You know and understand the crucial role arborists and tree care professionals play in our society, not only for the health of trees but for the countless other reasons.

This isn’t on your mind every day as you head to your business, load up your trucks and head to jobs in the morning. And that’s totally understandable — after all, who has the time for deep reflection on the importance of your career as it relates to the world?

But sometimes a little perspective is all you need to be reminded of how valuable what you do really is.

What provides this perspective I’m referring to? The answer is events we see happen right in front of us that make us think, stories we see on the news or articles we read.

I’ve got something that may give you this perspective, something that demonstrates how valuable and necessary a skilled, dedicated and trusted tree care professional — yes, I’m stressing the word professional — really is.

Last year, two California men (Stephen John Esser, 47, and David Stanley, 41) employed by a company called Tim Greenleaf Engineering were hired to cut down a ficus tree in Newport Beach as part of a home demolition.

Sounds simple, relatively easy and pretty straightforward, right?


According to the Orange County Register, when the men arrived to remove the ficus tree, several neighbors pleaded with them to not chop it down, saying the tree held several bird nests — in fact, around eight or nine bird nests with snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons (like the one pictured above) were housed in the tree, the newspaper reported. In the nests were both nestlings (baby birds that don’t know how to fly) and fledglings (birds just learning to fly). Snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons are not endangered but are protected under federal law.

The two men reportedly ignored the warnings and the notice from the neighbors and cut down the tree.

When the tree was cut down, 12 nestlings fell, including five that didn’t survive. The adult birds flew away. Bystanders immediately called authorities, the newspaper reported. Amid the rubble, eight live baby egrets and one baby night heron were found and taken to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center of Orange County. (They were treated and released six weeks later.)

Daniel Broome of Tim Greenleaf Engineering told the Orange County Register that the project had all necessary approvals from the city and the state’s Coastal Commission, and that he wasn’t aware of any environmental restrictions on the trees. “We’re not happy about how the crew responded to neighbors or how the wildlife was handled,” he told the newspaper. “This whole thing is raising issues internally in our company and [is] pushing us to be a better citizen in the area.”

Rightfully so, this incident prompted outrage in the community. At least 75 people attended a memorial service for the birds in the days after.

Esser and Stanley’s lawyer said in court the two men never intended to harm the birds, the newspaper reported. Both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor unlawful possession and destruction of bird nests and eggs and unlawful taking of migratory non-game birds. In April, the two men were sentenced to three years of informal probation and 120 hours of community service. (The community service sentence was in lieu of 15 days in jail.) Both men were also ordered to pay $14,000 in fines and restitution.

I’m bringing this to your attention not to call these two men, or this company, incompetent or neglectful. I’m bringing it your attention because this incident, in my opinion, shows how these delicate situations are not to be handled.

I’m not an arborist. But I really believe each and every one of the tree care pros I’ve met would have handled this situation more delicately and not have allowed these baby birds to die.

Arborists are and should be stewards of the environment, and this unfortunate incident is a good example as to why.

How’s that for some perspective?