Aggressive plan would address infestation on City property;
Educate public on private property options
RAPID CITY, SD--If there was an alarm bell in Council Chambers Tuesday (May 1), City Urban Forester Andy Bernard would have been ringing a cautionary tone.
Bernard made a presentation to the City's Public Works Committee, outlining a possible threat to the City's 40,000 Ash trees by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and proposing a management plan for ash trees on City property. The EAB, found in Michigan in 2002, has decimated ash tree populations across much of the eastern United States and is moving westward, having been found in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado.
The Public Works Committee voted to adopt the management plan. The City Council will take up the plan at Monday night's meeting.
Ash trees represent one in every five trees in the City. Bernard estimates the breakdown of Ash trees in the City as 26,000 on private property, 10,000 on street boulevard areas and 4,000 in parks and other City-owned property.
"Once EAB has established itself in an area, no ash tree is safe," Bernard wrote in an April 24 letter to Mayor Steve Allender and the City Council. "It is impossible to destroy the population. Once EAB is found here, it is here for good."
The City's Parks Department and Urban Forestry Board is presenting information on the Borer to City officials and believe it is in Rapid City's best interest to develop a management plan to deal with the impacts. Bernard believes portions of the plan can be implemented now, such as taking actions on City property, educating homeowners on actions they can take on private property and strengthening the health and increasing species diversity of the urban forest.
Once the insect is identified in the City, Bernard says it will be important to identify infested trees and streamline the biomass process to minimize damage from the insect.
Using federal and state data and input from agency personnel, a plan has been developed with a recommendation for adoption by the City Council coming from the City's Parks Department, Urban Forestry Board and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Among the plan's recommendations include homeowners to stop planting ash trees, remove young ash trees and older declining ash trees. Citizens and visitors to the area are urged not to bring in firewood from neighboring states as firewood is a convenient EAB carrier. No chemical treatment for EAB is recommended until an infestation is identified in the area.
"Once EAB is established in an area, it is assumed to be present indefinitely," Bernard said in his letter to the mayor and Council. "All ash in Rapid City will be affected by an EAB infestation. Only trees that are treated for the entirety of their life will be spared from EAB infestation.
"It is expected that ash tree losses to the city will be near 100 percent. The plan will be followed indefinitely."
Bernard says the City has not planted ash trees for nearly 10 years and is focused on increasing species diversity of City trees. The plan calls for the City to begin this summer to conduct a full street tree and park inventory, to be completed by 2020. Beginning immediately, the City would start reducing the ash stock in the managed park areas by 100 trees per year. Suitable ash logs would be turned into boards for use in park projects and other ash wood would be mulched or available to be cut for firewood.
Efforts will be made to preserve what is called Legacy trees, which are trees over 12 inches in diameter and can be shown to provide an exceptional benefit to the City; Memorial trees that have been donated to the City by private citizens and most of these are in Memory Lane or the Arboretum; mature ash trees in the downtown area that are in good condition; and large diameter ash trees in the West Boulevard historic district.
Darrell W. Shoemaker | Communications Coordinator
T: 605.721.6686 | M: 605.939.8551