Miami man ascending to the top of his sport — tree climbing
Jason Gerrish has been climbing trees for a living since he dropped out of high school in 1992 to help clean up the arboreal mess left by Hurricane Andrew. Now the 37-year-old Miami native and owner of Tree Huggers is being recognized as the top tree climber in Florida.
Gerrish beat a field of 32 arborists in the Feb. 22 Florida Tree Climbing Championship in Lakeland put on by the state chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. He won $1,000 worth of tree-trimming tools and a spot in the world Tree Climbing Championship in Milwaukee on Aug. 2.
“It’s a challenge. It’s knowing you are at the top of your game,” Gerrish said.
The 1,400-member Florida organization headquartered in Sarasota has conducted the championship each year since 1996 “to have arborists who are particularly skilled at climbing and maintaining trees to show off their skills working in trees,” said Norm Easey, chapter CEO.
Gerrish has competed five times at the state level, and his highest previous finish was a second place in 2002. He really didn’t have to train very much for last month’s event since the five categories pretty much mirror what he does every day. Tree Huggers doesn’t have a bucket truck like what Florida Power & Light workers ride in to fix power lines — too expensive, Gerrish says — so he has to use ropes, pulleys, harness and clamps to get himself and his tools up and down a tree.
“You can see what’s rotten, what’s going on,” he said of tree climbing. “You get better cuts.”
The state championship consisted of five events: tossing a throw ball with a line attached over a designated tree branch; belayed speed climbing, or, hoisting oneself up a tree using feet and a rope; work climbing, which involves starting at the top of a tree and completing tasks at five stations among the boughs; aerial rescue, which is rescuing a dummy trapped high up in a tree; and footlock, which is pulling oneself up a tree with feet locked in a rope.
“I didn’t think I was going to win. I wasn’t smooth at all,” Gerrish said.
He expects tough competition at the Milwaukee event, which is considered the tree climbing Olympics with about 45 contestants from around the world.
Gerrish wishes more people understood what arboriculture really entails.
“It’s like a lawn man, in people’s opinion,” he said. “It’s really nothing like that. It’s a dynamic game. It’s a puzzle you have to make everything fit. The ultimate goal is tree health and architecture for the long term. They’re so much like people; they move in slow motion. Nothing keeps my attention like trees do.”
Landscape contractor defrauds city for tree planting: workers
It’s a green thumb in the eye.
A Brooklyn-based tree-planting company that rakes in millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded contracts isn’t planting all of the trees it gets paid for and routinely charges the city for work that never gets done, whistleblowers told The Post.
J. Pizzirusso Landscaping is one of several contractors employed by the city Parks Department as part of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Million Trees project.
Since 2007, when Bloomberg and Bette Midler planted the first sapling in The Bronx, Pizzirusso has raked in $12 million worth of contracts from the city to plant trees, according to the Parks Department.
Five current and former Pizzirusso workers claim their employer is ripping the city off. Attorney James Versocki, a former prosecutor with the state attorney general, believes the problem is widespread and is now calling on the city to investigate its landscapers more generally.
Among the allegations:
- Work crews would take credit for planting trees that were already there — attaching tags to fool inspectors so Pizzirusso would get paid without having to do work. “We put new [inspection] tags on old trees,” a worker for Pizzirusso said. “The reason for the tags was so [the inspectors] could see what year the tree was planted. We would refresh the soil and put down new mulch so the tree looked like it was planted not so long ago.”
- The company would claim it saw-cut into the sidewalk to plant a tree even if it didn’t — a move that allowed it to bill at a higher rate. “A lawn pit he’d [bill as] a new pit because we’d get paid more money for it,” said a whistleblower who helped prepare Pizzirusso billing records.
- Workers at Pizzirusso and elsewhere claim their bosses ordered them to vandalize dead trees so the city, not the contractor, would have to pick up the tab for their replacement. Dead trees are the contractor’s responsibility for two years after they are planted, but vandalized trees are the Parks Department’s problem. The total cost of planting a new tree is $1,450, the Parks Department says. Replacing a vandalized tree costs taxpayers $700.
“Workers are telling me that vandalism occurs almost regularly when there’s a dead tree,” Versocki said at a Feb. 25 hearing with the Parks Department, referring to claims by workers for other landscapers. “They run it over with the truck or they cut it down.”
Workers claim they can’t turn to their union, United Plant and Production Workers Local 175, because they fear complaints of employer wrongdoing will get back to their boss.
Roland Bedwell, Local 175’s business manager, denied that.
“Anytime there’s a problem, I fight for my men,” he said. “My doors are open.”
Workers also fear the union’s alleged organized-crime connections, an accusation Bedwell also vehemently denied.
“It’s just all bulls- -t,” he said.
But a former law-enforcement source and newspaper accounts support a connection.
“Anthony Franco is the administrator of their [benefit] funds. His father, Sal Franco, [has been identified as] a capo with the Gambino family,” said the source. “Anthony is a prime mover.”
Salvatore Franco — whom mob rat Salvatore “Sammy Bull” Gravano identified in testimony as a Gambino member who gave John Gotti contractors’ kickbacks — was reportedly fired as the head of the Pavers and Road Builders District Council in 1998. His son, a reputed mob associate, then stepped into the role, only to be kicked out in 2006.
That same year, Anthony Franco co-founded the 496-member UPPW Local 175 and now runs its lucrative benefits plan.
Franco denied having any connection to the mob.
“It’s all nonsense,” he said. “Absolutely not true.”
Sal Franco, who has never been charged in connection to Mafia activity, could not be reached. Joseph Pizzirusso declined to comment.
Councilman Mark Levine, the Parks Committee chairman, promised to conduct his own inquiries and plans to hold a hearing on the matter.
“It’s really sobering and something we have to take deadly seriously,” Levine said in response to Versocki’s testimony. “We’re going to pursue this with the Department of Investigation for sure.”
America could soon face more days of extreme rainfall
NOAAClick to embiggen.
Squelch, squelch, squelch — that could be the sound of future America, if predictions about how climate change will ramp up “extreme rainfall” prove accurate.
Say the world’s nations do little to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases pouring into the atmosphere. By the years 2041 to 2070, the warmer climate could bring torrential downpours to vast parts of the United States, as shown in this model from NOAA. Dark-blue splashes depict areas that might see as many as two or more days a year of extreme rain, defined as “rainfall totals in excess of the historic 98th percentile.” (This is against a 1971 to 2000 baseline.) Cities that should maybe consider wooing the umbrella-manufacturing industry include Seattle, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Boise, Idaho; Richmond, Va.; and much of the Northeast.
The climate folks at NOAA add:
Climate models project increasing days of extreme rainfall in the Northwest, Midwest, and parts of the Northeast, including some populated coastal areas that are already challenged by inundation and sea level rise. Several major watersheds are predicted to have more days of extreme rainfall by the middle of the century, including the Pacific Northwest, the Ohio River Basin, the Great Lakes, and parts of the Great River and Missouri River Basin. Meanwhile, the Southwest and some other areas frequented by drought are expected to see little difference in the number of extreme rainfall days.
The model is based on the findings of a 2009 national climate assessment, which include the moist bulletin that over the past 50 years precipitation already increased by 5 percent. The bulk of rain falling during especially heavy storms, meanwhile, is thought to have ratcheted up by 20 percent on average in the last century. Scientists generally believe the warming climate will make the northern parts of the country wetter, while the southern and western zones will progressively dry out.
Before anybody interjects, “Can you really sell that while also selling more intense and frequent drought?” — as one Twitter guy just did — NOAA has provided an answer. The agency tweets: “Climate models show that in a warmer world, precip tends to be concentrated into heavier events w/ longer dry periods in btwn.”
EPA stormwater calculator receives climate assessment update
WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 22, 2014 — On Thursday, Jan. 30, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released phase-II of the National Stormwater Calculator and Climate Assessment Tool package. The updated calculator includes future climate vulnerability scenarios.
The calculator, a part of President Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, is a desktop application that estimates the annual amount of stormwater runoff from a specific location. The calculator now includes changes in seasonal precipitation levels, the effects of more frequent high-intensity storms, and changes in evaporation rates based on validated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenarios.
The updated calculator includes climate models that can be incorporated into the calculation of stormwater runoff. This adds future climate scenarios to last year’s phase-I release, which included local soil conditions, slope, land cover, and historical rainfall records.
Users can enter any U.S. location and select different scenarios to learn how specific green infrastructure changes, including inexpensive changes such as rain barrels and rain gardens, can reduce stormwater runoff. This information shows users how adding green infrastructure, which mimics natural processes, can be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce this runoff.
Every year billions of gallons of raw sewage, trash, household chemicals, and urban runoff flow into U.S. streams, rivers and lakes. Polluted stormwater runoff can adversely affect plants, animals and people. It also negatively impacts the economy. Green infrastructure can reduce the damage caused by climate change by improving water quality in streams and rivers, protecting groundwater sources and enhancing recreational activities. Using the calculator to choose the best green infrastructure options for an area is an innovative and efficient way to promote healthy waters and support sustainable communities.
Company defends pesticide blamed for bee deaths
CORVALLIS, Ore. — The debate over neonicotinoids came to Corvallis on Tuesday when the Bayer CropScience Bee Care Tour made a stop at Oregon State University.
A unit of the German chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG, Bayer CropScience is a major manufacturer of “neonics,” a widely used class of pesticides that has been implicated in some high-profile bee die-offs, including one that killed thousands of bumblebees in Wilsonville last year.
The Bee Care Tour — which made stops at Washington State University and the University of California-Davis before rolling into OSU this week — presents Bayer as an environmentally sensitive company with a “commitment to bee health” that includes developing a treatment for parasitic mites and advocating for responsible neonicotinoid use.
On Tuesday, the tour’s elaborate traveling display was set up in the main ballroom of OSU’s CH2M Hill Alumni Center, highlighting the importance of bees in pollinating crops, offering honey samples and providing information on Bayer’s Bee Care Program.
Ecotoxicologist David Fischer, the director of pollinator safety for Bayer CropScience, spoke to an audience of nearly 75 people about bee colony collapse disorder and other threats to bees.
“What are the factors affecting bee health? I think the consensus is there’s a lot of factors,” Fischer said, citing poor nutrition, disease, parasites, genetic weakness, queen failures and pesticides.
But he denied that neonicotinoids pose a significant threat to bees.
“All studies on neonicotinoids do not show any link to widespread colony losses,” he told his audience. “They all say the same thing: Colony losses do not correlate to neonicotinoid use or pesticide residue in hives.”
Outside, however, a small group of rain-soaked protesters were telling a different story. Nine people, many of them in black and yellow bee costumes, crouched under umbrellas and held signs that said “Bayer kills bees,” “Ban bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides” and “Bee smart: Stop using garden chemicals.”
Several organizations were represented, including Occupy Corvallis, the Pacific Green Party and Beyond Toxics, a Eugene-based anti-pesticide group.
Protester Phil Smith, a member of Oregon Sustainable Beekeepers, called Bayer’s traveling bee health exhibition “a greenwashing tour.”
While it’s true that there are multiple causes contributing to honeybee declines, he said, the purpose of the tour is to divert attention from the dangers of neonicotinoids, which make enormous profits for Bayer.
“It’s all PR,” Smith said. “There’s a host of peer-reviewed studies now that clearly show they’re killing bees wherever they’re used.”
In an interview after his talk, Fischer denied that claim.
He argued that neonics are far safer for humans, domestic animals and wildlife than earlier generations of pesticides and insisted they are not hazardous to bees if used properly.
“Most problems affecting honeybee health are not related to pesticides,” he asserted. “It’s very important for homeowners and landscapers to follow the directions. In the Wilsonville incident, they just didn’t follow the label.”
OSU honeybee expert Ramesh Sagili said it’s true that there are multiple factors involved in the decline of honeybee populations and that there’s no conclusive evidence connecting neonicotinoids to colony collapse or honeybee declines.
But he also said it’s disingenuous for manufacturers to pretend that pesticides don’t play a role in the problem.
“We don’t have a number to put on them, but everybody agrees they are part of the problem,” Sagili said.
Even in cases where neonics don’t kill pollinators outright, he added, there is evidence of troubling sublethal effects such as interference with bees’ ability to navigate.
Above all else, he said, there needs to be much clearer labeling of neonicotinoids, especially for people who are not certified pesticide applicators.
“The labels should be very clear for home use,” Sagili said. “People have to understand that neonics are toxic to bees and are to be applied only when there is no other choice.”
Information from: Gazette-Times, http://www.gtconnect.com
Responsibility for fallen trees is in the details
Clark Mindock Inquirer Staff Writer February 17, 2014 3:01 AM
The tree that stood across the street from the Edkinses’ house came crashing into their Radnor yard during the ice storm.
The power went out. They got a generator, and the Edkinses prepared themselves for the days ahead. Responsibility for the tree, luckily, was not an issue.
“We talked to [our neighbors] ahead of time, and we said that since it was shared . . . we would just split” any cost of removal, said Christine Edkins. “When it happened, everybody came out, because everyone is so close.”
The Edkinses called local tree services and learned the cleanup would cost at least $700. A township crew came by, though, and did most of the cutting to open up the road, leaving behind a much smaller pile of tree debris to clean up.
“I imagine it could have been $1,000-plus,” Edkins said. “We were very, very fortunate that [the tree] didn’t hit the house.”
Nearby the Edkinses’ home, a different set of neighbors was brought together against their will.
“Yeah,” said a woman on Beechtree Lane, who was concerned about offending a neighbor and declined to give her name.
She indicated that she would pay for removal if one of her trees fell on a neighbor’s property. During the storm, her neighbor’s tree fell across the street onto her driveway.
“I’m sure he will, too,” the woman said. “We just haven’t had the chance to talk about it.”
Neighbors tend to be civil in these situations, said Rick Crecraft, who has worked in tree removal for the last 42 years in Wayne. He said he could not recall any major disputes when trees fall over.
Act of God
But who would have technically been responsible for the tree that cracked across the street from the Edkins home?
The answer can be as clear-cut – or not – as the tree.
Common understanding of the issue revolves around an “act of God” defense. In a situation in which the original owner of the tree was in no way negligent, the responsibility to clean up falls on the party who had the tree fall on their lawn or house.
That tree fell by the grace of God, and there is nothing anyone could have done about it.
“Just because a tree falls doesn’t make the owner of the tree responsible,” said Jerry Hanson, an attorney with Hill Wallack in Princeton. “The question is: Should the owner of the tree have known? Should they have been aware that there was a risk of their tree falling? Had they done any maintenance? How old was the tree? Had they had three other trees that have also fallen?
“The more evidence of a probability that something bad [was] going to happen, then the more responsibility it would be.”
In a court of law, the devil is in the details. And you are likely to forget some of the details, according to Nathan Schadler, an attorney with Lance Rogers & Associates in Ardmore.
For instance, a tree can trespass.
“Let me say that you have a tree growing in your yard, and it grows into your neighbor’s yard,” Schadler said. “The tree that is growing is a little bit on your property and a little bit on the person’s property next to you. Any damage is liable to the person whose property the tree is growing on.
“The courts have said it’s a trespass, a civil trespass.”
A branch crossing the property line could put responsibility back onto the owner of the property where the tree was growing.
Talk to your neighbor
The best thing to do, Schadler said, is make sure you understand what your homeowner’s insurance policy covers and talk with your neighbor before the tree falls.
“Be conscious of what is on your property,” Schadler said. “If you have a tree that’s growing over towards your neighbor’s property, take care of it, or at least talk to your neighbors.
“If you are looking out your window and you’re saying, ‘I’m surprised that tree made it through the storm,’ you ought to be dealing with it now.”
After all, just like a lawsuit, the outcome of the next storm can be unpredictable.
“I just don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, I’m not negligent,’ and then the next thing you know, you have a tree going through the neighbor’s window,” Schadler said. “Each case is unique. I cannot stress enough that it certainly is a costly procedure. But this is a time when common sense counts above the letter of the law.
“What I would advise anyone before they pursue litigation is to talk to your neighbor.”
Augusta’s iconic Eisenhower Tree victim of winter storm
(Reuters) – Augusta National’s famed Eisenhower Tree, an iconic image at the Masters tournament, survived an attempt by the former U.S. president to have it chopped down but it could not survive a severe winter storm.
The loblolly pine, believed to be at least 100 years old, had to be removed from its position on the 17th fairway after being damaged by an ice storm that swept through the Masters venue in Augusta, Georgia last week.
“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult to accept,” Augusta National and Masters chairman Billy Payne said in a statement on Sunday.
“We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible.
“We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and to pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history – rest assured, we will do both appropriately.”
Payne said that Augusta National had sustained no further major damage and that the course had been opened for its members to play with ongoing preparations unaffected for this year’s Masters.
The tree, which was about 65 feet tall, guarded the left side of the fairway at the par-four 17th and was strategically situated 210 yards from the tee.
It received its name because former U.S. president and club member Dwight Eisenhower hit into the tree so often he campaigned to have it removed.
David Owen, in his book ‘The Making of the Masters’, wrote that “Eisenhower hated the tree, because it invariably interfered with his slice.
“At the governors meeting in 1956 … Eisenhower took the floor to propose cutting it down.
“(Clifford) Roberts (club chairman and co-founder) immediately ruled him out of order and adjourned the meeting, and the pine has been known ever since as the Eisenhower Tree.”
The 2014 Masters will take place from Apr. 10-13.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)