What Is an Arborist?

In common parlance, the term arborist is often used to describe any tree-care professional. However, the term should usually be reserved for those tree-care professionals who’ve attained a certificate from one of the major tree-care associations, such as the International Society of Arboriculture.

Tree-Care Workers Vs. Arborists

There is a significant difference between someone who rides around in a truck with a chainsaw and a true tree-care professional, who has studied the biology of woody plants extensively and obtained certifications and credentials to help verify their skills and knowledge.

The former can probablycut down a failing tree in your backyard, but the latter can diagnose the reasons the tree is struggling, analyze the potential for failure and devise an appropriate plan of treatment. The tree may very well require removal, but a competent arborist will only recommend doing so if necessary or desired by the landowner.

Arborists can also provide recommendations for installation projects, help increase the yield of fruit trees and work to resolve issues with pests or pathogens. In short, arborists have a much broader and deeper knowledge base than a typical tree-care worker does.

The term “tree surgeon” is often used interchangeably with the term arborist, but this fails to recognize the breadth of skills and services arborists have and provide. Some arborists certainly do perform services that could be characterized as tree surgery, but they also do a number of other things to care for trees and assist those who own them.

Certifications and Credentials

Most true arborists are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture or another recognized body. To attain such certifications, arborists must demonstrate several years’ worth of experience in a tree-related field and pass a comprehensive examination.

Advanced arborists may earn additional certifications that demonstrate mastery of various aspects of tree care. For example, some arborists earn certifications involving work near utility lines; others earn certificates commemorating their climbing skills.

Some arborists also earn certifications from bodies other than the ISA, such as the American Society of Consulting Arborists. Such professionals are generally involved with the planning of tree instillations, analyzing tree failures and providing second opinions, among other things.

Additional Services Arborists Provide

In addition to trees and woody plants, many arborists are also knowledgeable in the care and maintenance of herbaceous plants. Some arborists offer landscaping services alongside their tree-care services, and others are involved with the culture and sale of tree stock.

It is also important to note that various arborists often specialize in different types of tree care services. Some may specialize in risk assessment, while others may specialize in disease prevention. This will have an impact on the complete slate of services they provide.


If you would like an arborist to help care for the trees in your yard, give your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. Whether you need installation recommendations, help caring for an ailing tree or answers regarding the reason one of your trees failed, our experienced arborists can help.

tree with holes

Arborists Help by Identifying Insect Problems in Tree Growth

Arborists like the professionals at Evergreen Arborist Consultants are called on every day to make appraisals and to offer expert testimony in various cases.  However, sometimes professional arborists need a bit more knowledge than what they use in their regular work.  For example, an arborist may easily recognize that a tree has insect invasion issues but may not be completely familiar with a particular insect species.  When something like this happens, it is important for a professional arborist to know where to go for information. Read more

Arborists, Unite! Midwest Professionals Protest Clear Cutting of Trees

Trees and utility powerlines

Trees and utility powerlines

Chicago, Illinois–The Utility Arborists Association may have a solution to a problem that has been plaguing utility companies for several years and affects millions of people who need power.  The problem is hot power lines sagging onto overgrown trees.  One such “sag” event in 2003 resulted in a blackout that affected 50 million people.  Adequately managing tree growth near power lines became a critical task for many power companies, fueled by fines of up to $1 million by Congress against companies that do not properly trim their trees.  The result:  clear cutting of trees that has injured habitats and blighted green spaces.

The Right-of-Way Stewardship Council has been working on an accreditation  process for utilities that keep environmental standard in mind when cleaning up the areas around power lines by plant management.  Arborists are working with several companies to recommend low-growing species of trees that will block out and shade the higher-growing species, leading to a lower canopy that will allow nature to manage most of the problem itself.

The Utility Arborists Association

The method advocated by the Utility Arborists Association requires more up-front planning and work, but gives much better results both for the people living around the power lines and for the habitat.  Ultimately, the UAA says that their methods will result in lower overall costs and less habitat destruction.  Nationwide, about 8.6 million acres of land are currently used in transmission corridors.  Good management of these corridors could result in habitat and migration paths for animals and birds and recreational green spaces for humans.  Utility arborists can be used to monitor for invasive insects and disease as well as assist the cities or counties in choosing the right plant species for their transmission corridors.

Utility arborists have the expertise to assist utility companies that want to work with the environment and native species in creating power corridors.  ROW hopes that by supporting these efforts, utility companies will see the ultimate value in planned planting rather than in simply clear-cutting these corridors.  They also hope that legislatures will see the value of rewarding companies that work with professional arborists and experts to create habitat for wildlife and plant species rather than destroying these habitats with clear cutting.

Source:  Midwest Energy News, “Trees vs. transmission:  Utility arborist group seeks better approach,” Dan Haugen, August 19, 2013.

Indian Wells Ficus Hedge Could Cost $10 Million



Indian Wells, California–It is hard to believe the lowly ficus could stir such controversy, but a hedge in Indian Wells may wind up with a $10 million pricetag, payable by the city.

The hedge has already cost the city a great deal of money, and now the litigants are fighting over attorney’s fees.  A civil rights suit has been filed in U.S. District Court that may wind up costing the city $10 million to settle.  All of this for a simple ficus hedge?  Yes–according to partners Doug Lawellin and Steve Rohlin, owners of a kitchenware store in Palm Desert.

How Did A Hedge Become The Center of Controversy?

The 26 feet tall, 83 feet long and 11 feet wide hedge was the “reason we bought” the home, according to Lawellin.  However, a neighbor, Susan Aldridge, filed a complaint in 2011 stating that the hedge blocked her view of the mountains and wanted the top five feet taken off.  The city had failed to enforce older hedge ordinances, but adopted a new ordinance to take care of the hedge issue.  The protracted, lengthy legal battle that resulted has left everyone exhausted and resulted in the new battle for attorney’s fees.

The controversy stemmed from the allegation that when the new ordinances were put in someone filed a new complaint on the neighbor’s behalf against the rules requiring the neighbor to do it herself.  When the city sent Lawellin a letter asking for the hedge to be cut down to 9 feet, he argued that the code was being selectively enforced.

Enter The Arborists . . .

In this case, a landscaper was also called in to testify.  He said that the hedge had only a 15 percent chance of survival if it was cut so drastically.  The city’s arborist apparently agreed with this assessment, although the city denies that the arborist made such a statement.  Eventually, the couple hired their own arborist who measured the height of the hedge at 26 feet and recommended that no more than one-third be removed annually to give the tree the best chance for survival.  A horticultural journalist also noted that the adjacent property owners may need to make adjustments for their own plants due to sudden lack of shade, and birds may need to find new shelter.

A professional arborist may testify as an expert witness in such cases.  The testimony of an arborist is often the defining factor that leads to a settlement or judgment in such a case.  In this case, once the attorney’s fees issue is worked out, it is to be hoped that the advice of the experts will be implemented to save the hedge and the habitat.

Source:  My Desert, “Ficus Fracas:  Indian Wells focus of $10M lawsuit,” August 28, 2013.

camp tawonga sign

Pacific Gas & Electric Found Nothing Wrong With Deadly Tree

Yosemite National Park—This past summer, a 21-year-old lost her life and four adults were treated at hospitals after a tree fell at Camp Towanga near Yosemite National Park.  Pacific Gas & Electric Co. had recently inspected the tree in question and apparently found nothing wrong with the oak.  PG&E were required to inspect due to the presence of nearby power lines.  Tuolumne County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Oliver called the incident a “freak accident.”

Annais Rittenberg, 21, was in her second year as a camp counselor for Camp Towanga, a Jewish camp in Yosemite, when the tree fell on a campfire circle of which she was a part.  Fortunately, no children were injured, but Rittenberg lost her life and four other adults were hurt, two of whom had to be hospitalized. Read more