I write in response to the article regarding the discovery of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation in Worthington (“What next? Emerald Ash Borer discovery leads to public meeting to talk plan of attack”). The article quotes Worthington Public Works Director Todd Wietzema as stating, “We would love nothing more than to have these boulevard trees. It’s just not financially feasible to spend $200 per tree for 1,500 trees.”
Sticker shock over the cost to protect mature, healthy ash trees is completely understandable. However, the cost to protect a high-quality tree for 20 years is much less than the cost to remove and replace it, and the preserved tree benefits will be several times greater. In fact, the city’s trees provide about $4 in important public benefits for every dollar spent to purchase, plant, maintain and eventually remove them. The science-based policy that is most effective at preserving public dollars and the environment is to “save the best and replace the best.” Dr. Deborah McCullough, a professor of entomology and forestry at Michigan State University, has stated, “There is no reason for a landscape ash tree to die from emerald ash borer anymore.”
The article also stated that, “There are several options for handling ash trees that are taken down. They can be milled for lumber, grinded into wood chips or burned.” My concern is the suggestion that burning is an acceptable method of processing removed ash trees. The resultant air pollutants are serious. Assuming an average tree size, the open burning of Worthington’s 1,500 ash trees, for example, would release 7 to 8 million pounds of carbon dioxide and the air pollutant equivalent of more 110,000 typical campfires.
It’s best to save the best, replace the rest; and reuse, recycle, or recover the energy value from low-quality ash trees that should be replaced.