Minneapolis Tree Council recommends city help homeowners replace ash trees

When you look down at Minneapolis from the air, the green canopy of hundreds of trees, it’s hard to imagine a gap. But here it is. Emerald Ash Borer will soon make more holes.

“Most of the urban forest is actually on private property, but if the trees disappear, it’s very difficult to replace them,” said Ralph Sievert, director of forestry for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Commission.

“If we lose more trees to the emerald ash borer on private property, the entire city’s canopy will lose more trees.”

On Wednesday, a Minneapolis City Council committee will hear the annual report of the Minneapolis Tree Advisory Committee, which works hand-in-hand with the Parks Commission. Their advice to council is to help homeowners pay for tree replacements.

Over the past eight years, the city has replaced 40,000 ash trees in its streets and parks. The project is now complete. But it is estimated that there are three times as many dying ash trees on private property.

In its annual report, the Minneapolis Tree Advisory Council noted a study showing the benefits of tree canopies over landscapes.

“Yes, there’s actually a lot of U.S. Forest Service research,” Sievert said, “which shows that the more tree canopy cover, the lower the crime rate.”

Reducing crime, improving mental health and lowering energy costs are among the effects of a large number of trees, the report said. But poorer parts of the city already have fewer trees than others, and dying ash trees only threaten a wider gap.

The city already funds homeowners about 1,000 low-cost trees each year, but Sievert said that could easily triple based on demand.

With the looming loss of 120,000 trees on private property, the need for help keeping the canopy in its current state is only going to grow.

“In the past we thought trees were beautiful, and now we think trees are a necessity,” Sievert said. “Because they just make a city more liveable.”

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