Including the establishment of your tree board in your tree ordinance raises the visibility and status of this important group. It also provides a basic framework for the board’s composition, operation, duties and responsibilities.
The first of the Arbor Day Foundation’s four Tree City USA standards is having a tree board or department. But establishing a tree board (and adopting a tree ordinance, another TCUSA standard) serves a much larger purpose than simply helping to qualify for the Tree City USA Program.
Tree boards are able to:
- Focus on the community forest resource on private property
- Provide a link between the local government and private citizens and businesses
- Provide advice and recommendations to local government staff and elected officials on community forest management issues; this may include recommendations on permit and plan approvals
- Conduct educational and promotional programs on trees and their benefits, proper care, and importance to the community; this usually includes conducting an annual Arbor Day celebration (another of the four Tree City USA standards)
- Receive donations for community tree programs such as memorial tree planting programs, for example
- Solicit and consolidate support for local government and arborist initiatives and community forest policies, programs and plans
- Establish their own bylaws and operating procedures not described in the code
BASIC FRAMEWORK FOR ESTABLISHING A TREE BOARD
Most ordinances contain just a few basic provisions that establish the framework for the operation of a tree board. These include:
- Tree board name
- Number and type of voting members and terms of office
- Number and type of ex-officio members
- Duties and responsibilities
TREE BOARD NAME
Most tree boards are simply named. For example, in Cordele’s Tree Preservation Ordinance, the “city tree board” is established. The terms “council”, “commission”, or “committee” are sometimes substituted for the term “board”.
The cities of Covington, Monticello, and Norcross call their tree board the “tree preservation board”.
In Macon-Bibb County, a “tree commission” is established in Section 17-33 of Article II. – Tree Preservation, Protection and Replacement, located within Chapter 17 – Parks and Recreation. In Division 4. – Tree Commission in Cedartown ‘s Article III. Boards, Authorities and Commissions, the “city tree commission” is established outside of the tree ordinance.
The group serving as the tree board may already exist in the form of an existing committee, board or commission. There may be an environmental committee, Keep America Beautiful board, or other group that takes on the role of the tree board. If this is the case, the group serving as the tree board can be identified in the tree ordinance, or a statement included that the community may choose an existing committee, board or commission to serve as the tree board. If this is doe, the establishment section of the tree ordinance may be able to omit provisions setting forth the number and type of voting and ex-officio members and other establishment requirements.
TREE BOARD MEMBERS
Tree boards consist of both voting members and ex-officio members. The number of voting members that you have may depend on how you will choose those members. You may want to:
- Have 1 representative for each city council or county commission member or district, neighborhood planning unit, or other geographical unit within the city
- Include at least 1 citizen-at-large
- Make recommendations to the mayor on appointees
- Include individuals representing specific roles, groups, interests or expertise, such as an arborist, landscape contractor, tree service owner, business owner, downtown business or development authority, builders association, utility company, garden club, computer expert, marketing or fundraising expert, teachers, youth and other individuals that can make positive contributions to tree board programs
- Invite a representative from the environmental club at the local high school to participate in the tree board, either as a voting member or ex-officio member
- Include persons who have demonstrated the interest and have available the time and energy to attend meetings and participate in tree board programs
- Identify others with a strong interest in community trees and add additional citizen-at-large members, or invite these persons to sit in on meetings and volunteer their time for tree board programs and activities; consider these individuals as potential future voting members
Macon-Bibb County’s tree commission, as described in Section 17-33 of their code, has 14 voting and ex-officio members. The voting members are appointed by the mayor, as follows:
Seven (7) of said members shall be appointed by the mayor with the confirmation of the commission. Of the seven (7) members appointed by the mayor, one (1) shall be a representative of any of the historic districts of Macon, three (3) shall be citizens at large, one (1) shall be a contractor or developer, and two (2) shall be persons professionally trained in the field(s) such as urban forestry/arboriculture, botany, horticulture, or landscape architecture.
The eighth member shall be the director of the department of parks and recreation, or his or her designee, who shall be an ex-officio member; the ninth member shall be the forester who shall be an ex-officio member; the tenth member shall be a member of the state forestry commission, or a designee, who shall be an ex-officio member; the eleventh member shall be the director of the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission, or a designee, who shall be an ex-officio member; the twelfth member shall be a representative of the Georgia Power Company who shall be an ex-officio member; the thirteenth member shall be the director of the county extension service, or a designee, who shall be an ex-officio member; and the fourteenth member shall be the director of the Macon-Bibb County planning and zoning commission, or a designee, who shall be an ex-officio member.
No ex-officio member shall have the right to vote on commission matters.
The Macon-Bibb County tree commission members serve for 4 years. Cedartown’s tree commission has five voting members serving for 3 years. Cordele’s city tree board has 7 voting members, appointed by the city commission, serving for 3 years.
Ex-officio members are those individuals, that by virtue of holding another office should be a part of the proceedings of a tree board. This would include individuals such as the community arborist, public works director, community planner, Georgia Forestry Commission forester, Cooperative Extension Service agent, and similar persons that can both gather and provide information pertinent to the boards programs and activities. Ex-officio members are non-voting members.
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The primary duties of tree board members cited most often in tree ordinances include:
- Hold a minimum number of meetings annually (1 per month, 1 per quarter, or other similar schedule)
- Keep a record of meetings and proceedings (written meeting minutes distributed to members, local government staff and officials)
- Adopt bylaws establishing detailed operating procedures, officers, committees and responsibilities
- Provide advice and recommendations to local government staff and officials on community forest management
- Provide advice and recommendations to local government staff and officials on a new or revised tree ordinance
- Develop a community forest management plan
- Provide tree care education and promote trees in the community
- Conduct an annual Arbor Day celebration
In some communities, the tree board is also given the responsibility for administering the tree ordinance, reviewing site and tree plans, and making recommendations on tree removal permits and plan approvals. This would require that at least one tree board member has sufficient knowledge and experience in tree care. Ideally, these responsibilities should be given only to a certified arborist or forester, or someone with similar credentials, education and experience.
INTERFERENCE WITH THE TREE BOARD
Tree board establishment provisions usually includes a statement that no one may interfere with the tree board members in the conduct of their duties and as they carry out their responsibilities. The Arbor Day Foundation’s Sample City Tree Ordinance includes such language, shown below, as well as basic language for the creation and establishment of a city tree board.
Section 17. Interference with City Tree Board
It shall be unlawful for any person to prevent, delay or interfere with the City Tree Board, or at of its agents, while engaging in and about the planting, cultivating, mulching, pruning, spraying, or removing of any Street Trees, Park Trees, or trees on private grounds, as authorized in this ordinance.