Tree Canopy Preservation


​Of all the attractions Charlotte, North Carolina has to offer, its towering trees are one of greatest lures to the Queen City. Boasting one of the most expansive tree canopies in the country, Charlotte has good reason to protect its most treasured natural resource. 

This community asset didn't come about just by chance. Thousands of trees in Charlotte were planted between 1895 and 1920, and as they grew, so did Charlotte. A century later, surging urban growth and an aging tree canopy put Charlotte's 47 percent urban tree cover at risk, but there was another problem: 80 percent of the city's urban forest was on private land. 

So, in 2014, the City of Charlotte launched a Tree Canopy Preservation Program as part of its tree ordinance to address these challenges. The program requires developers and property owners to save a certain percentage of tree cover on their properties or make a payment to the Tree Canopy Preservation Program. The city uses funds from the program to buy private plots of land throughout the community to protect trees and then donates development rights and conservation easements to local organizations. Through the program, Charlotte has been able to protect 272 acres of land filled with trees to offset areas undergoing development. 

In addition to presevering its urban forest, the city needed support for re-planting to reach the goal of 50 percent  tree coverage by 2050. So they partnered with TreesCharlotte, the city's premier nonprofit tree-planting organization. TreesCharlotte would become the key planting partner to help reach the goal. 

Charlotte's Tree Canopy Preservation Program paved the way for collaboration between the city and local organizations and has gained tremendous community support. It has also changed how the city does business. 

The Tree Canopy Preservation Program is an example of the creativity and vigor that sprouts when a community comes together for the love of trees. 

For demonstrating leadership and advancing forestry public policy, in creating community engagement, the Arbor Day Foundation presents the 2019 Champion of Trees Award to the City of Charlotte.


The size of the properties is determined by our stewardship partners' criteria and is usually forty five acres or larger, but smaller properties that can be assembled or that are adjacent to conserved areas or parks will also be considered. With the addition of the Urban Arboretum Program, smaller parcels without structures will be considered. 

The preference is for properties that are at least partially forested, with no structures of any kind.  Properties that are not wooded will be considered based on partnership and replanting opportunities.  Any structures on properties may be subject to removal or demolition at the seller’s expense prior to closing.

The program is limited to acquisitions of property within the City limits or the City's extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).

The City bases all negotiated purchase prices on an appraisal report with conclusions of fair market value.  The program is completely voluntary, so prices are negotiated with the sellers to reach an amount agreed upon by all parties, subject to City Council approval.

There are a number of steps for acquisitions required by City policy and state regulations.  There is no typical timeline as the findings in due diligence may require additional research, and stewardship and conservation partners are involved in each of the acquisitions.  However, in general, acquisitions can be expected to take at least six to eight months.  

The City is a qualifying entity for non-cash charitable contributions, calculated as the difference in the value of the property according to an appraisal and the sales price.  Sellers should consult with their accountant or tax professional for all specific questions.


Erin Oliverio
Landscape Management Division Manager

Conservation ​easement properties