Save Chicago's ash trees

Ash leaves come in pairs.

Chicago’s urban forest is in trouble.

By Marjorie Isaacson

Due to infection by the emerald ash borer, the majority of Chicago's ash trees will die. East Village residents are fundraising to treat ash trees.

Chicago has about 20% tree coverage, far below the national average. The city’s tree inventory includes 43,000 green and white ash trees, a major segment of that population. Due to infection by the emerald ash borer, the majority of these trees will die.

Trees provide many benefits: cleaning air and water, cooling temperatures in the summer and contributing to human physical and psychological health. Trees also remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Preserving and adding to the urban forest is one of the primary strategies in Chicago’s climate change mitigation plans.

To make this happen, Chicago has embarked on a massive tree-planting campaign. But while these new trees are a good investment in the future, it will be many years until they reach the size to do the work of removing CO₂ from the air. Meanwhile, existing, mature trees need to continue to thrive and do the job.

Trees needs treatment

Beyond normal attrition, the loss of ash trees will be devastating. When a tree is infected (and all Chicago ash trees are), it dies within eight years.

Treatment is available, but Chicago has not treated any ash trees since 2019. Until this year, the policy has been to cut down and remove dead or dying ashes. By contrast, Milwaukee has not lost any of its 26,000 ash trees since it started inoculating them in 2008.

This year, the Bureau of Forestry has funding to treat an estimated 5,200 ash trees. Obviously, this funding available is inadequate for treating the entire population of ashes. Choices needed to be made about what ash trees should be treated. The south and west sides of Chicago already have less tree coverage than the north side, thus losing trees there will have the biggest impact. Therefore, the treatment will be concentrated in these areas.

Some communities have launched campaigns to privately fund treating ashes. For example, Heart of Lincoln Square raised enough money to treat all of the trees in their area. The 1st Ward has 1,418 green and white ash trees, which is 10% of our tree coverage. (Our neighboring wards have similar proportions, but inventories have not been completed.) The loss will be significant.

The economic costs are also stark. It costs $1,000 to $1,500 to remove and replace an existing tree with a new sapling, and an average cost of $157 for a two-year treatment cycle for existing trees.

Time to act

Research into the emerald ash borer’s infection cycle shows that this year is the pivotal year for treating ash trees. Professional arborists will treat even a single ash tree, though prices will be lower if more trees are treated.

Would you like to join us in saving ash trees? Contact Marjorie Isaacson, marjiei@gmail.com or 773-384-6088.

For more information:
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Anselmo @properties business card,
Ask Nagel business card.

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