Massachusetts has the oldest public shade tree law in the country, dating back to 1899. That law, M.G.L. Chapter 87, mandates that every town in the Commonwealth have a Tree Warden. Bruce Fletcher has been Stow’s Tree Warden since 1985.
Generally speaking, the Public Shade Tree law grants the Tree Warden the responsibility for the care and control of all public shade trees in town, and the responsibility to enforce all the other the provisions of the law.
Public Shade Trees are defined by the Statute as all trees within a public way or on the boundaries thereof. The full text of the Public Shade Tree law can be found here.
The law does not require the Tree Warden to be an arborist in towns the size of Stow. Bruce Fletcher is not a certified arborist.
Several different sections of the law express how public shade trees are protected by the law, including providing penalties for affixing signs to trees, marking or damaging trees, or willfully destroying or injuring trees shrubs or growths. The penalties can be steep. Depending on which section of the statue someone is charged with violating, the penalty could be as much as six months in jail.
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