Hiring Arborists and Consultants for Your Community

By Micki McNaughton, Arborea, LLC

On behalf of the private arborists and urban forestry consultants whom I represent on the Washington Community Forestry Council, I offer these suggestions for hiring the best possible urban forestry assistance for your community:

  • Determine the needs of your community and its trees. Do trees need pruning for safety, structure or clearance? Does the community require assistance with planning for trees? Do trees need evaluation for risk or hazard? Are citizens or staff asking for training to become better tree stewards? All of these considerations, and more, will help you find the appropriate tree care professional for the work at hand.
  • Locate a professional arborist or urban forestry consultant. The Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture has an online database that can be searched for certified professionals in your area. Anyone who works on your community’s valuable trees should be certified by either the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA); certification guarantees a minimum level of competence as well as demonstrating professionalism. You wouldn’t hire an engineer without a Professional Engineering (PE) certification, would you?
  • Ask for references and check them. This not only verifies the professional’s credentials, but ensures that you choose the arborist or consultant that best suits your needs, based on their prior work.
  • Ask for licenses, insurance and bonds appropriate for the work. Professional arborists and consultants will be aware of these requirements for most jurisdictions they work in; professionals worthy of your consideration will have these on hand or be prepared to acquire them if necessary.
  • Discuss the work thoroughly with the arborist or consultant, including desirable outcomes. Professionals often bring new information to the discussion that allows for alternative solutions to common tree-related challenges.
  • Sign a contract. This protects you, your community and the arborist or consultant, as well as documenting the scope of work that you have agreed upon.
  • Consider contracting with an arborist or urban forestry consultant for ongoing services. This allows you and the professional to work together to schedule work at appropriate times, develop accurate budgets and avoid the high cost of “crisis” work.

Trees are a valuable community asset and an investment for the future. Like other community infrastructure elements, they require care and planning to maintain their effectiveness and value. It is well worth the time and effort to hire the best possible caretakers for the trees that contribute to your community’s economic vitality and public well-being, safely and beautifully, for years to come.

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