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Foresters: Plan now for emerald ash borer outbreak

Published: Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 10:30 a.m. CST

WATERLOO (MCT) — State and local forestry experts are urging communities and private residents to prepare for emerald ash borer fallout.

The discovery of the invasive beetle in Waterloo this month has stepped up calls for cities across the state to begin planning for removal of ash trees from roadsides and parks.

Private property owners in Waterloo and surrounding communities are encouraged to find out whether they have ash trees and plan for the cost of treating or removing them in the future.

“The ash trees that are located on private property … will be the responsibility of the property owner,” said Todd Derifield, Waterloo city forester.

“All property owners in Waterloo and even in the surrounding areas should be determining if they do have an ash on their property,” he said. “If so, start thinking about whether they want to treat their tree to save it and spend that money or look at budgeting for removal and hiring a proper tree service to do that.”

Paul Tauke, a state forester with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said cities faced with managing and removing dying trees on public property should also begin taking an inventory of their urban forests and preparing to diversify species when replacing ash trees.

“When the ash come down you know what species you can replant with so you don’t have a larger future problem,” Tauke said. “We want to help communities make data-driven decisions.”

Waterloo has already completed an inventory from 2010 that identified more than 4,000 ash trees on roadsides, parks and golf courses. City forestry crews have used the list to systematically remove some of those trees and prioritize which trees need to be taken down first.

“Waterloo has been preparing for this,” Derifield said. “We weren’t necessarily happy, but we weren’t surprised.”

Derifield said it could cost $2.4 million to remove the public trees and another $1.3 million to replace them with other varieties if private contractors were hired to do the work. The city will attempt to hold down those costs by removing trees with city crews.

The initial outbreak in Waterloo covers an area generally bounded by U.S. Highway 63 on the west, Linden Avenue on the east, Gates Park on the north and Cottage Street on the south.

Cedar Falls has yet to conduct an official inventory of its ash trees, according to Director of Human and Leisure Services Mark Ripplinger, who estimates that about 20 percent of the city’s publicly owned trees are of the ash variety.

There have been no confirmed cases of the insect in Cedar Falls, but Ripplinger knows it’s only a matter of time.

“Once the infestation is here there’s really no way to eradicate it,” he said. “Eventually all the ash trees will need to be removed.”

Pending input from staff, Ripplinger anticipates limited ash tree removals will take place on public property within the next few years. Private property owners will eventually be responsible for removing their own trees.

Of the roughly 4,600 trees on the University of Northern Iowa campus, about 1,700 are ash trees, according to grounds manager Linn Pakala. The last ash tree was planted on campus in 2006.

Pakala said that for every shade tree that dies on the UNI campus, several are planted to take its place. So while the campus will certainly be affected by the ash borer, Pakala hopes the spread will be slow enough that the younger trees will begin to fill in the gaps wherever the ash trees fall.

“We still have ash on campus, but at the rate we’re planting and at the rate they’re going to die, we’re hoping it’s a non-event,” Pakala said. “I think the university has been very proactive, and I’m hoping there won’t be that big of an impact.”

Symptoms of the ash borer include thinning and dying branches in the top of a tree; water spouts halfway up the trunk; feeding notches on the edge of leaflets; woodpecker feeding sites; S-shaped feeding galleries under the bark; and D-shaped exit holes.

Owners must then decide whether they want to chemically treat the tree or take it down.

“If your ash tree is declining anyway or if it’s structurally unsound, if it’s planted in a horrible location, maybe (chemical treatment) is not the right alternative for you,” Derifield said. “But if it’s in prime condition, it’s on the southwest portion of your property shading your house in the hottest part of the day in the summer and maybe it’s even got some sentimental value you might want to look into the treatment options.”

Emma Hanigan, DNR state urban forester, said there are chemical treatments that generally must be applied every year.

“If you continue to treat your tree every year and it’s a healthy, vigorous tree, it would extend the life of the tree 20-plus years,” Hanigan said.

It could cost $1,000 to remove a mature ash tree. That could be much more if the tree is close to a house or in a hard-to-reach area.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has added the entire state to a quarantine area that includes many Midwestern states.

“We feel that the whole state quarantine is the most practical option for refocusing Iowa’s activities on planning and implementation of proactive measures to prepare for EAB in our urban forests,” said Robin Pruisner, state entomologist.

The quarantine bans transport of ash logs and other ash products outside the quarantine area. All hardwood firewood is banned from transport out of the quarantine area, although it can be moved in state.

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©2014 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa)

MCT Information Services

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