Mayor Chris Beutler encourages the public to review and comment on the draft Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Response and Recovery Plan which was released at news conference today. The invasive beetle has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in 31 states and in Canada. Beutler said that although EAB has not yet been found in Lincoln, experts say it is probably already here. He said EAB will have a devastating impact on the City's 14,000 public ash trees along streets and in parks and golf courses.
"From the experience of other communities, we know that all untreated ash trees will be dead within a 15-year period from the time that EAB moves in, so the clock may already be ticking," Beutler said. "We also know from other's experience that a proactive response to EAB is the best course of action to avoid an overwhelming number of dead and dying ash trees along streets and on other public property at the same time. Infested ash trees become very brittle, so if we are not proactive, we will see a very dangerous situation develop in our City. Waiting to take action will also be much more costly for taxpayers."
The draft plan is available at parks.lincoln.ne.gov. Paper copies of the plan are available at all Lincoln City Libraries and at the Parks and Recreation Administration Office at 31st and "O" streets. The public may send comments on the plan by March 1 to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Parks and Recreation, 3131 "O" Street, Suite 300, Lincoln, NE 68510.
The Plan recommends the managed removal and replacement of Lincoln's public ash trees over a 15-year period. During the past two years, the Parks and Recreation Department has been purchasing equipment and hiring and training staff to be able to remove 1,000 public ash trees each year. Staff also removed 567 ash trees during 2017.
Beutler commended City staff for working with the private sector to come up with the most cost-effective way to remove the trees. City staff will focus on the removal of trees less than 18 inches in diameter, and the City plans to contract with private tree service companies to remove larger public ash trees. Chemical treatment can prolong the life of some ash trees, and the City may also contract with private companies to treat public ash trees in the future. Private contractors may also be used for planting replacement public trees.
Parks and Recreation staff are also working with neighborhood groups to plan ash tree removal and replanting. Residents who are interested in the planning process are encouraged to contact Community Outreach Forester Lorri Grueber at email@example.com.
The draft EAB Response and Recovery Plan also calls on residents, businesses and organizations to "adopt" public ash trees along streets and in parks by paying for chemical treatment. Those wishing to adopt public ash trees will be asked to get a no-cost permit from Parks and Recreation. The permit system will allow the City to track public trees that have been adopted.
Beutler said the latest estimate on the cost of the City's EAB response and recovery is about $22.8 million over a 15-year period. "The cost of delaying or doing nothing is much higher," he said. "We will continue to look for ways we can work with the community and the private sector to keep costs as low as possible."
Staff will use public comments to revise the draft plan, which will then be reviewed by the
Community Forestry Advisory Board. The board's meeting March 13 is open to the public. It begins at 4 p.m. at the Parks and Recreation offices. The board will be asked to make a recommendation to the City Council on adoption of the plan, and the Council is expected to consider adoption in early April. The Council will also be asked to amend City code to establish a no-cost permit for the chemical treatment of public ash trees for the "adopt an ash tree" program.
The Mayor also thanked the Nebraska Forest Service for its assistance with the draft plan. General information on the EAB is available at eabne.info.