Trees are valuable landscape assets. They provide beauty and shade, along with a number of social, environmental, community, and economic benefits to our cities, town, suburbs, and landscapes. They can also prove to be risky and downright hazardous to have around your property and town, but storms or the threat of storms like Sandy shouldn’t dissuade you from planting and admiring and caring for trees.

Trees require an investment of time, money and expertise in their proper selection, planting, care, maintenance and removal. When problems occur, such as storm or insect damage, or general maintenance is required, the help of a tree care professional may be warranted. Pruning or the removal of large trees is hazardous work, especially if it requires climbing or working from an elevated position.

Such work should be left to trained and qualified tree care professionals. Consulting arborists advise and provide diagnoses, recommend treatments, and complete evaluative appraisals used in insurance and situations of dispute, injury, or other legal matters regarding trees.

Currently in New Jersey, anyone can “claim” to be an arborist or tree expert, so it is important to inquire about experience, training, insurance, and references. The best references may come from friends or neighbors who have had to hire a tree care company, rather than relying on the alphabetical listing in the phone book.

Certification is one criterion that can help identify tree care professionals. New Jersey Certified Tree Experts “…have been examined and proven to be competent in the science and art of diagnosing, treating, and preventing tree injuries” by the Board of Tree Experts, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. This certification process measures the arborist’s skills in identification, diagnosis and treatment of tree problems through field and written examinations.

A complete statewide list of NJ Certified Tree Experts is available by visiting your county office of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, calling the NJ Community Forestry 609-292-2532, or online at

Beware of companies that solicit business “door-to door,” require advance payment other than for plant and landscape materials, offer a special deal for fast decisions, or show up unannounced in the aftermath of a tree-damaging storm. Also beware of those who advertise or recommend topping, which is the improper pruning or rounding-over of trees at a pre-determined height. Proper pruning should never remove more than 25 percent of the branches or limbs in a given year, and all cuts should be done appropriately to avoid leaving stubs or rip cuts in the bark.

A professional arborist will always provide a written statement of need, estimate, contract, current certification, insurance, and/or pesticide applicator license on demand.

Licensing in New Jersey

Back in January of 2010, Acting Governor Steve Sweeny signed into law “The Tree Experts and Tree Care Operators Licensing Act” which is still waiting to be fully enacted.

The bill will regulate tree companies in the state of New Jersey just like plumbers and electricians. Since the whole process, from eligibility to an accredited examination to licensure and then continuing education to retain the license have to be put into place by its new Board, it may take some time to fully implement it.

But for homeowners and their trees that may have been denied the privilege of professional tree care, this new license may just be the solution to high quality tree care and the end to ‘fly by night’ tree cutters.

Credit: This article that appeared on on November 8, 2012 by Nicholas Polanin