The Biscayne Times

Jun 02nd
This Is Not Resilience PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Shimonski, BT Contributor   
August 2019

New law guts protections and protocols

LPix_YourGarden_8-19ately I’ve been receiving lots of well-produced e-mails from Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami touting their resiliency and sustainability programs. These programs, they claim, will “create economic opportunities, and invest in our future to address anything that affects our quality of life.”

I read through their messages and go through the attached documents, but I’m not finding anything about the loss of mature tree canopy and the rising temperatures in our residential areas.

What about the loss of open space that can absorb rainwater to help recharge our aquifer? No mention of that either.

There isn’t anything about tackling non-point-source water pollution. You know -- all those leaves and grass cuttings that our friends with leaf blowers blast into the streets so everything can go down the storm drains and out into the ocean.

It seems the city and county think resilience and sustainability are all about creating more concrete structures. Mangroves are given a token mention, but I haven’t seen anything about the significant mature canopy loss that has occurred since Hurricane Irma.

With rampant tree removal now supported by the State of Florida’s new tree removal bill (House Bill 1159), which the governor recently signed, the removal of trees on residential properties throughout the state and in our neighborhoods will certainly increase. The bill only requires that a licensed landscape architect or an ISA-certified arborist certify that a tree “presents a danger to persons or property.” That’s it. No tree-removal permit or mitigation will be required.

But the bill’s instructions go against standard protocol for ISA-certified arborists.

When ISA-certified arborists perform tree risk assessments, they are supposed to determine if a hazard exists and provide mitigation options. They are not going to just tell you that you can have your tree removed.

Well, let’s get back to resilience. The photo that accompanies this article is from an assessment that I recently performed on a mature live oak tree. This tree is located between two residences that were built in the 1940s or 1950s. The tree trunk is about 15 or so feet from both buildings, and right on the property line. The buildings are being demolished to build some larger structure.

The 1940s faucet that is embedded in the trunk of this tree is about seven feet above the ground, so this would be the original height of the faucet. I couldn’t see the pipe. It is probably occluded inside the trunk. By the way, although trees grow taller, items attached to trunks, or that are occluded by them, do not move upward. They stay at the same level forever. The same goes for branch height.

I estimate this tree to be about 40-50 years old, perhaps a bit more. The canopy is full and healthy, with minimal dead wood and branches. There appears to have been one main branch torn out decades ago, perhaps during Hurricane Andrew. I found no active decay on the old wound, and with the full canopy of foliage, this tree is producing food for itself that will isolate any decay.

So think about all the hurricanes and high wind events this tree has gone through. Remember hurricanes Donna, Lucy, and Betsy? This live oak is still standing intact and healthy, and if the critical root zone is not destroyed by imminent construction, it could last 50 years or more in this healthy and structurally sound condition.

That faucet has not budged!

I get calls all the time about “dangerous” trees and how they’ll wreck the house if they aren’t removed immediately. Granted, some trees were planted, or grew on their own, in locations where they should not be. And in just as many cases, the trees have suffered from really crappy pruning over the years. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen significant damage to the trunks or their root plates caused by public works departments.

Just do this: If an ISA-certified arborist calls a tree “dangerous,” ask that person if he or she is qualified to perform tree risk assessments. If the answer is yes, ask to see the risk assessment form that was followed. To be qualified for tree risk assessment, the arborist is required to follow the processes included in the form. Did the arborist give you mitigation options for the hazard(s) found? This is a requirement.

ISA-certified arborists also are required to adhere to a code of ethics. If an arborist declares that a tree has hazards that cannot be mitigated, and recommends removal, and then charges again to have his or her own company cut down the tree, that is not very ethical, but it may be a good business model.


Jeff Shimonski is an ISA-certified arborist, municipal specialist, retired director of horticulture at Parrot Jungle and Jungle Island, and principal of Tropical Designs of Florida. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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