In Iowa, Cedar Falls stops ash tree removal in bid to seek borer treatment

(U.S. Forest Service photo)

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — The city of Cedar Falls is halting its removal of healthy ash trees to consider treatment alternatives in the wake of destruction by an invasive insect.

City director of municipal operations Mark Ripplinger recently suspended the removal of healthy ash trees after learning of advancements in treatment of trees infected by the emerald ash borer, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported.

Ripplinger said his staff will present a plan by May 1 to the council to allow property owners — at their own expense — to treat ash trees in the right of way adjacent to their property.

So far, the city has removed about 900 ash trees. If the city continues that systematic removal, Ripplinger said, a total of 2,500 trees would be felled within seven years at a cost of about $250,000. To treat the remaining 1,500 trees would cost about that much every two years, he said.

But University of Northern Iowa economics professor Fred Abraham, who spoke about the trees to the City Council last week, said the trees bring value to the city through increased property values, among other things.

“It is heartbreaking to see mature, healthy trees destroyed on the possibility of future problems,” Abraham, a former member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, wrote in a recent newspaper column. “I hope we can be creative about saving them.”

Emerald ash borers are native to Asia and were first spotted in the U.S. in 2002, when they showed up in Detroit. The species has since spread to at least 25 states and killed millions of trees.

Iowa now has 45 counties in which emerald ash borer has been found.

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