Trees provide a host of valuable environmental, economic, and aesthetic benefits. They improve our quality of life and complement our community by easing the transitions between our built and natural environments. They also provide a buffer to our thoroughfares and add value to our properties. While we take pleasure in all the benefits trees have to offer, each property owner has a responsibility to assess and minimize risks associated with the trees existing on their property.
According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, tree risk management is an ongoing responsibility for all tree owners, not only for one’s private property but for potential damage to adjacent properties and public infrastructure. A key part of risk management is a thorough assessment of a tree’s structural integrity, which usually requires the expertise of an experienced tree care professional such as a Certified Arborist, which is certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). These individuals may work individually or with a tree care company, but they provide the necessary assessments that determine a tree’s structural health.
The initial tree risk assessment has little to do with how a tree looks. A thorough, defensible tree assessment follows a predetermined checklist, starting at the base of the tree and moving up the trunk to the crown. Each part of the tree is analyzed for strength or the lack thereof, to determine the overall integrity of the tree. These assessments often reveal branch or stem damage risks that may not be apparent to the untrained eye. Assessments also can reveal infrastructure damage to walkways, driveways, foundations, waterlines, and other structures for which a certified arborist can provide recommendations.
A proper assessment identifies the following:
- Exposed and damaged roots and mushrooms on root collars
- Trunk cavities and fungal cankers along trunk and main stem -- splits or cavities in main stems and central leaders
- Dead or dying branches and poor-sealing pruning cuts
- Crown dieback (any time of year for Conifers, and warmer months for Deciduous trees)
- Other insect and disease issues
What is a hazardous tree?
According to the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, tree hazards include dead or dying trees, dead parts of live trees, or unstable live trees (due to structural defects or other factors) that are within striking distance of people or property (a target). Hazardous trees have the potential to cause property damage, personal injury, or fatality in the event of a failure.
What about my neighbor’s trees?
The responsibility to knowledgeably manage those trees rests with your neighbors. Depending upon many different legal issues, branches that hang over the property line may be yours to do with as you wish, as long as any pruning or removals conform with arboricultural standards (e.g., refrain from maiming a tree). Additionally, a tree whose trunk straddles the property line may be a shared tree, a shared responsibility, and therefore present shared costs. According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, it is encouraged that neighbors discuss tree issues long before tree failure becomes a problem and responsibility for any damage becomes part of the discussion.
Should your neighbor be unresponsive to your concerns, it is advised that you seek legal advice about your options. Tree disputes between property owners are neighbor-to-neighbor issues, and The Landings Association has no authority to mediate or intervene. However, Landings Association staff may be able to provide supporting documentation, such as site surveys that typically include the species and location of trees existing on private property, so that ownership and responsibility can be more clearly identified. Note: There are a number of properties in which said surveys are not available.
Trees existing on common property
If property owners become concerned with the health and safety of a tree existing on common property, it is strongly encouraged that the concern is reported as soon as possible. These concerns can be shared via the Association’s SeeClickFix portal (www.landings.org/service-requests).
The Georgia Forestry Commission (www.gfc.state.ga.us) is an excellent resource for property owners regarding tree care, risk management, and other arborist related resources.
To better assist property owners with the management of their trees, staff have compiled a list of arborists and tree removal specialists actively working in the greater Savannah area. These contractors are listed below for reference.
Enjoying the charm and character of our maritime forest brings shared responsibility and careful management. We encourage all property owners regularly to evaluate their trees and to seek professional guidance and advice when necessary
This article was originally published by The Landings Association on their website. Visit landings.org to read the original article. https://landings.org/news/2019/12/05/tree-management