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HB 271: Protecting Billboard Rights — 2023

Summary: HB 271 would require cities to issue tree removal permits if they are within 200 feet of a private business' sign or billboard.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: House Committee

Issue Areas: Air quality, Clean Air, Clean Water, Planning and zoning, Pollution, Transportation, Trees, Urban Forestry, Water

Official Legislative Site

[March 8 Update:  HB 271 was held in committee subject to the “call of the Chair.” That means that the bill could be brought up again by the Chair. ICL will keep a close eye the House Transportation & Defense Committee, in the event that the HB 271 reappears, but we are hopeful the bill is dead for the year.]

Rep. James Holtzclaw (R-Meridian) introduced House Bill 271, which would allow outdoor advertisers and businesses to remove any trees or vegetation that block their signs. We’re calling it the Billboard Protection Act.

According to the legislation, a city, highway district, or other agency “shall issue a [tree removal] permit within 30 days” allowing a business owner to remove any trees or vegetation up to 200 feet from their business’ sign.

The bill is reportedly being pushed by an advertising company concerned that cities and highway districts are promoting trees over their billboards.

The reality is that trees make our cities and towns more livable, and we’ve spent millions of dollars across the state to beautify our roadsides with trees and shrubs. Trees are also cost-efficient. For every 1 dollar invested, they provide benefits worth up to 3 dollars.

That’s why we’re opposing this bill, and working with city planners, urban foresters, and even sign makers who are opposed to this misguided measure that protects billboards over trees.

What are some of the benefits of trees?

  • Trees help cool the air, reducing energy costs and improve the quality of life in our communities. Studies consistently show that trees can reduce cooling costs by 30%, along with savings on heating costs of 20-50%
  • Trees can extend the life of pavements and street. A 2005 study compared tree canopied streets vs open sky, and reported a significant reduction in thermal cracking, leading to an estimated 58% reduction in maintenance costs over 30 years. 
  • Trees also help filter out dangerous chemicals and materials from both the air and water. Roadside trees reduce air pollution 50%, consumer carbon dioxide and produce oxygen (one large trees provides oxygen for 4 people for a year!). And one-acre of mature trees can absorb the carbon produced by a car driving 28,000 miles. 
  • Trees help reduce crime. Studies have found that a 10% increase in tree canopy corresponded with a 12% reduction in crime, and that trees in urban settings correspond with a 25% reduction in domestic aggression and violence.
  • Urban Trees contribute an estimated $73 billion to the US economy. This number does not even account for increased property values, which adds an additional value of $31 billion. A study in Georgia found that homes along tree-lined streets sold for an average of $105,000 more then in neighborhoods without mature tree canopies.