Headlines are everywhere nowadays about the 11.5 million dollar bond that the City of Arlington Heights, Illinois approved in order to remove and replace their 13,000 city parkway ash trees.
Although many citizens are in an uproar over the decision to mortgage the future of the city in order to remove these ash trees that COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED, the truth is there is little else that could have been done by the time that decision was made. This fact became very evident at a meeting I was invited to attend in Arlington Heights near the end of 2011. I drove to Arlington Heights from Michigan just to attend that meeting. A neighborhood group angered at the marking of 177 ash trees for removal without prior news about the problem had asked for a moratorium on the cutting until they could be heard in a meeting. The city stopped the removal and opened up a public meeting. It was very well attended by several neighborhood groups concerned about the ash trees in the city. I was asked to give a short talk on the successes I have had with Emerald Ash Borer Treatment since 2002.
During the later discussion with the City representatives, I heard an amazing truth I had not realized before. A city cannot fund treatment of trees (viewed as maintenance) by borrowing with a bond. The city had a report where they were told that it would cost nearly $12,000,000 to remove and replace their ash trees, far more tha n the cost of treatment. That would be a one time capital cost and they COULD borrow that. It seems all too obvious to everyone that the better financial decision would be to try and treat them. But the reality was that the wheels of the political machine move very slowly and there was really no way that ANY treatment program would be agreed to and funded and implemented in time. Taking any money out of “Reserves” is a cancerous activity that is avoided at all costs by most properly run cities. Other cities in the Chicagoland area that WERE treating had started their process long before and many had already been treating for a few years. The ash trees in Arlington Heights need to be treated this spring (2012) or it would be too late for many of them. In some areas of the city it is already too late. The last chance effort to save anything at all would have to be done by the residents of the city itself. Block leaders are being solicited to try and get bands of people together to get their particular area treated by themselves with NO cost sharing by the city.
In the meantime they “found” $2 million dollars in this year’s budget (actually coming from reserves to be paid back out of the eventual bond funding) to start planning for some removals this year, and instead intend to “borrow” on the $11.5 million bond in 2013 to address the problem by removing and replacing the vast majority of their ash trees. While they could not ever be able to borrow the money to treat and save the city ash trees they WOULD be able to get the $12 million to remove and replace. How is that even possible you ask? The grim reality is that you CAN get huge sums of money by borrowing and mortgaging your city’s future when it is faced with a catastrophic situation. Namely the safety of the community when the dying and dead ash trees threaten life and property because they are very dangerous when they die and left standing. I am reminded of my grandmother’s wisdom in her telling me as a child not to be “Penny wise and pound foolish!” It would be wiser to borrow the smaller sum now to avoid the huge problem later, but their hands are tied.
But even so, this current municipal problem didn’t have to end in this disaster for Arlington Heights. We have known since July 17, 2002 that this insect had invaded the United States when it was first discovered in my back yard in Michigan. Successful Emerald Ash Borer Treatment programs have been in place in Michigan right from the beginning! Illinois first discovered EAB in 2006 and in the next couple of years it was discovered in an alarmingly fast growing list of cities all documented EVERY step of the way by the Illinois Department of Agriculture at their www.illinoiseab.com website. There had been several meetings at the Morton Arboretum that I attended where cities were encouraged to develop an EAB Management program if the EAB was confirmed within 15 miles of their city. Why are cities waiting until it is discovered IN their city before they do anything? They are almost denying it would ever get there when the fact is that it was GUARANTEED to get there and kill every ash tree in their city if they did not do something about it.
The following article is also quite enlightening.
This article brings to light the fact that some people in the decision making area of Arlington Heights were misinformed. Treatment costs and efficacy are simply not accurate leading to the incorrect conclusion that treatment costs would catch the cost of removal and replacement in about five years. Start with bad facts and get wrong conclusions.
Now it is too late, and they “have no choice” but to cut them down. Various Universities and arborists and PhD’s have studied this problem ad nauseum for all the years I have been treating and saving ash trees in five states. While I was leading the fight against the ash borer and personally landing contracts to treat such cities as Fort Wayne, Indiana, Cedarburg, Wisconsin, Downers Grove, Roselle, and West Chicago, Illinois the “studies” have gone on. While I have been very vocal at my disappointment in our government and our educational community since 2002 when I started treating ash trees, I can now say they finally have it right! The Coalition for Urban Ash Tree Conservation put out a long awaited report on January 6, 2011 where they have clearly contradicted the mindset of Arlington Heights and other cities that are also just “giving up”and removing their ash trees instead of treating. Here is an exact quote from that report.
“However, despite availability of cost-effective treatments,
many municipalities, property managers, and homeowners
continue to rationalize tree removal as the only viable
management strategy for EAB. This is based on erroneous
beliefs that tree removal slows the spread of EAB, or that
treatment is not effective, economical, or environmentally
sound. Current science supports conservation via treatment as
a sensible and effective tool for managing healthy ash trees in
urban settings. In many cases, tree conservation is
economically and environmentally superior to tree removal.”
For the entire report THAT EVERY CITY FORESTER, PROPERTY MANAGER, AND HOMEOWNER should read before they decide to give up on their healthy ash tree, go to —> http://www.emeraldashborer.info/files/conserve_ash.pdf
I guarantee you that if Arlington Heights had acted timely and had been properly educated that their city 10 years from now, would be looking at the same beautiful ash trees in their parkways that will be gracing the streets of cities like Roselle, Downers Grove, and West Chicago. Now it is entirely possible that many more cities might have ash trees also that survive but very few others are also treating and some are not using the same treatment methods that I believe in. I mention these three cities because I HAVE their contracts and I KNOW first hand that my treatments work. With my experience treating since 2002, I already know (Like Paul Harvey used say) “the rest of the story!”
If you would like to save your ash trees, contact me at Emerald Tree Care LLC.
If you are an Arlington Heights resident or “block leader” looking to find out how to SAVE YOUR ASH – you should contact me for help.
DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT IS TOO LATE! Together we can make a difference!