Protecting trees – A call for citizen action

By Alexandra Lajoux
April 18, 2022

Praising our local government, with a call for citizen action

“Trees” Photo courtesy of Stephen Mintz

The governments of Florida, Nassau County, and the City of Fernandina Beach have all instituted measures to protect our trees, namely Florida Statute Title XI, Section 163.045; the unincorporated Amelia Island Trees Ordinance; and the Fernandina City Beach Tree Ordinance. To summarize, under Florida law, as supported by local codes, a landowner cannot remove a tree unless a Certified Arborist or Licensed Landscaper indicates and documents that he exhibits a danger.

When there are complaints about violations of these laws and codes, our local government and law enforcement agencies do what they can to respond. The problem is that many Amelia Island owners are unaware of these legal restrictions.

There have been cases where a company knocks on doors and offers homeowners a special on-site rate for tree removal, even if the trees are healthy and located a safe distance from the house, presenting no danger. . Homeowners who want bigger lawns, unaware that such tree removal is illegal, pay them to remove trees. There are recent reports from neighborhoods all over the island of this high pressure selling practice and its sad results – the loss of mature oak trees and the diminishing of our tree cover. Our excellent local police responded to the complaints, but by the time they arrived the trees were gone. This is not only bad for our island, but also bad for the reputation of the many legitimate tree removal companies here locally who operate within the law.

On Friday, April 15, 2022, at the start of a Major Denominations Holy Weekend, I wrote to our City and County Commission about this issue. Surprisingly, many responded immediately with concern. We are truly fortunate to have such a responsive local government.

But there is a limit to what the government can do. As citizens, we must act. I urge everyone reading this article to learn more about the value of our trees, and the laws that protect them, before removing any trees from your property.

Editor’s note: Alexandra Reed Lajoux is a member of the Amelia Tree Conservancy.

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