Groton Tree Warden

Henry Knott

Vermont Law requires a tree warden to be appointed annually by the select board. The office of tree warden has been viewed as an archaic office, but is developing new relevance in the late twentieth century. Shade and ornamental trees within the limits of public rights of way are under the control of the tree warden. The tree warden may plan and implement a town shade tree preservation program for the purpose of shading and beautifying public ways and places by planting new trees and shrubs; by maintaining the health, appearance and safety of existing trees through feeding, pruning and protecting them from noxious insect pests and diseases; and by removing diseased, dying or dead trees which create a hazard to public safety or threaten the effectiveness of disease or insect control programs.  Tree wardens decide when old trees should come down and when new trees should be planted what pest control measures are needed and where to prune.  They may enact ordinances for the planting, protection, care or removal of public shade trees.  It’s important to appoint someone with a good background in the subject to this office, one who is both familiar with the science of trees and who will serve as an advocate for them in an official capacity.

The select board hears appeals from decisions of the tree warden.  It has no authority to interfere with this officer if no one appeals.  The voters approve budgets that raise money for caring for these trees.  The town road commissioner has continuing responsibility for maintaining the public rights-of-way.

The private landowner is bound by the law to work with the tree warden to ensure the health and preservation of public shade and ornamental trees.

The Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation has a continuing role in assisting communities and landowners to keep forests healthy, and operates a cost-sharing program for the planting and maintenance of trees by towns through the town tree warden.  The Commissioner of Agriculture recommends control measures to protect public trees from infestation and authorizes the tree warden to take the necessary steps to save these trees.

Utilities, including power and telephones companies, also have right within the public right-of-way.  With permission from the town they may prune or cut trees that interfere with lines and poles along the roadside.

Law enforcement officials enforce the laws making the cutting of trees on other people’s property or within the right of way a crime.  The law relating to town tree wardens is found in Title 24 of the Vermont Statutes Annotated, Sections 2502 through 2511l The law on tree crimes (crimes involving the cutting of trees) is in Title 13, Sections 3601 through 3609.  Most of the law relating to trees is common law, meaning that it is found in court cases, many of them from the earliest reported decisions of the Vermont Supreme Court.