In the next five years, the city will be faced with major tree declines due to weather, disease and insect damage, city officials said Monday.
The city forester, Tony Gliot, presented to the city council a dire forecast, saying that city can expected to pay a lot more in tree care and removal.
"I don't have a lot of good news to tell you," Gliot said to the council. "Insects, weather and (old) age of the trees means deaths will increase and that means removal costs will increase and tree planting will increase."
To manage the problem, Gliot proposed the city hire an additional city forester, implement a tree registry and add money to the budget for tree removal, disease control and related programs.
All of what Gliot requested will be part of the city's budget process, which will likely not start up again until later this year.
"You're asking a lot for good reason," said Alderman Daniel Knight. "Conceptually, I get it, but you're going to have to prove it."
Gliot said he'd be back before the council with a more comprehensive presentation during budget discussions to press his case.
He added that about 45 percent of the city-owned trees – not including residents' trees – are at high risk of being destroyed.
Dutch elm disease and emerald ash borer beetle infestations will be large drivers of the expected tree die off, he said.
The city currently has about 2,000 parkway ash trees, which translates into 1 in 10 street trees. In that last 15 months, the city has removed 250 ash trees and between 100 and 150 more should be removed, he said. The city expects to remove about 400 more in 2013, he said.
If the current trend continues, the city can expect to lose 90 percent of its ash trees in the next five years, Gliot said. The Dutch elm die off will likely not be as severe but most of the city's larger trees are elm trees. That menas the city's tree canopy will significantly decline, he said.
"This will create a[n] increase in the necessity for tree removal and a drastic reduction in the city's tree canopy," Gliot said.