I am writing in response to your article "Too many occupational licenses?" (Commentary, May 31). Specifically, I am writing about the licensing of tree experts.
The work of a tree expert is very dangerous; rates of fatality and injury are among the highest for any profession. It is dangerous work.
When someone has to remove a defective tree with a crane without destroying surrounding homes or killing pedestrians or motorists, it takes some knowledge and skill; it should also require a significant amount of insurance. The consequences of a botched tree removal are much more significant than those of a bad haircut.
The same holds for tree care. A misdiagnosis or bad pruning can disfigure or kill a tree, altering a landscape and a lifetime of investment. Trees are real property. You cannot glue pieces back on, and you cannot always replace in kind. Sometime you have to live with knowing you will never see that same landscape again due to someone's inexperience.
Yet I would agree that there is some degree of protectionism in the wording of Maryland's law. I believe wholeheartedly that licensing and insurance requirements should be mandatory. The criteria for issuance of a license could be a matter of discussion.
By way of disclosure, I am a Consulting Arborist and subject to this licensing law. I have been in the private sector since 2011. I will also disclose that I previously administered the Maryland Tree Expert Law while in public service. After having been in my profession for a quarter of a century, having administered the licensing program for over a decade, serving as the state's expert witness in all cases of negligence and wrongful conduct against practitioners, and having last year been chosen by the International Society of Arboriculture as one of seven out of over 26,000 Certified Arborists worldwide to be designated as a True Professional of Arboriculture, I am unqualified to attempt to acquire a Maryland Tree Expert License. To obtain one, an individual must be apprenticed to a Maryland Licensed Tree Expert for five years before sitting for the exam. Work in the public and nonprofit sectors is not recognized. I will be eligible to sit for the Maryland Tree Expert exam in 2016, after over 30 years of practice.