Tree preservation: Different things to different people.
If you are a builder or a developer, tree preservation pretty much equates to not knocking the tree down during development. If you are a homeowner, then tree preservation takes on a more feng shui application. The utility of doing it well, doing what’s right, and doing it organically without chemicals is almost always in a homeowner’s mind.
However, the common denominator of tree preservation, regardless of who you are, is rooted first in safety. Is the tree worth saving? Not all trees can or even should be saved. To that end comes a plethora of rules and standards that govern your conduct.
If you are seeking the advice of an arborist or horticulturalist who does not first and foremost address the issue of safety, risk, and due diligence, you’ve got the wrong person working for you.
Deference is typically made as it relates to national standards, which govern the conduct on tree safety, to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A300 series. Referred to as ANSI, these are a set of consensus standards developed by various industry associations and practitioners for tree care practices. The ANSI A300 standards apply to professionals and other people practicing tree care who provide for or supervise the management of trees.
If you do not govern yourself under this set of standards, the consequences can be dire.
So first, the person whom you have retained to preserve your trees must have ANSI at the very top of their preservation specificity. And the first standard is ANSI A300, Part 9: Tree Risk Assessment. There is a dedicated credential issued by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) specifically targeted to those practitioners engaged in assessing the risk of a tree falling in whole or in part. That credential is called the Tree Risk Assessment Qualification or TRAQ (pronounced Track). If your preservation person doesn’t have this credential, you may wish to locate another professional in the marketplace with the credential.
Assuming that the tree is not at risk for failure in part or in whole, the next ANSI Standard is Part 1, Pruning. This standard instructs the practicing arborist what to prune, where in the tree to prune it, and how to prune it, among other things. If you are going to manage the soil environment of the tree, then Part 2 must be applied. Are you going to install lightning protection? Then Part 4 must be followed. How about cable and bracing your tree? That’s Part 3. Are the tree or trees you are planning to save near construction? Then you must apply Part 5. Will you be managing the root system in any way? (Yes, you will.) Then you will need to apply Part 8.
Are you beginning to get the picture? The primary concern regarding tree preservation is not about organics. It’s not about snake oils that you inject into the tree or into the root system. It’s not about money, it’s not about time, and it’s not about “cocktails.” Tree preservation must first be administered by a tree care practitioner who is thoroughly familiar with the Standards by which you will be judged in the after situation of the tree being preserved.
Protecting the person (you) who is going to preserve the tree(s) is the first step in the approach to professional outcome-based tree preservation. As you might imagine, the application of these Standards in practice takes years to refine. They are complicated, they change, they are revised, and they are site-specific.
Concluding then: The person who’s knocking at your door to preserve your trees must first answer this question: What is the single most important thing you will do to save my tree(s)? The answer is to protect your legal rights, and the safety, health, and welfare of people and property near the tree by applying the ANSI Standards and other Standards that govern tree care.
If that isn’t the answer you get, you may well have the wrong person at your door.