Emerald Ash Borer Infestation

Audio Interview

John McCabe  Assistant Director, Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Department of Resource Management, interviewed on FM News Chicago Click here to listen

Download the FAQ as a PDF

 

FAQ: Ash Tree Removal Strategy to Respond to Emerald Ash Borer Infestation

 

What's the Issue?

What's the Issue?

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC) has been removing Ash trees in response to the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation since 2009. The Emerald Ash Borer is a beetle from Asia that feeds on Ash trees and was discovered as the cause of extensive Ash mortality in southeast Michigan and adjacent areas of Canada in 2002. It is thought that this destructive pest was introduced in the early 1990s in infested solid wood packing material originating in Asia.

What’s the Timeline?

What’s the Timeline?

EAB was first discovered in June 2002 in Detroit. It is believed that the EAB arrived in the Chicagoland region in 2006. The first confirmed EAB infestation was found on Forest Preserve District properties in 2008. As of June 2010, the EAB has been found in the following areas: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as Ontario and Quebec in Canada. The District is in the beginning stages of addressing the infestation and anticipates the process of tree removal and replanting will continue over the next several years.

 

How Did the Forest Preserve District First Respond?

How Did the Forest Preserve District First Respond?

The District has been actively engaged in research and monitoring programs that were set up to help combat EAB through a coordinated strategy with regional, state, and federal agencies including: the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDA), Illinois Department of Natural Resources (lDNR), United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), United States Forest Service (USFS), Morton Arboretum, City of Chicago’s Bureau of Forestry, Regional Forest Preserve Districts, local municipalities and Michigan State University. Forest Preserve District staff participated in all 13 Illinois EAB readiness subcommittee meetings hosted by the Morton Arboretum from September 2003 to August 2008. Participating members created the Emerald Ash Borer Readiness Plan and subcommittees of this team were formed once EAB was detected. The Forest Preserve District’s Assistant Director of Resource Management, John McCabe, is an ongoing member of the Municipal Committee. Internal training classes have been conducted with all Forest Preserve District Resource Management staff on tree care and removal. The training sessions covered strategies to detect and address Emerald Ash Borer, Asian Longhorn Beetle and Gypsy Moth. Additional training and updates have been administered as needed.

 

What’s the Forest Preserve District’s Current Strategy?

What’s the Forest Preserve District’s Current Strategy?

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County presented its Emerald Ash Borer Management Plan to the Board of Commissioners in September, 2008 and is now implementing that strategy. “Once an infestation is detected, trees will be monitored and a hazard assessment will be done. Any tree, dead or alive, which has the potential to entirely or partially fail and impact a target, can be considered a hazard. A target can be a vehicle, building or any place with pedestrian traffic. Dead and dying ash trees, weakened or killed by EAB, pose a risk to public safety and therefore are a potential liability to the District if left standing along streets, parking lots, bike trails, horse trails or other public spaces. Trees that are deemed hazardous will be removed, while those that are not a threat to lives or property will be left with-in the Preserve,” (Forest Preserve District of Cook County Emerald Ash Borer Managemnt Plan August 2008). The District’s number one priority is the safety of the general public and the users of the Preserve. The current number of trees being removed is 8,962, of which 7,724 are Ash trees that are infested with EAB. The Forest Preserve District has begun tree removal and the work under these contracts, which were approved by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Board, will likely continue through January 2012.

 

Where Are the Trees Being Removed?

Where Are the Trees Being Removed?

The following list details the current planned tree removals by region throughout the Forest Preserve District of Cook County: • Jurgensen Woods, Lansing Woods and North Creek Meadow (Region 9): 592 total trees, 557 Ash • Dan Ryan Woods (Region 9): 681 total trees, 534 Ash • Midlothian Meadows, Midlothian Reservoir, Yankee Woods and Bremen Grove (Region 8): 1,387 total trees, 1,157 Ash • Indian Boundary Division – Devon Avenue on the north to Madison on the south (southern part of Region 3 and northern part of Region 2): 1,235 total trees, 910 Ash • Skokie Division – North of Golf Road to Lake Cook Road, excluding the Botanic Garden (northern part of Region 4): 1,315 total trees, 1,078 Ash • Vollmer Road Bicycle trail area – Vollmer Road Grove and Flossmoor Road Bicycle Lot (Region 8): 741 total trees, 688 Ash • Des Plaines Division – Devon Avenue — north to Lake Cook Road (northern part of Region 3): 1,135 total trees, 1,013 Ash • North Branch Division – south of Golf Road to Foster Avenue (southern part of Region 4): 1,876 total trees, 1,787 Ash • Salt Creek Bike Trail – Throughout Salt Creek Division: 766 total trees, 712 Ash • Busse Bike Trail – Throughout Busse Woods: 587 total trees, 559 Ash.

 

What Is the Financial Cost?

What Is the Financial Cost?

The current total cost for contract tree removal as listed above for the Ash trees infested with EAB and other trees at risk of failure is$1,083,793.43.

 

What Are the Experts Saying?

What Are the Experts Saying?

Chicago Tribune: Signs of progress sought as Emerald Ash Borer plague keeps spreading, June 20, 2011 http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-06-20/news/ct-met-emerald-ash-borer-20110620_1_emerald-ash-borer-ash-trees-asian-beetle

While some communities have tried to fight it by applying chemicals, cutting down Ash trees and even releasing the beetle’s nemesis parasite, the measures haven’t stopped the problem.

“EAB can infest a tree and be there for six or seven years before anyone has the slightest inkling it is there,” said Juliann Heminghous, the Emerald Ash Borer outreach coordinator for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. “It devastates the entire canopy of the tree.”

…. Once a tree is infested, it is impossible to save, Heminghous said. Some chemical treatments can help the tree endure longer, she said. But eventually the tree will die and have to be removed, she said.

“There is no silver bullet, no magic potion that will save a tree once it is affected,” she said. The dead trees pose a public safety hazard, experts say, because they can eventually fall over, damaging property and possibly causing injuries.

Where are we removing trees?

Where are we removing trees?

The Forest Preserve District is only removing trees that may compromise the safety of the general public or the users of the Preserve – NOT trees “in the woods.” The vast majority of the Forest Preserve District’s Ash tree removals will take place from the edges of the forested community, along roads, bike trails, mowed areas, groves, and public and private interfaces. The removal of Ash trees in these areas will open canopy space that will be filled by younger trees.

 

What’s the Impact on the Picnic Groves?

What’s the Impact on the Picnic Groves?

Unfortunately, the reduction of the Ash tree canopy in certain picnic groves that have large populations of Ash and mature Ash trees could be significant. The Forest Preserve District’s intention is to reduce the impact to the tree canopy as little as possible. Based on the level of infestation in areas where removals are taking place and surrounding areas, the Forest Preserve District’s analysis is that most of the Ash trees in these areas have been infested with EAB and will eventually die. These dead and dying trees pose a risk and danger to residents and users of the Preserve.

 

Is Removing Ash Trees the Only Solution?

Is Removing Ash Trees the Only Solution?

Thousands of trees are showing signs of advanced infestation and may pose a risk to the safety of the general public. The Forest Preserve District’s strategic removal at this time is in the best interest and safety of the County’s residents and taxpayers. The District firmly believes that we should act now to prevent a problem or major crisis in the future as has been experienced in other states impacted by the EAB.

 

What About Monitoring the Infected Trees Before Removing Them?

What About Monitoring the Infected Trees Before Removing Them?

The District will monitor some infested trees in picnic grove areas if they do not pose an immediate public safety hazard. However, experts such as Juliann Heminghous, the Emerald Ash Borer outreach coordinator for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, stated in the Chicago Tribune: “Once a tree is infested, it is impossible to save.” The Forest Preserve District’s analysis is that Ash trees that are infested by EAB will inevitably have to be addressed and likely cut down. The District’s extensive land holdings make it impossible to monitor individual trees along roadways, bike trails, horse trails, parking lots, public facilities, picnic groves and the public/private interface.

 

Will the District Replace and Replant Trees that Are Removed?

Will the District Replace and Replant Trees that Are Removed?

It is a priority for the Forest Preserve District to replant trees that have been removed from picnic groves and public facilities. The replanting will begin in the spring of 2012 and will be ongoing over the next several years as funding allows. There also must be a clear distinction between the District’s priority to remove infected trees and a comprehensive strategy to replant. These are two very different processes and concerns.

 

Why Hasn’t the Forest Preserve District Looked at Other Measures Besides Removing Trees?

Why Hasn’t the Forest Preserve District Looked at Other Measures Besides Removing Trees?

To be clear, infested Ash trees are going to die due to EAB. The District’s objective now is to responsibly remove infected Ash trees that could pose a risk to the general public and the users of the Preserve and are dead or will die in the near future. The implication that the Forest Preserve District has not explored every option to cope with this problem is simply false and erroneous. Since 2003 the District has worked cooperatively with major agencies from all levels of government to manage the EAB crisis in the hope that the silver bullet could be found and to save as many Ash trees as possible. The Forest Preserve District, along with the City of Chicago and U.S. Forest Service, has released over 24,000 parasitic wasps throughout the Preserves since 2009.. The hope was that strategies such as predatory wasps could mitigate the effects of EAB and eventually allow for a resurgence of the Ash tree population in future years. These efforts are still being monitored and are in the early stages of the program.

 

How Does the Forest Preserve District Feel About Having to Remove Trees?

How Does the Forest Preserve District Feel About Having to Remove Trees?

The Forest Preserve District deeply understands the negative impact, frustration and sadness at having to remove trees that are infected and dying from EAB. We don’t want to remove our beautiful Ash trees – we simply have to remove them in order to protect the general public and users of the Preserve. There is no question that there is an emotional attachment to the trees and forests, especially in the Forest Preserve District’s groves and picnic areas. We feel the loss of having to remove infected trees as much as others. But the safety of the general public and Preserve users must always remain our highest priority. District staff work diligently every day to make sure that the Forest Preserves are a safe place for everyone, and will continue to efficiently and effectively manage our natural areas and forests. The Forest Preserve District’s work and decisions are guided by our core values to protect and preserve the natural beauty of the Forest Preserve. It’s why the District utilizes best practices, up-to-date research and methods, data analysis, and sound judgment to accomplish our mission.

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