Emerald ash borer threatens Chicago trees

July 30, 2012 3:33:37 PM PDT
Twenty-percent of Chicago's tree population could be gone in just a few years because of the emerald ash borer (EAB), according to a new study.

"This tree has probably been infested for two years, maybe three," Jeff Palmer, arborist, said. Palmer was one of several tree experts on the research team led by the Morton Arboretum.

The insect was first found in the Chicago area in 2008.

"One in five trees are ash trees. Every one of them is susceptible to EAB and many of them are too far gone, too far infested, to be saved," Palmer said.

A two-day canvass of the city's trees confirmed the presence of the emerald ash borer in all 50 of Chicago's wards. The survey also found that currently 60% of the 238 blocks sampled have some level of EAB infestation; and 51% of the blocks surveyed have trees showings outward signs of the parasite-- like thinning leaves on top branches and missing bark.

The effects could be enormous near 77th and Michigan.

"To lose these trees would be devastating to the block. I hope they can get started now," Stephanie Favors said.

Budget Woes have weakened the city's treatment of its roughly 90-thousand parkway ash tree. Still officials in the 6th ward support treatment over removal.

"The city's own estimates say it will cost about $90 million to cut down and replace all the trees that die, versus approximately less than $2 million a year moving forward to just treat all the trees," Brian Sleet, chief of staff for Ald. Roderick Sawyer, Ward 6, said.

There are also possible losses to property values and increases in energy costs.

"In one or two years from now there won't be a choice. Those trees are going to be too far infested to treat," Jeff Palmer said.

Officials say replacing a tree costs about $1100, but treating a tree is around $60. The hard part is figuring out what trees are infected in time to save them, which is why the city is asking residents for help. To report a tree that is infected, call (312) 742-3385.

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