City of Madison

Former City of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's Blog

Time to Plan for Ash Borer

October 1, 2010 1:35 PM

Fall is a time when we notice our trees more than ever. So, it's a good time to start thinking seriously about the biggest threat to our urban forest in a generation.

I grew up in the Milwaukee area during the 1960s when Dutch Elm Disease wiped out the beautiful cathedral-like tree canopy that once arched over virtually every street in that city. It was heart-breaking to watch the trees come down one after another.

Unfortunately, we're facing a similar threat today here in Madison and all over the eastern half of the nation. The trees in danger are ashes and the culprit this time is the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). There are about 42,000 publicly owned ash trees in street terraces and parks and more in private spaces. The ash borer has been confirmed in northern Illinois at a site that is only 62 miles from Madison. Scientists tell us it is inevitable that it will arrive here, though no one can predict when.

So the thing to do is to use this time before it comes to prepare a plan. I asked our city Forestry Section to work with other relevant city agencies to prepare a report with background on the issue and a set of options. That excellent report is now completed and you can read it at

Now I've asked that same staff team to go out into our neighborhoods and hold public information sessions in which they can provide the public with the latest in what we know and the options we have before us and to hear back from neighbors about what they think is the best solution. Meetings have been scheduled for Thursday, October 21 at the Central Library and Wednesday, November 3 at the Lussier Community Center. Both Meetings are from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

There's no way around it. This is going to be difficult and expensive. But if we provide information to the public, proceed from a science-based approach and focus on the long-term best interests of the urban forest, we'll recover just as we did from the Dutch Elm outbreak of forty years ago.


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