Fitchburg prepared as emerald ash borer reaches Dane County

Scott Girard

While some local communities are choosing to remove ash trees in response to the arrival of emerald ash borer, Fitchburg plans to keep its tree landscape as intact as possible.

Over the past couple of years, the city has taken a proactive approach to EAB, the beetle native to East Asia that has spread across the Midwest over the last decade, by putting aside money to inject and save 151 of the approximately 800 public ash trees in the city.

The city also began a “Save-An-Ash” program, offering residents a chance to adopt an ash tree at $1.60 per circumference in 2013 to sponsor a treatment, and received around $4,600 in donations, city forester Ed Bartell said.

Bartell said the city had “half-assumed it was already here,” and began treating the trees in the spring as if that were the case.

“We wanted to get ahead of the wave in treating our public trees,” Bartell said.

Dane County parks director Darren Marsh told the county will let local communities handle the initial response, and step in only if the beetle spreads more rapidly than expected and it becomes an emergency situation.

“Many of our communities have really stepped up and done a really good job to develop a plan for dealing with EAB,” Marsh said. “I think Dane County communities are really positioned well to handle the issues locally.”

Fitchburg’s common council has shown a dedication to that local approach, approving additional funding for the city to treat its entire ash tree population.

Bartell said the exact amount approved has not been decided, as the city still needs to assess the trees and ensure they’re all treatable. He expects $9,000-$10,000 dollars to cover the treatments, though he cautioned that might be a high estimate.

“We’re fortunate we have a common council that believes in keeping our street trees…in place  so that we don’t have to spend money to remove and replace them,” he said, adding that some studies have shown it’s cheaper to treat the trees than remove and replace them.

Marsh encouraged private home owners to take this opportunity to identify the trees they have in their yards, and make a decision on whether to have their ash trees removed or treated, which would require injections every two to three years.

Prior to the confirmed case in Madison, it had not been found in Dane County, though it had been confirmed as close as 28 miles away in Janesville.

Dane now joins surrounding Rock, Jefferson, Dodge and Sauk counties, along with 16 others throughout Wisconsin, as quarantined for exporting ash wood products and hardwood firewood.

Private citizens are also prohibited from taking firewood from Dane County to non-quarantine counties, and campers in parks in Dane county cannot bring leftover firewood home with them if they live outside of the county.

Marsh added that since 2007, when county officials traveled to northing Illinois to see how communities infested with EAB were handling it, the county has taken a proactive approach, encouraging municipalities to inventory their ash trees, develop sites to bring wood waste to and explore options for using wood waste for carpentry or other activities.

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