People often ask me what the difference is between a consulting arborist and an arborist/sales rep from a tree care firm. Why am I a consultant and somebody from XYZ tree company is not? While there are many similarities (we are both arborists), there are a few differences.
As a consulting arborist, when I visit a property I am not there to sell the client something. What I am selling has already been sold - generally my time and my opinion. The time involved in visiting a property, writing a report, developing a plan, testifying as a witness, etc. are what a you pay a consultant for. In paying for their time, you are also paying a consultant for their expert opinion on a given topic related to trees. A final product such as a report or tree management plan is also generally provided.
Arborists from most tree care firms will generally visit a property free of charge, provide an evaluation and then prescribe a service, if necessary. They provide this service for free because they make money off of the services they sell during their visits. There is nothing wrong with this model; it is just different from what a consultant will do.
Many consulting arborists also have expertise outside of traditional arboriculture. My main outside expertise is in urban planning, municipal government and data visualization/mapping. Such outside experience gives a consultant a more-wide ranging of trees. For instance, my experience in municipal government is useful in interpreting codes and ordinances as they relate to trees. My knowledge of urban planning is useful in understanding the design and functionality of cities, and how trees can be used as a functional element of this design. Consulting arborists also attain credentials that most others do not, such as Registered Consulting Arborist. Some may have other certifications and accreditations, such as LEED AP, CNU-A or AICP. This just goes to show that they have enough experience in an area to have attained certification.
So when do you need a consulting arborist? And who should hire one?
The ASCA website does a great job of explaining this:
So just be aware of the differences. If what you need is advice, unaffected by a future sale, hire a consulting arborist.