Ash trees are common in both rural and urban areas throughout the state, but EAB will strike cities and towns especially hard. It is estimated that about 14 percent of trees lining streets in urban settings are ash. In some neighborhoods and parks the figure reaches as high as 30 or 40 percent.
Missouri communities will benefit in many ways from preparing a plan of action to deal with the invasive EAB beetle before it arrives and starts killing their ash trees. Take these steps now and stay ahead of the beetle.
Gather the team
Identify an EAB readiness team for your community. The team should include representatives from the following areas:
- Office of the mayor or town council president
- City forestry department (if your community has one)
- Streets department
- Parks department
- County council
- Chamber of commerce
- Appropriate utility companies
- Public relations department
- Soil and water conservation district
- Local MU Extension center
- Local businesses that will be affected such as nurseries, tree care businesses, etc.
Assign one person on the team to act as the EAB urban forestry manager, point person, or liaison. This team member should ideally have urban forestry training or a background in environmental studies. He or she will work closely with the public relations coordinator if applicable.
The team should also become familiar with state quarantine procedures, compliance agreements, and whom to contact for any questions that might arise from either the team or community.
Inform the community
It is imperative to generate public awareness about EAB before the insect is found. An informed public is much more cooperative than one that has not been adequately prepared.
- Encourage local media to feature articles and interviews about EAB and how other communities are dealing with related issues.
- Let the community know your EAB readiness team is in place and working on a specific action plan. Keep the residents informed of progress and the needs of the municipality to address this issue.
- Invite experts to speak on EAB at appropriate community events such as Arbor Day programs or meetings of master gardeners or other gardening groups.
- Obtain EAB flyers, leaflets, and education handouts from the Missouri Department of Conservation’s community forestry office. Place EAB information in libraries, park centers, community centers, government centers, and other public gathering places.
- Link this EAB web site to your city’s web pages.
Determine funding for EAB related programs
Determine corporate and private partners who are willing to fund removal and replacement of infested ash trees on private property. A town riddled with dead or dying trees does not look economically promising to potential new businesses and residents; this depressed landscape can hinder existing business opportunities. Determine what community funds are available for removal and replanting on public property.
Inventory equipment; consider labor force
To be able to effectively handle tree removal, you must first know what type of equipment and labor is available.
- Determine which department(s) in the community is responsible for felling and removing trees. Identify employees who have had training on the use of chain saws and tree felling.
- Develop a list of equipment and vehicles that will be available for tree removal and clean-up, including wood chippers, bucket trucks, refuse packers, loaders, supervisory vehicles, chain saws, barricades, handsaws and pole pruners.
- Identify and contact operators and owners of portable saw mills in the area. After bark is removed from ash, the slabbed logs can be used for lumber. This lumber could be used for park projects, community kiosks, benches, playground equipment, etc. Private property owners could join together and hire a portable sawmill operator to slab logs on site. They may use the resulting lumber for home projects or donate it to woodcrafters in the county.
- Identify tree care companies and landscape businesses capable of tree removal and chipping services. For the ash wood chips to become exempt from quarantine, they must be processed to smaller than 1-by-1 inch in two dimensions. EAB larvae cannot survive in small wood chips as they quickly desiccate.
Indentify disposal and mulch sites
Designate a disposal site or sites within the community or county for ash wood debris before EAB arrives. This could be a landfill, solid waste area, or industrial site where the debris can be buried or chipped. If burning is an option in your area, a burn permit must be obtained in advance.
Determine a mulch/compost site for the ash wood chips that will be processed to smaller than 1-by-1 inch in two dimensions. Offer the mulch to residents and parks in the area
Work with local utility company
Contact the appropriate utility provider regarding potential problems with proximity of ash trees to utility lines in the area. You may also want to work with them on a procedure for ash tree removal and replacement in these areas.
- Locate your ash trees
- Trees cannot be effectively managed in a community setting until their location and general condition are known. The period before EAB arrives is an excellent time for your community to conduct a thorough inventory of all of its trees.
- First, check to see if there is a current inventory on file. If not, conduct and inventory all true ash trees, including those in all public, park, cemetery and private lands. Communities interested in performing complete inventories may be eligible for grant funds from the community forestry program. If you do not have the time or finances to do a complete inventory, at least document where your ash trees are and record their general condition.
- Assess the health and condition of all ash trees on public property during the inventory. Be on the alert for signs and symptoms of EAB as you conduct the inventory.
- Inform the mayor and other elected officials of the potential effects that the loss of the community’s ash trees will have on the area and how the loss might affect the environmental health and public safety of the community.
- Preemptively remove any ash trees that are in severe decline from any cause. Replace dying ash trees with other species that are appropriate sizes and have appropriate growth habits.
Replace ash trees
The Missouri Department of Conservation does not recommend planting ash tree species in Missouri at this time. Select replacements from a diversity of tree species and cultivars; consider types that are not over-planted in the community.
For trees suitable to Missouri, see these MU Extension publications:
Arborday.org offers detailed information—height and spread, soil and sun requirements, leaves and fruit, history, wildlife habitat, and more— on dozens of commonly planted landscape trees that grow throughout the U.S.
Additionally, encourage property owners whose ash trees are currently healthy to begin mixing in other types of trees on their property. This will ensure that there will be established, larger trees in place if their ash trees are killed by EAB and have to be removed. This is vital because it is the maturing size of large trees that offers the community the greatest environmental benefit.
After EAB is officially identified
Once EAB has been confirmed in your city/town, then an official announcement from the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) will be made. Once done, you may release information to your community through your community EAB liaison. Other communication/outreach activities to consider:
- A statement from the mayor to local media explaining what tools and resources the community has in place to help its residents, what the plan of action is, where the public can take ash debris, quarantine rules and recommendations for businesses and private property owners.
- An EAB informational meeting, in conjunction with the MDC Community Forestry Program, for the public to discuss EAB, ash tree identification and replacement plantings.
- Activate previously designated ash wood debris marshalling yards.
- Inform citizens of services available to help with tree removals, woody debris management, and tree replacement through local news media outlets and community Web sites.
- Encourage ash wood utilization using portable sawmills. When milling ash wood, sawyers need to be reminded to dispose of the bark debris as determined in their compliance agreement with the MDA and/or the USDA. Typically, ash logs from quarantined areas need to be edged 1/2 inch deeper than normal. The squared-off log needs to be bark free with no insect pockets.
- Contact the MDA for a list of vendors who have compliance agreements with the state for handling ash debris.