In Chicago, March and green usually refer to the tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green for St Patrick’s Day. The green dye is the same one used to detect if septic tanks or other plumbing are leaking directly into surface water.
A new shade of emerald green is in the Chicago area and not just on St Patrick’s Day. The emerald ash borer is making its presence felt in the Chicago area where ash trees are about 20 percent of their urban forest. The emerald ash borer kills 100 percent of the North American ash trees it infests. Unlike the Asian longhorn beetle infestation that killed a number of maples, poplars, willows and elms before it was eradicated by 2004, the EAB is not easily controlled and unlikely to go away.
The Chicago area will be receiving a grant of about $1 million dollars to address the EAB problem. This sounds like a lot of money. However, removing a mature ash tree can cost around $500 per tree. $1 million would pay for the removal of only 2000 trees. Des Plains, which detected the EAB just last year, has 3000 ash trees.
The cost of removing mature trees has communities scrambling to develop management plans. Some areas in Michigan, where the EAB first appeared, have many standing, mature, dead ash trees and not enough money to remove them. These trees are a threat to life, limb and property when they are toppled by strong winds, crashing into houses and crushing cars. Many communities have learned from Michigan and are planning for the invasion by diversifying the species of tress they plant and removing ash trees while they small and cheaper to remove.
While the US benefits from global trade, we also have increased costs due to invasive species such as emerald ash borer.