CASPER, Wyo. — Vice Mayor Shawn Johnson says he is unlikely to support a proposed ordinance that would add additional licensing and insurance requirements for arborists.
Johnson said he was concerned it could negatively impact small one and two man tree service operations.
The Casper City Council spent some time discussing the proposal during their Tuesday, Sept. 10 work session.
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“It is not over-regulation of government, it is about safety,” Councilman Ray Pacheco said.
After a man died in Casper as the result of an individual not certified as an arborist cutting trees in his yard, city staff proposed creating new rules for arborists.
“As Shawn brought up, this was one accident,” Councilman Ken Bates said.
He suggested that such accidents may be rare and the proposal may be unneeded.
During the work session, the majority of council said they were in support of moving forward on the proposal without modifying any aspects of it. It has not yet come up for first reading.
The proposed rules would not apply to people cutting trees on their own properties.
City Attorney John Henley says that the majority of tree companies the city has spoken with were in support of adding more licensing requirements.
“The vast majority of the tree companies asked for increased training requirements, certification by the International Society of Arboriculture and [to] maintain significantly higher liability insurance and Workers’ Compensation insurance,” Henley said in a memo.
He added that another suggestion from local tree services was to add a requirement that any aerial tree or shrub removal operations require the presence of a certified arborist.
Staff reviewed a “Trees and Shrubs” chapter of the municipal code and suggested substantial changes:
- When seeking a commercial arborist license, people would have to first successfully complete a competency test through the Wyoming Extension Office.
- Within three years of obtaining their license, commercial arborists would need to get certified by the International Society of Arboriculture.
- Commercial liability insurance coverage of at least $1 million per occurrence would be required, up from the $100,000 minimum currently mandated.
- Aggregate insurance coverage would be raised from the current $300,000 minimum requirement to $2 million.
- Workers’ Compensation coverage would also have to be provided under the proposal.
- While permits are required under the current code to conduct trimming, cutting and other tree and shrub work, the proposal adds in language that would make it a misdemeanor for working without such a permit.
- A fine of up to $750 could be administered for violating those rules.
- ISA Certified Arborists would be required to be on scene anytime cutting or trimming operations are taking place above 12 feet.
- Trees or shrubs on any public property cannot be planted or removed without written permission from the Parks and Recreation Department. That is true under the current code, but the proposal would make it a misdemeanor with fines up to $750 for violating these rules.
- Trees would be prohibited from planting within four feet of curbs or sidewalks, up from the two foot distance required currently.
- A requirement that trees be planted a certain distance apart would be removed.
- State of Wyoming designated weeds such as Russian olives and tamarisk would be prohibited.
- The proposed changes would provide exceptions for planting “cotton-bearing cottonwood trees” within 40 feet of the river. They are prohibited in other public places.
- While willows aren’t currently allowed on public spaces, a proposed change would make them okay so long as they don’t exceed a maximum of ten feet in height. They’d be allowed at any height along the river.
Henley pointed out that the regulations would apply to commercial operations and not individuals pruning or trimming on their own properties.
Council would need to vote to pass on the changes on three readings during regular meetings to enact the changes.
Full details of the proposed changes are available in the council’s work packet.