The Woodlands Township board members oppose tree legislation

Legislation during the special session regarding trees could affect local laws in The Woodlands.

Legislation during the special session regarding trees could affect local laws in The Woodlands.

Two bills presented during the Texas Legislature special session could have a direct effect on one of the The Woodlands most distinctive features: trees.

Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 70—authored by Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, and Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, respectively— both relate to the rights of property owners to remove trees from their land. The text of the bills states that municipalities, counties or political subdivisions, may not enforce any regulations to restrict property owners from removing trees or vegetations from their own property.

If passed, the legislation could override local ordinances relating to tree removal in The Woodlands, to which township board members have voiced opposition.  The subject was brought up during the board comment portion of the board's July 20 meeting.

"I think this goes directly against the whole point of The Woodlands, the whole point of the covenants," township Director Laura Fillault said. "We don’t want clearcutting on residential property; we don’t want clearcutting on commercial property."

According to The Woodlands Covenants and Residential Standards, residents are required to submit an application to remove any living trees larger than six inches in diameter. Once applications are submitted, the tree has to be inspected to determine if the removal will interfere with existing surface water flow on the property before a permit to remove it can be approved.

"We do have set covenants as far as what you can clear, like small trees, small bushes [and] dead trees—so those are all covered," Fillault said. "I hope that our representative and our senator are willing to help us work against this particular bill because I don’t think [it] is going to be good for The Woodlands, or frankly, anywhere else in Texas."

Legislation relating to tree regulations was named as one of Gov. Greg Abbott's top 20 priorities for the special session.

"The bills referenced, SB  14 and HB 70 are changed from the prior session, and now actually include language that impacts our community," Bunch said. "I will do what I can to help encourage our senator and state [representative] to oppose this proposal."

As of press time, SB 14 has been referred to the Senate Business and Commerce committee, and HB 70 has been scheduled for a public hearing in the House Urban Affairs Committee.
By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.