After man dies from felling of a tree, Casper looking at tree and shrub rules

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CASPER, Wyo. — After a man died in Casper as the result of an individual not certified as an arborist cutting trees in his yard, the Casper City Council is reviewing some licensing rules for arborists.

“One of our citizens was killed in a tree-trimming or felling accident,” City Manager Carter Napier said at a city council work session Tuesday, Aug. 27.

Councilman Steve Cathey asked whether the accident was due to negligence on the part of the individual cutting the tree.

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A daughter of the man who died in the incident attended the work session and provided some details.

“My dad at the time was 89 years old,” she said.

Individuals knocked on his door saying they could cut down his 60 foot cottonwood trees.

“My dad was out there watching, which he shouldn’t have been,” she added.

Professionals wouldn’t have let him do that, she said. A rope snapped while they were cutting the tree. The fall led to the man sustaining a damaged femoral artery and he died ten hours later.

The individuals who were doing the tree cutting were not in violation of Casper’s ordinances at the time, according to Napier.

City staff reviewed the policy prior to the city council’s discussion.

They spoke with the daughters of the man who was killed in the incident and met with local tree services, according to City Attorney John Henley.

“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.

Councilman Mike Huber said that he’s had a lot of experience using chainsaws and reflecting back on that experience, said that he thinks such regulations are needed.

Staff reviewed a “Trees and Shrubs” chapter of the municipal code and suggested substantial changes.

When seeking a commercial arborist license, people must 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.

The proposal also deals with rules for planting trees and shrubs.

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.

Councilman Bob Hopkins said that this section may need amended as it would affect areas with small lawns along Casper streets.

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.