1899-1999: History and Guidelines
In 1899, Massachusetts became the first state to mandate a tree warden for every municipality (M.G.L. Chapter 330, 1899). In 1905, the Legislature mandated a local superintendent of insect pest control. In 1985, Chapter 765 changed the title of the local superintendent of pest control to the local superintendent of shade tree management and pest control. This changed the scope of the duties for this position and set up a potential conflict with the position of tree warden because of their overlapping responsibilities.
However, in 1985, only 51 of the Commonwealth’s 351 municipalities had two separate individuals filling these two positions. In all the other communities, both the tree warden and the position of shade tree management and pest control were held by one person (Report of the Shade Tree Advisory Committee, 1987). The Shade Tree Advisory Committee continues to encourage municipalities to combine these two positions.
Massachusetts tree warden legislation served as a model for the rest of the country. In the earlier years these individuals were highly trained and knowledgeable professionals. Unfortunately, a combination of shrinking municipal budgets and a series of enabling acts that have combined the position with several others has seriously decreased the number of qualified individuals holding the position of tree warden. Employment of an unqualified tree warden may threaten not only the health and safety of the general public but also the future of a community’s trees (Report of the Shade Tree Advisory Committee, 1987).
On September 28, 1996, Governor Weld signed an amendment (S-1082) to M.G.L. Chapter 41 that changed Section 106 relating to the appointment of tree wardens. This law now requires that appointed tree wardens in towns and cities with populations greater than 10,000 “be qualified by training and experience in the field of arboriculture and licensed by the Department of Food and Agriculture…” The term of the appointment was newly set at three (3) years (THE CITIZEN FORESTER, #17, Oct. 1996).
The structure of the above stated language has led to some confusion as to the definition of “licensed by the Department of Food and Agriculture.” The license which is referred to in M.G.L. Chapter 41 Section 106 is a pesticide license. This license in no way certifies whether or not a person is “qualified by training and experience in the field of arboriculture” as required in M.G.L. Chapter 41 Section 106.
In 1999, in order to show what is considered to be “qualified,” the Massachusetts Tree Wardens’ & Foresters’ Association, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management (now DCR), the USDA Center for Urban & Community Forestry, and the University of Massachusetts Urban Forestry Program cooperated to create a recommended set of requirements for tree wardens. The information below is intended to serve as an advisory for cities and towns seeking clarification of the definition of “qualified” as stated in M.G.L. Chapter 41 Section 106.
While the 1996 amendment did not establish a standard qualification, it is the intention of the 1999 report to provide municipalities with the information that they need to ensure that their municipality has a qualified tree warden. It is not the intention of the report to replace all of the tree wardens in Massachusetts who do not meet the new recommended qualifications at this time. The committee believes that existing tree wardens who are doing a commendable job should be grandfathered. However, when a new tree warden is appointed, the 1999 report established and recommended guidelines based on the population of the municipality. Click here to read the current qualification guidelines.