If you own an ash tree, you have our sympathy.
As detailed in today's Herald & Review, after six years of dealing with the emerald ash borer, the trees continue to approach extinction. The park district has lost 85 percent of its ash trees, and expects all ash trees to be gone from the park system by 2020. So far, 700 trees have been removed from city property. The impact and cost on individuals is spread all over the area. The expected mortality rate for ash tree is 90 percent. The ones that survive will be the ones the ash borer insects could not find.
The emerald ash borer is a beetle-like insect that eats ash trees from top to bottom. Since appearing in the U.S. in 2002 – probably in lumber on a cargo ship, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture – its spread has been unchecked, and it's left tens of millions of trees dead. As the infestation continues to spread west, and is a threat to kill most of the 8.7 billion ash trees throughout North America.
That's a threat to the wallet as well. Professional treatment costs between $7 to $10 per diameter inch. A 30-inch diameter tree could cost $300 to treat, and that must be repeated every two or three years. There's no guarantee the treatment will work. The same size tree could cost $1,000 or more to cut down. There's danger in the dying and dead trees being in places where they could cause damage if they fell.
Thanks to a grant from the CN railroad, the city plans to plant 250 over the next few years, planting heartier native trees. In some cases, the city is planting two trees for every one felled.
The city has not done a neighborhood-wide planting since 2009 because of financial issues.
The infestation is tragic and expensive. We empathize with those whose favorite tree is dying or has already gone, and we feel for those (including all of us as taxpayers) who have had to put hard-earned money into removing an infested tree.
This is one of those instances where the best we can do is continue to rely on the steadfast, can-do nature of Central Illinoisians. It's tragic, but we have to make the best of what we can.