New law to ease Albizia anxiety

Local News

Albizia trees create beautiful canopies across Hawaii’s scenery — but the introduced species is responsible for millions and millions of dollars in damage.

A new law will allow property owners to enter vacant lots to get rid of the trees.

If you look at the vacant lot next door and worry that those towering albizia trees could come crashing down onto your property — this new law was written with you in mind.

Hawaii island Senator Russell Ruderman, who represents Puna and Ka’u, says, “So if you live next door to a vacant property and there’s albizia just out of control, overhanging your driveway, your house, your garage, or, if you’re … the utility and want to do the same, you can go through this process now to legally enter the property for the purpose of controlling the albizia.”

During and after tropical storm Iselle in 2014 — Ruderman said, “About 90 percent of the damage was from Albizia trees. So we became very aware, we always knew it was a potential hazard and then it became a very real hazard.”

The law requires:

A certified arborist to confirm the albizia threat

At least two attempts to contact the landowner

And notification of neighboring property owners.

Law: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2019/bills/GM1114_.PDF

The Big Island Invasive Species Committee educates the public about albizia.

Program Manager Springer Kaye says, “During … Tropical Storm Iselle, we lost 37 homes, primarily to trees falling on them and crushing them.”

The Hawaii Electric Light Co. spent some $13 to $14 million just rebuilding infrastructure — mainly due to albizia damage.

Kaye says any arborist you hire needs to be a local expert.

“Albizia particularly is not a tree for a novice arborist and it’s also not a tree to have your cousin from the mainland who’s an arborist come out and cut down because it has some real quirks and a lot of it has to do with the weak nature of the wood.”

Albizia was a good thing when it was introduced in 1917.

Kaye says, “It was planted in experimental forestry plantings on all of the islands at a time when, we used to burn wood to fuel the boilers for sugar cane and for all kinds of electricity and heating needs throughout the state.”

It grows fast — and a tree may only last for 30 years — but it spreads a lot of seed, so the botanist said Hawaii would always have plenty of this wood-crop to fuel our fires.

A good thing back then maybe, but now — not so much. That said, creative wood-workers are finding alternate uses for the plentiful, invasive wood.

ONLINE BONUS: How to find a certified arborist.

International Society of Arboriculture: https://www.isa-arbor.com/

Locate an arborist search engine: https://www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist/findanarborist

Verify an ISA credential: https://www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist/verify

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