What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to suzanne.ziegler@startribune.com.

Poll: Support for ash insecticide, not chainsaws

Posted by: Bill McAuliffe Updated: September 17, 2013 - 5:13 PM

MinneapolisResults2.pdf">A poll paid for by a company that's been injecting ash trees with an insecticide in Milwaukee and in a few experimental locations in Minneapolis has apparently found strong support for the strategy in Minneapolis.

That would appear to contradict the Minneapolis Park and Recreation board, which has embarked on a long term policy of removing and replacing the city's 40,000 ash trees, which face a mortal threat from the invasive emerald ash borer.

But park board Chairman John Erwin said he'd answer the questions the same way.

The poll, by Public Policy Polling, a frequent player in political campaigns, found that 76 percent of Minneapolis voters surveyed think the Park and Recreation board should not "clear-cut 40,000 otherwise healthy ash trees before Emerald Ash Borer kills them," and that 71 percent favor a strategy using "a small amount of insecticide sealed inside the tree trunk."

Erwin said that overstated the park board's policy, which is to remove and replace trees known to be infested, and fill in the gaps with new trees, ultimately replacing all the city's ash in about eight years. Along the way, he said, the board may treat ash trees on some streets with insecticides, which are increasingly being shown to be effective.

"I personally don't support taking down any healthy tree or green tree that has leaves on it," Erwin said. "I have no intention of clear-cutting any area, either."

Erwin reiterated the park board's position that Minneapolis residents are generally opposed to insecticides, based on outcries about their use on city golf courses. A horticulture professor at the University of Minnesota, Erwin notes on his park board campaign website that he could favor the use of one type of organic pesticide, injected into trees, but a different one from that being touted by researchers and the tree care industry. Currently, public ash trees in Minneapolis can be treated with insecticide -- if homeowners, groups or individuals pay for the treatment, which must be repeated over time.

Another point on which Erwin and the poll respondents agreed: The board's ash policy is likely to be a campaign issue. All nine of the park board seats are on the ballot.

PHOTO: Emerald ash borers, in a lab at the University of Minnesota. Star Tribune photo by Richard Sennott.

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