29 Sep 2015 | Executive Director Outlook, Fall 2015: Trees are good, aren't they?

There’s been a lot of bad press about trees lately. It’s seems like you hear about a serious tree failure nearly every day. Each news feed is followed by a slew of posts and emails about what might have caused the failure: drought, summer branch drop, decayed roots, weak structure, or lack of appropriate care. It’s an arboricultural mystery. Unfortunately the public becomes confused by all this - they begin to think that trees are inherently dangerous and should be removed or greatly reduced in size. And now with the drought, people are being encouraged to rip up their turf and other landscape plants and replace with hardscape and artificial turf. Many municipal water agencies offer sizable rebates to remove turf. But in doing so, trees surrounded by turf or planted nearby usually languish or die when the irrigation is stopped. Maybe it’s just me, but all this press seems overwhelming. I just remember my personal mantra....”Trees ARE good.  Trees NEED care. Arborists CARE for trees”… that’s our job.

The main focus of the Western Chapter is to support the membership in their professional journey. We stress the importance of trees in our communities, and promote their many benefits. We encourage communities to take ownership of the legacy that their urban forest provides to the residents as well as the future generations. We offer both skill-building workshops and scientific symposiums to spread knowledge and promote the pursuit of learning. We participate in industry and community events and projects to spread the message and advance professional arboriculture.

Caring for trees is what our industry is all about. I just returned from the ISA annual conference in Orlando. I was really proud to learn that two of our members, James Allen and Ernest Rezents, were acknowledged as True Professionals of Arboriculture by ISA. Both have demonstrated a devotion to their craft and the unique ability to share it with other people within the industry. My personal congratulations to both these generous individuals. The icing on the cake was the news that our own JamieLee Kempton was awarded one of the TREE Fund’s scholarships. She has decided to return to college and follow her dream. She currently holds the women’s world record for the footlock event, and has demonstrated a keen competitive spirit and great skill and agility. She inspires me. In reviewing the conference program, I saw so many chapter members involved at various levels. I also realized our membership has grown well beyond the geographic boundaries of our four states. It validates my own commitment. I am in good company.

Upon my return, I had to come to grips with reality - the incidents, accidents, and fatalities in our industry that occurred while I was away. It makes me think that we need to do more… more awareness about safety issues and better safety training. I realized then that it is typically the folks outside our organization that are involved. When I ask myself, “How do we spread the word?” the answer lies in the marketing component of the chapter’s strategic plan.  Chad Dykstra and his committee are charged with reaching out to non-members; this will help reduce accidents in the industry. To make a difference, we need to get out of our comfort zones and have frank conversations with arborists who are not yet certified about what’s in it for them. Include folks within allied professions as well, for example planners, architects, landscape architects and contractors, landscape maintenance companies, etc. It’s through new associations and outreach that change can happen.

Under the guidance of our new President, Rhonda Wood, the Chapter is launching a variety of new programs to reach beyond our boundaries. I invite you to participate in this effort either as a volunteer, a mentor, or spokesperson.

I’m excited about the announcement that the Western Chapter’s Certified Tree Worker program will be merging with the ISA’s over the course of the next year. This wasn’t a decision our board made lightly - it’s been several years in the making. We feel this decision will provide a higher level of service to the program and better oversight of the exam process. We welcome your comments and appreciate your support as we expand our program and become the largest provider of field-level educational and professional development in the tree care community. I encourage you to use WCISA’s educational programming for your own professional development as well as that of your employees in both the private and municipal sectors. Ultimately, this will help to ensure high-quality tree care throughout the industry.

In closing, I want to congratulate my team for the support they provide to professional arborists within the Western Chapter. We are celebrating Epicenter’s 10th year. With the support of my family, I took my college business plan and launched a pretty cool company where growth and fun meet in the tree tops, so to speak. Suzanne Schuba, Heather Crippen, and Mary Pendleton joined me in 2005 when my dream of serving the people I love became a reality. I thank them for their enduring support and commitment, and look forward to many more great years ahead. We will be settling in for the fall and winter season. Planning next year’s conference, executing a robust schedule of regional events, reaching out beyond our membership to engage other professionals in a variety of discussions about what professional arboriculture is and why that is so important. If there is anything we can do to support or enhance your member experience, please reach out to us. We would love your comments and feedback. 

Cheers to trees and all those who care for them.

-Rose Epperson, CAE


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