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Ash trees on private property are the responsibility of the property owners. Sievert said property owners can either let the ash die over time (while planting replacements in the meantime), have them treated, or have them removed and replaced — although not with maple, he said, since that species is becoming too common across the city.
The Park Board won’t follow the insecticide strategy itself, said Sievert, citing emphatic public opposition to the use of insecticides, even though one type has been found to be effective and is getting cheaper. One tree company went so far as to commission a poll that found support for using insecticides in Minneapolis ash, but Erwin criticized the poll’s questions as misleading.
Milwaukee is treating all of its public ash trees under a program that city forestry services manager David Sivyer says has been both effective and economical. At the same time, Sivyer echoes Sievert in saying the program is designed to “put the loss of ash on our schedule.”
“We never envisioned a treatment program that would last 20 or 40 years,” Sivyer said. “We have always thought this would be a gradual transition” toward the ultimate disappearance of ash in the city, he said.
The Minneapolis levy also will fund removal and replacement of trees damaged by storms. The 2011 Minneapolis tornado wiped out 3,200 trees, which cost $1.9 million to clean up and replace. Another 3,000 were damaged or destroyed in storms last June.
By the time those trees are replaced in 2014, that price tag will be about $2.3 million.
In St. Paul, a similar pace
St. Paul will remove about 1,100 ash in 2014 under a program that — with funding from a variety of state and local sources — will remove progressively more trees each year, but ultimately will leave the city with about 5,000 treated ash trees.
Since 2009, the city has treated about 800 trees and removed about 5,000, said Cy Kosel, forestry supervisor for the Parks and Recreation Department. The first to go are those less than 10 inches in diameter (less conspicuous when absent) and those more than 20 inches in diameter (not long for this world).
When there are only 5,000 left, Kosel added, the game likely will have changed, with fewer trees possibly providing less nursery space for ash borer reproduction.
Ash trees within 15 miles of any known infestation are considered vulnerable, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Minnesota as a whole has just under 1 billion ash trees, the most of any state in the nation. Ash comprises 7.2 percent of the trees in the state’s forests, but 15.1 percent in communities.
Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646