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New law requires documentation for damaged tree mitigation

By Staff | Sep 26, 2019

A new Florida law says local governments cannot require a permit or mitigation for pruning, trimming or removing a tree on residential property if the property owner obtains specified documentation.

Under the new legislation, which went into effect July 1, property owners must get documentation that the tree presents a danger to persons or property from an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or a Florida licensed landscape architect.

Lee County government spokesperson Tim Engstrom said the county cannot require a permit, advanced notice or preclude property owners from removing a tree.

“Once the tree is removed, the county cannot require the property owner to replace the tree,” he said. “This only applies to trees that have been deemed a danger to persons or property. If the property owner does not have the documentation to support the removal or pruning, then they will be subject to the same regulations in place today.”

When asked how the new law would affect Cape Coral residents, city spokesperson Maureen Buice said the law doesn’t affect Cape Coral, “as we don’t require permits for trimming or removing trees.”

Deputy director of natural resources for the city of Sanibel, Holly Milbrandt, said if a property owner retained a permit, the city would require mitigation to replant the vegetation in another place on the property.

“The main reason is to replace the wild food source and habitat that was lost,” she said.

The new law takes away the permitting requirement and staff review.

“It’s between them (the property owner) and their arborist and landscape architect to make a decision on what trees pose a threat to the property,” Milbrandt said.

But Southwest Florida residents shouldn’t fear trees.

CEO of the Florida Chapter ISA, Norm Easey, says they aren’t inherently dangerous.

“People think they are but it’s a specific defect in the tree that gives trees a bad name,” he said. “Trees fail in storms and cause damage and people associate that with the tree but the reality is that it’s a defect in the tree that failed.”

Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, the ISA focuses on the safety for the arboriculture industry around the world.

The ISA also offers the only internationally recognized and accredited personal certification program in the arboriculture industry. It has over 33,000 credential holders in 47 countries around the world.

There are 1,947 certified arborists in Florida.

The ISA does not credential companies. If you find someone that may not be ISA certified, but claims to be, you can check their credentials through the ISA’s “Verify a Credential” tool at www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist/verify.

Easey also said performing proper maintenance on trees is important.

And most of the time, when trees have defects in them, they can be mitigated.

“The detect could be anything from an overextended branch, which are known to fail, or a branch with bark inclusions, which is known to fail,” Easey said.

The tree could also have decay.

“There’s a myriad of things that create defects in trees that are known to lead to failures,” he said. “Most of the time defects can be mitigated by pruning or other things to reduce risk.”

Find an ISA Certified Arborist: www.isa-arbor.com

Check an arborist’s credential(s): www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist/verify