By Alexandra Lajoux
April 18, 2022
Praise for Our Local Government, with a Call for Citizen Action
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 Tree Ordinance; and the City of Fernandina Beach Tree Ordinance. To summarize, under Florida law, as supported by local codes, a property owner may not remove a tree unless a certified arborist or licensed landscaper opines and documents that it poses a danger.
When there are complaints about violations of these laws and codes, our local government and law enforcement do what they can to respond. The problem is that many of the homeowners on Amelia Island are unaware of these legal restrictions.
There have been cases where a company knocks on doors giving homeowners a special on-the-spot rate for tree removal—even if the trees are healthy and located a safe distance from the home, posing no danger. Homeowners wanting larger lawns, unaware that such tree removal is illegal, then pay them to remove trees. There are recent reports from neighborhoods all over the Island about this high-pressure sales practice and its sad results—the loss of mature oaks and the diminution of our tree canopy. Our excellent local police have been responsive to complaints, but by the time they arrive, the trees are gone. This is not only bad for our Island, but also bad for the reputations of the many legitimate tree removal companies here locally that do operate by the law.
On Friday, April 15, 2022, at the start of a holy weekend for major faiths, I wrote our City and County Commission about this problem. Amazingly, many responded immediately with concern. We are truly blessed to have such a responsive local government.
But there is a limit to what government can do. We as citizens need to take action. I appeal to all who are reading this post to learn more about the value of our trees, and the laws protecting them, before removing trees from your property.
Editor’s Note: Alexandra Reed Lajoux, is a member of the Amelia Tree Conservancy.