Understanding what a certified arborist can do for you | Evergreen Arborist

What the heck is a certified arborist? And why is the designation important to homeowner?

What the heck is a certified arborist? And why is the designation important to homeowner?

The simple answer is that in many respects we are like tree doctors. That seems to answer the question in most people’s minds. But it really goes much deeper than that.

Anyone can call themselves an “arborist” that can spell the word. But only those that have completed a certification process can earn the professional designation of “certified arborist”.

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) requires passage of a comprehensive examination on the art and science of tree care, at least three years of practical experience, membership in a professional organization and participation in continuing education programs.

Certification measures the tree knowledge of an individual, but it cannot guarantee quality performance of work. That is something a potential consumer must judge by asking questions, checking references and, for those arborists involved with tree services, being certain they are bonded or otherwise properly insured.

Those of us that have earned the designation take pride in it. While we feel we can offer quality and conscientious services, we also believe that we have an important role to help educate the public about proper tree care.

Services Are Varied

Many certified arborists are self-employed individuals that perform all their own services. Some are WSU Master Gardeners that are adept at diagnosing pest problems. Others have crews and offer expanded tree care and landscape services. Public agencies also have employees that have attained the designation.

Many offer pruning services. Certification not only means that an the arborist will use the proper techniques for tree care, but that he/she also knows what not to do to improve the health, safety and appearance of a homeowner’s landscape.

Tree removal is a big business. The primary goal of certified arborists is to use removal as a last resort. They are trained to use their best judgement, experience and tools to evaluate the health and safety of trees and to make appropriate recommendations.

Such tree hazard assessments may recommend removal where construction or other activities have drastically altered a tree’s growing environment, serious defects are visible or root diseases may be present or are suspect. While it is not possible to predict if or when failures may occur, an arborist can point out the possibilities to be aware of.

Damage appraisals may be called for under various circumstances. Certified arborists use widely recognized tree formulas to estimate the value of trees. For large trees that are a significant feature in a landscape, values can easily be several thousands of dollars.

Many offer legal services that may include expert witness testimonies at depositions and trials.

Most offer a wide range of consulting services to homeowners, local governments, developers and other entities involved in tree preservation or tree care.

Several communities and homeowner associations have tree preservation ordinances. Oftentimes they will require a report from a certified arborist if a resident has safety concerns about protected trees.

Be Suspicious of Doorbell Ringers

Beware of the tree “expert” or “arborist” that knocks on you door and proclaims that a tree looks sick and must be removed or have some type of treatment to make it safer. Sometimes these are salespersons paid on commissions. Do they really have a homeowner’s best interests at heart?

Oftentimes, it is wise to get a second opinion. I have been called in on situations where I recommended something other than what the unsolicited doorbell ringer was suggesting. The recommendations resulted in saved trees and money.

Sources for Certified Arborists

The “Tree Services” sections in the yellow pages of various communities list a few arborists or state that a tree service has such on their staffs.

The Internet offers lists from various areas. Many links will lead to the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the ISA that lists certified members in British Columbia, Oregon and Washington.

Local county extension services also use the same list and may offer specific recommendations.

As the winter storm season progresses, a consultation with a certified arborist may be prudent if a homeowner has concerns about his or a neighbor’s trees.

Dennis Tompkins is a Certified Arborist, Certified Hazard Tree Risk Assessor and Master Gardener from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. He provides small tree pruning, pest diagnosis, hazard tree evaluations, tree appraisals and other services for homeowners and businesses. Contact him at 253 863-7469 or email at dlt@blarg.net. Website: evergreen-arborist.com.