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For awhile now I have been avoiding to write about subjects that really affect my industry. These subjects can get very deep and I can become opinionated about them. I am taking a leap of faith and will start to bring more subjects to the table. Last week I attended a meeting about the Tree Expert and Tree Care Operator Licensing Act. This should be the perfect time to share my thoughts on this bill.
The Tree Expert and Tree Care Operator Licensing Act is a bill that will regulate tree companies in the state of New Jersey just like plumbers and electricians. You would think that this is just another way for the government to tax us, but read on. Before last year there has never been any regulation on tree companies. That means that anyone with a pickup truck and a chainsaw could be a tree company. This bill will stop “Fly by Night” companies and enforce proper tree maintenance procedures. There are two levels of tree companies, a Licensed Tree Care Operator (LTCO), and a Licensed Tree Expert (LTE).

A Licensed Tree Care Operator will be able to;

  • remove trees
  • prune trees
  • repair trees
  • grind and remove stumps
  • cut and remove brush

A Licensed Tree Expert will be able to;

  • prune trees
  • remove trees
  • repair trees
  • grind and remove stumps
  • cut and remove brush
  • establish trees
  • fertilize trees
  • cable and brace trees
  • install lightning protection
  • consult
  • diagnose
  • treat tree problems or diseases
  • manage trees during site planning or development
  • perform tree assessment and risk management
  • apply pesticides and any other form of tree maintenance
All tree work will also have to conform to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A300 Standards for Tree Care Operations. For example; If a tree company is caught pruning trees with climbing spikes, the company will be issued a fine up to $1000 dollars for the first offense. Second offense will be up to $2500 dollars, and third offense will be revocation of license.
The last major point I would like to address is that every company must register with the state. The biannual registration will check for proof of workmans’ compensation insurance and valid liability insurance. In addition, every company will have to keep no less than 32 CEU’s (Continuing Education Units) every two years. That means that the LTE or LTCO registered must attend regular classes to keep his or her education in sync with changes in industry standards.
The Tree Experts and Tree Care Operators Licensing Act will effect all current and future tree companies, current and future landscape companies, and home owners. Home owners have been denied proper tree care for years. In order for tree companies to cut costs and give customers a cheaper price the companies have been cutting corners.

So what will happen to tree and landscape companies?

Tree companies who have been in business for over seven years, and can prove it, will be grandfathered in as LTCO’s. After that they will have to keep the required 32 CEU’s every two years. All new tree companies will have to take either the LTCO test, or the LTE test. They may only take the test if they meet the minimum requirements of;
  • Being at least 18 years of age
  • Being of good moral character
    1. Be a graduate of a four year college with a degree in forestry, arboriculture, ornamental horticulture, natural resources, or any other curriculum approved by the board; or
    2. have completed two years of college and passed courses approved by the board, and have been continually employed in the practice of arboriculture for at least three years preceding the date of his application of licensure; or
    3. be continuously employed in the practice of arboriculture for at least five years immediately preceding the date of application of licensure.
Landscapers will be restricted to ground based operations. Those operations exclude climbing, the use of aerial lifts, cranes, rope and rigging operations, or the removal of trees over 6 inches in D.B.H. (Diameter at Breast Height).

So now why is this bill so important, and why is it needed?

I can answer this question in many ways, and rant forever about the problems in our industry. For the sake of this article I’ll try to keep it concise and limited to the most major problem, safety. The tree industry has one of the highest death tolls of any other job in America. The magazines I receive that are just supposed to inform about industry changes, now have sections for obituaries. These deaths mostly come from improper practices. If the companies were educated, these deaths could be avoided.

I could write about this all day, but what is better than a video. I searched YouTube quick, and I found this:

This video was quite humorous, but imagine if the house was yours.

I have high hopes for this bill. One thing that is a major problem is limiting the amount of tree companies in New Jersey. In Bergen County alone there are over 200 registered tree companies! As a homeowner, how could you find out who is good and who is bad? This bill is still being finalized. Be sure to check back for updates as the bill is finished.

You can find a copy of this bill at the following link: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/A3000/2872_R2.pdf

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