Mayor Chris Beutler said today's confirmation that the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is in Lincoln means the City must move forward to adopt the EAB Response and Recovery Plan and to secure ongoing funding to address the issue. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture found the invasive beetle in a trap in Lincoln.
"The City has been very proactive and has already begun the process of removing and replacing ash trees," said Mayor Beutler. "The City budget adopted this week includes nearly $2.3 million over two years to address the EAB issue. The City, however, will be dealing with EAB response and recovery for about 15 years, and the cost is expected to be $22.8 million. We must continue to find the resources to address this costly public safety and quality of life issue."
The draft EAB Response and Recovery 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 City worked with the Nebraska Forest Service on the Plan. The City Council is expected to consider adoption of the Plan this fall.
Before tree removal began, the City had about 14,000 public ash trees along streets and in parks and golf courses. 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 removed 567 ash trees during 2017 and more than 700 so far this year.
The City is developing a cost-efficient approach to removing trees that includes contracting with the private sector. Private contractors will also be used for planting replacement public trees.
Chemical treatment can prolong the life of some ash trees, and the City may also contract with private companies in the future to treat public ash trees. Treatment would be done on an interim basis to avoid having dead ash trees along streets and in parks. Treatment of public ash trees is not planned during the upcoming two-year budget period.
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.
The City Council will 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.
General information on the EAB is available at the Nebraska Forest Service website at eabne.info.