Trees on leased land provide an important contribution to Canberra’s urban forest and consequently the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government introduced legislation to protect urban trees on leased land from unwarranted removal under the Tree Protection (Interim Scheme) Act 2001. This tree protection legislation applies to significant trees, classified using size-based criteria, on leased land for urban and other non-rural purposes. Responsibility resides with the ACT Government to preserve and protect significant trees on leased land in Canberra, until such time as removal is warranted and prudent. On Saturday 18 January 2003, 2 years after the introduction of the tree protection legislation, Canberra experienced a state of emergency when major bushfires swept through the bush–urban interface and penetrated into the western urban area subsequently destroying or damaging over 500 houses. There was a substantial increase in requests lodged under the Act immediately after the fires, but by February 2004 the number of requests returned to February 2002 levels which suggests leaseholder response to the fire declines relatively quickly. The percentage of requests approved (88%) remained relatively constant which indicates that the increased number of applications were for reasons that were considered valid under the Act although it is unlikely that these concerns only became valid during the month proceeding the fire. Dominant genera removed each February from 2002 to 2004 were similar; however, Eucalyptus species have shown a small but significant relative increase although there are insufficient data to conclude this increase indicates an increased aversion to this genus. Future management needs to consider the community perception of trees and temporal reaction to major events.