PNW-ISA asks governments to consider public safety tree care “essential”

Cristina Bowerman Cristina Bowerman
Executive Director
Learn more about Cristina Bowerman.

The letter below was emailed and mailed to government officials in PNW-ISA's region.

(Tigard, OR, Monday, March 23, 2020) The Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (PNW-ISA) is a nonprofit organization representing over 2,000 arborists and tree care companies in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Canada. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced numerous federal, state, and local health or business closures affecting our members. While the jurisdictions, business activities affected, and length of time for the closure may differ, most will exempt essential businesses or essential business activities that directly relate to public safety.

PNW-ISA is urging local, state, and federal policymakers to consider arborists, tree care workers and tree care companies among those operations deemed to be “essential” businesses that can exercise the option to remain open to support their communities during these difficult times. While not every type of tree care work performed fits into this category, there are specific aspects of the industry that meet this definition.

To assist members in determining which aspects of their businesses may be considered "essential" under certain federal, state, or local health or business closure orders, PNW-ISA recommends that each company review its existing scheduled and planned work backlogs to identify the specific work activities directly related to client or public safety. These would be deemed an essential business activity. All other non-safety related work would be deemed non-essential and can be completed once the pandemic has subsided.

PNW-ISA has distilled essential tree care services into the following three categories:

The protection of infrastructure
Our members work daily to make sure the infrastructure that keeps our country running is clear of hazards. The vegetation around utility and transmission lines, telecommunications equipment, roads and bridges, and other infrastructure needs to be maintained to ensure there are no interruptions of service or other issues. These operations are essential and need to continue even in times of emergency.

Maintaining the public safety of our communities
By removing hazards, such as trees that may fall on houses, businesses, or infrastructure, tree care companies play a vital role in keeping our communities safe. Our members work every day across the Pacific Northwest to mitigate the risk of trees damaging buildings and harming individuals. If this work stops, the potential for damage grows that may otherwise be avoided.

Protection against the spread of invasive and/or injurious pests
The threat of invasive and injurious pests cannot be understated. These include the spotted lantern fly, emerald ash borer, and numerous others. Spring is the time our members need to be out in the field treating for invasive pests, or the public health will be adversely impacted. These pests also have the potential to cost our country billions of dollars in damage, so our members being in the field and mitigating these risks is crucial, even in times of emergency.

Essential Business Activities
When making the determination of whether a certain aspect of tree care is an "essential business" activity or not, PNW-ISA offers the partial list below used in hundreds of jurisdictions throughout the country during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

  • Hazard tree removal or removal or a dangerous tree
  • Pruning of dead, dying, or dangerous limbs
  • Treatment for invasive insects which if left untreated would rapidly destroy a tree causing a hazard
  • Utility line clearance
  • Road safety clearance
  • Cabling or bracing a hazardous tree
  • Mitigating storm damage
  • Emergency response readiness
  • Treatment for ticks and mosquitos or other public health treatments
  • Removal of fire damaged or fuel trees in a fire hazard area
  • Assessment of hazard trees or pest issues for the purposes of removal or treatment as described above

Non-Essential Business Activities

  • Shrub trimming or pruning
  • Routine tree pruning
  • Routine tree removal when no abnormal safety issues exist
  • Vista pruning
  • Tree or shrub planting
  • Installation of irrigation
  • Fertilization
  • Pest management that does not involve invasive pests, borers, or disease that can rapidly destroy trees

In times of emergency each company must make the decision whether to continue with operations as normal. These are unusual times, and each jurisdiction may have drastically different rules and regulations regarding business operations. PNW-ISA is committed to monitoring the local, state, and federal policies regarding essential versus nonessential businesses in terms of business closures during lockdowns, and we will update members with any information that may impact their businesses.

PNW-ISA is here for its members, and we will continue to be a resource for arborists and tree care companies during these unusual times. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly with any questions on this developing situation.