Keepers of the Trees

Jim Houston

The tree care industry has experienced significant changes in the last decade, with equipment and communication advancing how many of us do business. Across the developments within arboriculture, the equipment always seems to steal the show. Everyone loves the large, backyard portable buckets and the 100-foot grapple saws. But how are we advancing the art of saving trees?

The responsibility of the modern-day arborist is massive. We as arborists are the key to keeping our planet’s woody perennials healthy throughout our urban centers. The responsibility and effects are real. Never has our work been more impactful to society and the planet.

Whether we are on a production crew or managing a plant-health-care (PHC) book of business, it is the responsibility of the arborist to monitor the green assets of the urban landscape. A good plant-health-care (PHC) specialist learns to identify the indicators before they rise to problems. This is the primary skill set of every great arborist who has influenced my training.

Sharing our observations

It is hard not to wonder how our landscapes would look if we as an industry improved communication practices. If each of us thoroughly monitored our urban green spaces, using simple reporting of early-detection stress indicators, we could utilize this data to improve our ability to manage future large-scale issues like emerald ash borer.

There are many large-scale threats to our green spaces on the horizon. Our ability to identify and share potential large-scale PHC issues has never been stronger, and the need for this prevention has never been greater.

On my short commute to work, I pass several majestic ash trees that we are currently working to save. Certainly, this gives me a great sense of pride as I pass these trees each day. However, equal to the pride in the many trees saved over my career, I cannot help but feel some level of responsibility for the demise of several species in our landscape that have occurred on my watch.

Part of the solution

Technically, I feel we can say that all arboriculture services fall under plant health care, even removals. Creating a culture of recording our findings and reporting details to state agencies could put us in front of invasives that have yet to plague our landscape. Our ability as an industry to proactively prevent the widespread destruction of our green spaces by invasives is a critical responsibility.

If not us as the “keepers of the trees,” to prevent this destruction, then who?

Jim Houston is a vice president and general manager with The Davey Tree Expert Company, an accredited, 50-year TCIA member company based in Kent, Ohio, and is a member of the TCIA Board of Directors.

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