Urban Forestry

Helena’s Urban Forest Division is responsible for the care of over 11,000 trees located in the city’s street rights of way, public parks and other city-owned properties. The division employs four Arborists that are certified through the International Society of Arboriculture. The City also hires seasonal staff to support tree maintenance and management.

Each year the Urban Forest Division prunes approximately 300-400 mature trees and 700-900 young trees, along with planting 200-300 new trees. The team takes a proactive approach to tree maintenance to be more efficient and help ensure overall health of the City's tree canopy. They also support clean-up efforts following storms.

You can access the Helena Urban Forestry Plan, arboricultural standards, work permits, boulevard tree lists and boulevard public tree requirements here

Urban Forest District

In November of 2010, the City created the Urban Forest District to fund this program. On August 21, 2023 the City Commission approved re-creation of the District. Please review the following FAQs to learn more about the Urban Forest District.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Urban Forest District? The Urban Forest District is a funding mechanism for the City of Helena’s Urban Forestry Division. Property owners in City limits pay an annual assessment to fund staff in the Urban Forestry Division, along with general operating costs.

No. In the 1990s, the City established an Urban Forestry program. The Urban Forest District was created in November 2010 by vote of the City Commission. State law requires a review of the district every 13 years. The City Commission approved re-creation of the District on August 21, 2023.

The District includes all properties located within City-limits. Any properties that are annexed into the City in the future are included in the district.

Without the Urban Forest District there is currently no funding mechanism to support an Urban Forestry Division, which cares for over 11,000 trees in City parks, open spaces, and City rights-of-way. The Urban Forestry Division is responsible for pruning trees, planting new trees, providing expertise on long-term tree management, among other duties. The City of Helena currently employs a team of Arborists along with seasonal staff that help with tree maintenance.

Property owners within City limits currently pay $39.00 per year for each lot they own. The assessment amount is evaluated annually during the City’s budget creation for the next fiscal year. 

Services and Resources

Requesting a New Tree

City of Helena residents and property owners may request the planting of a free boulevard tree by calling or emailing the Urban Forest Division.

Please include:

  • Your name
  • Potential address of planting location
  • Phone number or email

If the potential new tree location is appropriate you will be added to a planting list. The program is first-come first-serve and being on the list does not guarantee a tree. Division resources will dictate the number of available trees and when the planting will occur. You many request a species, but it may not be possible to fulfill the request. We ask that citizens water and care for the new tree properly, please reference the maintenance section on this page.

Planting Site Requirements:

  • Inside city limits.
  • Within city street right of way (boulevard).
  • This program excludes new developments and is not intended to assist in vegetative coverage code requirements.
  • Has a curb and sidewalk currently installed and landscaped to final grade.
  • Does not conflict with underground utilities.
  • Is at least 10 feet away from fire hydrants, driveways or utility poles. Trees may be planted under power lines but must be a Class 1 species. Please reference our species guide.
  • 20-30 feet from existing trees depending on the size.


Planting Your Own Tree

The City of Helena Urban Forest Department encourages the planning of trees in boulevards along public streets. To plant a tree in a boulevard, property owners must: 

  • Obtain a Tree and Boulevard Work Permit. Copies are also available in the Parks and Recreation Office. There is no charge for this permit.
  • Allow time for the City Arborist to review the type of tree and location. This will ensure long term success, minimize potential conflicts and confirm the city-wide tree inventory is up to date. If granted a planting permit you will be supplied with planting instructions and must follow up with our Urban Forest Division. If the terms of the permit are not followed, issues must be resolved which may result in additional costs.
  • Properly plant the tree. This includes watering, mulching, staking and tree guards. Cost share assistance for planting trees is available.

Remember: You must use an approved species. You must plant at least 10 feet away from fire hydrants, driveways or utility poles. Trees may be planted under power lines however must be a Class 1 Species. Please reference our species guide. It is your responsibility to locate and avoid underground utilities. For utility locate requests call: 1-800-424-5555 or 811.

Tree Maintenance

It is the city’s goal to preserve trees. Trees will not be removed unless dead, dying, diseased or severely damaged, as determined by city tree maintenance staff. It is natural for trees to drop their leaves, flowers and seeds due to winds and seasonal cycles. By city ordinance, property owners are responsible for keeping the public areas adjacent to their properties free of debris and litter. Street trees are the property of the City of Helena and destroying them is against the law.

Tree Pruning

The Urban Forest Departments routine pruning is responsible for keeping our city beautiful and for maintaining the health of our boulevard trees. We operate on a cyclical rotational pruning schedule. Rotational pruning is a proactive, cost effective approach that allows us to accomplish more annually and provides a greater community benefit.

Why we prune trees:

  • Public safety.
  • Clearance for signs, signals, street lights, pedestrians and traffic.
  • To protect property by removing limbs that may fall or are rubbing on buildings.
  • To increase tree health by removing branches that are unhealthy or dead, fixing growth defects and lowering wind resistance.

Pruning Requests:

To stay on schedule with our cyclical pruning, we only dispatch crews to a pruning request if there is a legitimate threat to public safety or property:

  • Cracked or hanging branches.
  • Danger of a vehicle hitting a large branch.
  • Branches rubbing on a home.

We will not prune a boulevard tree to improve a view, for aesthetics, to provide more light for solar panels or if it blocks a commercial sign. If the tree interferes with high voltage utility lines call Northwest Energy directly to request pruning: 888-467-2669.

If you think a boulevard tree needs pruning contact the Urban Forest Department for a consultation. You many fill out the Boulevard Work Permit and hire an ISA Certified Arborist to work on boulevard trees adjacent to your property.

Helpful Links

L&C County MSU Extension - This office serves as an outreach function of Montana State University dedicated to improving the quality of people's lives by providing research-based knowledge to strengthen the social, economic and environmental well-being of families, communities and agricultural enterprises.

Emerald Ash Borer - This Website is part of a multinational effort to bring you the latest information about emerald ash borer.

MUCFA - Montana Urban Community Forestry Association

MT DNRC Urban and Community Forestry - The goal of the Montana Urban & Community Forestry Program (UCF) is to assist with the development and maintenance of local urban forestry programs.

Arbor Day Foundation - Founded in 1972, the centennial of the first Arbor Day observance in the 19th century, the Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with over one million members, supporters, and valued partners.

Trees are Good - provides the public with educational information about the benefits of trees and how to properly care for trees in the urban environment. The site contains resources from the International Society of Arboriculture and provides a collection of reliable tree care information provided by other industry organizations.

International Society of Arboriculture - Through research, technology, and education, the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) promotes the professional practice of arboriculture and fosters a greater worldwide awareness of the benefits of trees.

Growing Friends of Helena - is an urban tree-planting organization. Its purpose is to enrich the quality of life in the Helena, Montana area with extensive planting of suitable, attractive, diverse, and well-cared-for trees and shrubs

Guidelines for Tree Related Inquiries


Concern: Refer to: Phone Number:

Tree emergency – fallen tree or branch
blocking the street or sidewalk.

HPD for immediate response to secure the area.
HPD will call HP&R for removal.
Witnessing malicious tree damage
or removal.
HPD while in progress. HPD will call HP&R. 911
Street tree trimming/planting/removal. Helena Parks and Recreation
– Urban Forestry
Tree donations. Helena Parks and Recreation
– Urban Forestry
Parks Maintenance. Helena Parks and Recreation
–Parks Maintenance
Tree located on private property
protruding into street or sidewalk.
Roadway Code Enforcement 447-8443
Tree located on private property
protruding onto adjacent private property.
Civil matter – Not city’s jurisdiction
Sidewalk lifting from tree roots. Roadway Code Enforcement 447-8443
Tree interfering with high voltage lines. Northwestern Energy 1-888-467-2663


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