What is an arborist?
Arborists are men and women who make a career of caring for landscape and community trees. Some are self employed, and others may work or consult for tree care companies, municipalities, insurance companies, utility companies or attorneys. Regardless of where they work, arborists are professionals concerned with the planting and the care of trees. An arborists can help you with an array of other tree care practices, including transplanting, pruning, fertilizing and pest management. Most arborists are also skilled in tree removal and value appraisals.
Consulting arborists are a bit different. These experts offer advice but usually do not provide the actual services. They specialize in appraising, diagnosing problems, recommending treatments and suggesting where to obtain competent service. A consultant is often the “second opinion” a tree owner needs before making decisions. Other times, the consultant is the legal expert who helps settle disputes in court cases.
When do I need the help of an arborist?
The best way to determine when you need the services of an arborist is to answer the questions on the checklist below:
If the answer to any question is yes, the service of an arborist can help you keep your trees healthy and give you peace of mind.
Tips for hiring an arborist
The following tips can help in the hiring process:
Get a contract
State law requires that arborists provide a written contract that specifies the services to be performed and the sum to be paid. A standard contract between the tree owner and the arborist should contain these key details:
Work is usually quoted as a single price for the job or on an hourly basis plus materials. When the arborist uses the latter, be sure to include the wording, “but not to exceed.”
When negotiating the contract, be sure to ask the arborist questions like, “How do you make your pruning cuts?” or “How can I be sure that pedestrians and children will be safe?” Also, make sure that your concerns are dealt with fairly BEFORE work begins. Finally, if a dispute arises or you would like an expert to check the quality of work, seek the services of a consulting arborist, urban forester or similar specialist who is not in competition with the arborist you hired.
A little about arborists in Louisiana
Since the 1980s Louisiana has required tree care workers to have a license. Louisiana is one of only a small number of states in the country that require any kind of license or certification for tree care workers. Arboriculture is a dangerous way to make a living, and requiring a license and continuing education is a positive step in improving this industry in our state. Today, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) licenses about 500 commercial arborists in Louisiana. Once an arborist passes the Louisiana Arborist License Exam, he or she must do three things to keep the license:
Not every person who works on trees in Louisiana has a state license. The law requires that the person working on the tree must have a license, have an employee who has a license or work under the direct supervision of someone with a license. A direct supervisor is someone who gives directions and instruction and accepts responsibility for the final product. That means, for example, a licensed arborist who owns his own company can have several crews of unlicensed arborists working several sites as long as the licensee is in charge and is responsible for the work. Because non-licensed workers are not required to attend continuing education seminars, they may not be current on industry recommendations and practices. To be safe, make sure that the person working on your tree has his/her own license.
Some arborists go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the state license and join a state, national or international professional organization. Membership in such organizations allows the arborists to interact with others in the field of tree care and to exchange information about arboricultural practices. Arborists who join professional groups, especially the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the National Arborist Association (NAA) and the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), also have access to current, research-based industry recommendations regarding tree care and safety. These groups also all have professional codes of conduct that encourage members to be better professionals as service providers. In Louisiana there are about thirty state-licensed arborists who also maintain membership in ISA.
Tree owners are the most important component in a healthy urban and community forest. Sound stewardship of urban and community forests includes employing the services of tree care professionals to help maintain the health and vitality of your trees. Call an arborist today.
This article is adapted from materials previously published by the Louisiana Arborist Association and the International Society of Arboriculture and it previously appeared in Forests & People, 54(4): 15-17.