Ash borer 1, London 0 | London Free Press

Trees: Despite spending $640,000 to fight it, the infestation has spread across the city

Last Updated: July 18, 2010 8:09pm

London has lost the battle to stop the emerald ash borer and its forestry officials don’t have the money to replace all the thousands of ash trees expected to die from the infestation.

In a report to Monday’s meeting of council’s environment and transportation committee, urban forester Ivan Listar says monitoring programs run by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have pulled out of London because the infestation has spread across the city.

“We expect that the number of ash trees infested will increase exponentially over time,” Listar says in the report.

The city set aside $640,000 to fight the infestation that included removing and chipping the diseased trees, injecting the most valuable trees to stave off the infestation and planting 1,485 new trees in ash-dominant neighbourhoods. But that money is gone and the city’s appeals for more financial help from senior governments have been refused.

Listar estimates it would cost $10 million to eventually remove and replace about 10,000 ash trees in managed parks and boulevards. But he says it’s hard to predict when the majority of ash trees will need to be replaced and the removal and replanting of diseased trees will be covered in current budgets for now.

For the short term, city crews will remove any ash trees they encounter that are badly deteriorated or pose a safety risk.

But Listar warns funding will have to be stepped up in the future as more trees die.

“Our current planting program size and funding is not designed to accommodate an increase in mortality and the visual and leaf cover loss due to emerald ash borer,” he says.

City engineer Pat McNally said the loss of the ash tree will be a blow to the city’s reforestation effort.

“We would rather be enhancing the tree cover but we have to deal with this as best we can,” McNally said.

A recent tree count study completed by the city showed ash made up about 10% of city’s tree population of 4.4 million.

The emerald ash borer is a wood-boring beetle native to China and eastern Asia that attacks all species of ash trees.

The bugs were found in Michigan in 2002 and have moved relentlessly eastward, landing in London in 2006.

hank.daniszewski@sunmedia.ca

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Council briefs

Last Updated: July 19, 2010 9:57pm

Request to lift ban fails

A city politician wondered if an exemption could be made to the pesticide ban to allow London to battle the dreaded emerald ash borer. The federal agency charged with monitoring the bug’s spread, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, has left town, leaving London alone to deal with the citywide infestation. Controller Bud Polhill asked if a pesticide could be used to kill them off, but city staff said no such option exists and the city is “just trying to get as much use out of the ash trees as we can now because there’s no way to stop the pest.”

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