cemeteries, and other public grounds

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

4Jan2012… 2090h




In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Eleven

AN ACT relative to trees and roadside growth

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 Tree Wardens. RSA 231:139 and RSA 231:140 are repealed and reenacted to read as follows:

231:139 Tree Wardens.

I. A city or town may provide for the appointment of a tree warden or wardens. A tree warden shall be a person known to be interested in planting, pruning, and preserving shade and ornamental trees and shrubs in public ways, village commons, parks, cemeteries, and other public grounds. A tree warden shall be qualified to perform the duties specified as demonstrated through adequate education, experience, or both, in arboriculture, ornamental horticulture, forestry, landscape maintenance, or other related fields. The city or town appointing a tree warden shall advise the division of forests and lands of such appointment and the division shall maintain a roster of tree wardens which shall be available to the public upon request.

II. As determined by the city or town, the duties of a tree warden shall be to help care for, maintain, protect, and perpetuate shade and ornamental community trees and shrubs in town public ways, village commons, parks, cemeteries, and other public grounds, and to advise the governing body from time to time as may be necessary to help accomplish that purpose. The town tree warden shall cooperate and work with other town agencies and officials in carrying out the intent of this chapter.

231:140 Control of Trees. Towns shall have control of all shade or ornamental trees and shrubs situated within the limits of town public ways, village commons, parks, cemeteries, and other public grounds which have been or may be acquired by gift or purchase, or planting by or with the advice of the tree warden, or by condemnation by the tree warden.

2 Acquisition of Trees. Amend RSA 231:141 to read as follows:

231:141 Acquisition of Trees. It shall be the duty of the tree warden to examine the trees growing within the limits of [highways] town public ways, village commons, parks, cemeteries, and other public grounds, and to designate from time to time such as may be reasonably necessary for the purpose of shade or ornamentation and to acquire them in the name of the municipality as hereinafter provided, if it can be done, either by gift or by purchase if at a fair price and funds either public or private are available. Failing in this, he or she may take said trees, including the right to maintain the same as shade trees, for the use of the town or city by appraising the fair value of the same and by causing to be served upon the owner thereof a notice of such taking, which notice shall state the number of each variety of tree so taken, the location of the same as near as practicable, and the value thereof as fixed by him or her, or by a committee selected for the purpose, and also by filing a copy of such notice as attested by him or her with the town clerk. If the owner shall be satisfied with the value stated in such notice, the tree warden shall cause the same to be paid to him or her forthwith. If the owner shall be dissatisfied, he or she may, within 30 days after said notice has been served upon him or her, but not afterwards, apply to the selectmen to assess his or her damages. Such proceedings shall thereupon be had, including the right of appeal, as are provided in the case of assessment of damages in laying out of highways by selectmen; and thereupon such damages, if any, may be awarded as shall be legally and justly due to the landowner.

3 Record of Trees Acquired. RSA 231:142 is repealed and reenacted to read as follows:

231:142 Records of Trees Acquired. A record shall be kept of the trees so acquired which may be marked for identification in an appropriate manner as shall be determined by the city or town. Such record may include the approximate location, name of abutting landowner, variety and approximate diameter, and date of acquisition. The tree warden or his or her authorized agent shall represent the interest of the public at any hearing whenever a public service corporation shall desire to cut or remove any shade or ornamental tree in accordance with RSA 231:172, or may have caused damage to such trees.

4 Removal of Trees. Amend RSA 231:144 to read as follows:

231:144 Removal of Trees. Whoever desires the cutting and removal in whole or in part of any public shade or ornamental tree owned by the city or town may apply to the tree warden, who shall give a public hearing, upon the application, at some suitable time and place, after publishing and posting notices of the hearing in 2 or more public places in town and also upon the tree or trees which it is desired to cut and remove; provided, that the tree warden may, if he or she deems it expedient, grant permission for such cutting or removal, without a hearing, if the tree in question is on a public way outside of the residential part of the town limits, such residential part to be determined by [him] the tree warden. No tree within such residential limit shall be cut by [him] the tree warden, except to trim it, or removed by [him] the tree warden, without such hearing. The decision of the tree warden shall be subject to review as provided for by the [selectmen of towns or the] governing [bodies of cities] body.

5 Removal of Certain Hazardous Trees. Amend RSA 231:145 to read as follows:

231:145 Removal of Certain Hazardous Trees. Notwithstanding the provisions of other sections of this subdivision and subject to the provisions of RSA 231:157 and RSA 231:158, the commissioner of transportation on class I and III highways, and state maintained portions of class II highways, and [the mayors of cities and the selectmen] the governing bodies of cities and towns and the county commissioners for unorganized places on class IV, V, and VI highways and town maintained portions of class II highways may declare any tree, either alive or dead, situated within the limits of highways, roads, or streets to be a public nuisance by reason of unreasonable danger to the traveling public, spread of tree disease, or the reliability of equipment installed at or upon utility facilities authorized under RSA 231:160 or RSA 231:160-a. After such declaration by such authority and notice to the abutting landowner on whose property such tree is located the said authority shall within a reasonable time remove the same without compensation or cost to the abutter. However, no such declaration and notice shall be required when the delay entailed by such declaration and notice would pose an imminent threat to safety or property. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to relieve the public utility companies of their accepted responsibility of tree trimming and tree removal for the protection of their lines, or for the construction of new lines, or to alter the provisions of RSA 231:150-182 in any manner. The [aforesaid] state and municipal authorities may require of the public utilities owning lines which pass through or near a tree or trees which are condemned for removal as a public nuisance to assist in their removal at their expense by either the temporary removal of their lines or by causing to be removed at their expense the top portion of said tree or trees from a point below their lines.

6 Injury or Defacement of Trees. Amend RSA 231:147 to read as follows:

231:147 Injury or Defacement of Trees. It shall be unlawful to cut, destroy, injure, deface, or break any public shade or ornamental tree; or to affix to any such tree a play bill, picture, announcement, notice, advertisement, political or otherwise, or other device or thing, or to paint or mark such tree, except for the purpose of protecting it and under a written permit from the tree warden[; or to negligently or carelessly suffer any horse or other beast to break down, injure or destroy a shade or ornamental tree within the limits of any public way or place].

7 Trees Donated. Amend RSA 231:148 to read as follows:

231:148 Trees Donated. Whenever any party, at a proper time of the year, shall present to a [town] municipality well grown nursery trees, the tree wardens may set out such trees in the highways, cemeteries, commons, schoolhouse yards and other public places, as indicated by the donor, and protect the same at the expense of the town to the extent that funds are available for such purpose.

8 Public Ownership. Amend RSA 231:149 to read as follows:

231:149 Public Ownership. Any young shade or ornamental tree planted within the limits of a public highway by the tree wardens or by any other person or persons, with the approval of the [selectmen or the mayor] governing body, or any young seedling tree or sprout left within the limits of the highway as specified in RSA 231:150 and designated by the tree warden to be preserved for its future value as a shade tree, shall become the property of the municipality; provided, that the abutting landowner, having been notified of the intention of the [town] municipality to take and preserve such young tree, shall make no written objection to the tree warden within 30 days from the date of such notification.

9 Clearing Highways. Amend RSA 231:150 to read as follows:

231:150 Clearing Highways. [Mayors] Governing bodies of cities[, selectmen of] and towns, and county commissioners for unorganized places shall annually, and at other times when advisable, cause to be cut and disposed of, from within the limits of town maintained highways, all trees and bushes that may cause damage or pose a safety hazard to such highways or to the traveling public; provided however that no tree which has a circumference of 15 inches or more at a point 4 feet from the ground shall be removed in the absence of notice to the abutter in the same manner as provided in RSA 231:145 and RSA 231:146, except when the delay entailed by such notice would pose an imminent threat to safety or property. Shade and fruit trees that have been set out or marked by the abutting landowners or by the town tree wardens, and young trees standing at a proper distance from the highway and from each other, shall be preserved, as well as banks and hedges of bushes that serve as a protection of the highway, or that add to the beauty of the roadside.

10 Improvements by Abutter. Amend RSA 231:151 to read as follows:

231:151 Improvements by Abutter. [The selectmen of a town or the highway department of a city] A municipality may contract with any owner of land abutting a public highway to cut, trim, and improve the roadside growth along said owner’s property, and for all such work properly done in carrying out the provisions of RSA 231:150 and approved by the tree wardens, may allow and cause to be paid to such owner such sums as in their judgment, with the advice of the tree wardens, justly represent the value to the town of the improved condition of the roadside.

11 Effective Date. This act shall take effect upon its passage.