Protecting our Steep Slopes and Woodlands

Chester County’s landscape is defined by rolling green hills and picturesque woodland views which help to define our unique sense of place. One of the ways to help maintain this sense of place is by preserving our steep slopes and woodlands.

By limiting the disturbance of steep slopes, municipalities can greatly reduce soil erosion, stormwater runoff, and stream sedimentation. In addition to protecting water quality, wildlife habitats and scenic views are preserved.

Steep slopes are protected at the municipal level through municipal regulatory ordinances, which limit to what degree a sloped site can be developed. Municipalities typically distinguish between “moderately steep slopes” (15-25%) and slopes defined as “very steep,” “prohibitive,” or “severely steep” (greater than 25%), and limit their permitted disturbance according to their degree of steepness.

Woodland conservation is especially important when it comes to steep slope protection, as removing a large percentage of trees from steep slopes can lead to highly damaging erosion events.

Woodlands often complement environmental features such as riparian buffers and steep slopes,  thereby functioning as natural stormwater management facilities minimizing stormwater runoff and soil erosion in our streams and creeks. Woodland conservation also helps to minimize and mitigate climate change, increase economic value, provide natural habitat preservation, reduce energy demands, and provide recreation opportunities.

These resources provide municipalities with the tools to help preserve, maintain, and restore Chester County’s steep slopes and woodlands. To learn more about environmental resource protection, visit

The Planning Commission’s eTools cover a wide array of planning topics, from natural resources to economic development. The tools are easy to read, providing a quick overview of each topic, a brief explanation of how it works, and considerations for addressing the topic or regulating use. An alphabetical listing of eTools is available in our Municipal Corner.