Every time Arborists get together in groups of two or more, you can be sure of one topic that will come up: the ISA. Whatever your role is in Arboriculture, you’ve likely connected with several organizations for professional purposes at points over your career. There is only one society that has the capacity to link professionals across academia, public and private sectors, continents, languages, and areas of expertise (including professions connecting to trees peripherally). A non-profit organization with vast resources including outreach, advocacy, education, research, networking, certification, training, and a commitment to continuous development of every part of the program is a huge undertaking requiring many driven people from across the planet sharing collective experience and competence. This is not the type of operation that my friends and I are going to build in the basement over a long weekend. The society is vital to where we as arborists are today and where we’re going with arboriculture tomorrow.
Given the array of benefits, this high-performance machine is not cheap for those that wish to take part. I vividly remember the costs of my initial certification exam plus membership and how it meant making sacrifices and created a fair bit of stress over the budget for my wife and I that month. There were no deals for flat-broke tree climbers looking to progress professionally (and there still aren’t). The value was obvious then and despite the fees that continue to rise for membership, certification, recertification, books, conferences, courses, etc., the value of my relationship with the ISA has continued to pay dividends. Job opportunities and wage growth have been an obvious plus, but the greatest benefits are the incredible people I’ve met and learned from as I’ve progressed in the profession. This was a choice I was privileged to make and is sadly a barrier for those left with the non- choice of going two weeks without food to attend a chapter conference or pursue a certification. The ISA is obviously not responsible for rapidly rising living expenses and stagnant wages facing urban arborists, however, addressing the costs of access to education, conferences or certification for non- students early in their careers might benefit our collective goals to retain people in the profession. For the small percentage of businesses that recognize the benefits of picking up the tab for certification or conference attendance without expectation of repayment for workers that are new to arboriculture, you are doing important work not only for an individual’s prosperity, but for the sustainability of your company and the industry.
Many other Arboricultural organizations within our local reach are offering a rich and creative locally- oriented assortment of resources and events, which is something the ISA may not have the means to accomplish -- those crucial local organizations draw from and feed back into the ISA in formal and informal ways. Flaws and deficiencies there may be. Throw the baby out with the bathwater? No, thank you.
- Gary Oaks