CASPER, Wyo. — New rules for trimming trees and shrubs in Casper hit the pause button during the city council’s last meeting.
Following a motion from Councilman Mike Huber, they tabled the issue so that some elements of the proposed rules could get a closer look.
With the council set to take up that discussion during their Tuesday, Oct. 22 work session, at least one amendment will be part of council’s consideration.
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The main elements of the proposed ordinance require arborists to obtain additional certifications and restrict the rules around cutting trees or tree limbs 12 feet in the air or above.
But another detail would have required people obtain permits in order to prune or trim trees lining Casper’s streets.
A proposed amendment would allow property owners, their immediate family or licensed tree contractors employed by property owners to trim or prune such trees or shrubs without obtaining a permit.
An accident involving a man who died after an uncertified arborist cut a tree limb in his back yard and landed on the man has pushed much of council’s discussion.
Some council members have seen that as pointing to the need for protections they say the proposed rules would put in place.
Others like Councilman Steve Cathey have said that council is being reactionary in rushing into new rules based off of one incident.
Cathey and Vice Mayor Shawn Johnson have questioned whether the rules will actually enhance safety. Another question has circled around whether the rules would put small tree service operations at a disadvantage due to costs associated with insurance requirements and training that would be mandated.
While many of the new rules are safety related, other changes include the banning of some non-native plant species like Russian olive trees.
Nothing in the new rules would prevent property owners from trimming or cutting plants or trees on their own properties.
One of the primary proposed changes requires the presence of a certified arborist when aerial tree felling operations are underway.
The city says that most tree service providers they’ve heard from support the new rules.
Here is a rundown of the changes included in the proposed ordinance:
- When seeking a commercial arborist license, people will have to first successfully complete a competency test through the Wyoming Extension Office.
- Within three years of obtaining their license, commercial arborists will need to get certified by the International Society of Arboriculture.
- Commercial liability insurance coverage of at least $1 million per occurrence will be required, up from the $100,000 minimum previously mandated.
- Aggregate insurance coverage is raised from the previous $300,000 minimum requirement to $2 million.
- Workers’ Compensation coverage will have to be provided.
- It is now a misdemeanor for conducting tree trimming services without a permit.
- A fine of up to $750 could be administered for violating those rules.
- ISA Certified Arborists will 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 was true under the current code, but the proposal makes it a misdemeanor with fines up to $750 for violating these rules.
- Trees are prohibited from planting within four feet of curbs or sidewalks, up from the two foot distance required previously.
- A requirement that trees be planted a certain distance apart was removed.
- State of Wyoming designated weeds such as Russian olives and tamarisk are prohibited.
- The rules provide exceptions for planting “cotton-bearing cottonwood trees” within 40 feet of the river. They are prohibited in other public places.
- Willows are now allowed on public spaces up to a maximum of ten feet in height. They are allowed at any height along the river.
Full details of the changes are available in the council’s work packet.