Iowa lawmakers will be asked to pump money into an effort to help landowners take action against destructive insects that kill ash trees. The Coalition for Iowa’s Woodlands and Trees is asking for $3.8-million in state funding for grants and matching money for federal dollars. Trees Forever is the lead group and president Shannon Ramsay says Iowa’s cities and towns are ill-prepared for the emerald ash borer and need help to inventory trees, remove threatened ash varieties, then replant.
“It’s so early yet, that’s why we think it would be proactive to have grants to help communities really plan this carefully, rather than wait until it’s an emergency situation,” Ramsay says. “You can’t let the trees just sit on the street and fall apart, it can be dangerous. Communities are forced to do some things and find ways to fund it.”
The coalition includes groups from nut growers to the National Wild Turkey Federation. Ramsay says a multi-billion dollar economy is at stake, including wood products, environmental benefits and tourism. “We also focus a lot on all the things forests do for us,” she says. “They actually attract visitors and people will spend more in a business district that has lots of trees. We want people to recognize it’s not just environmental benefits and energy savings but it’s also economic benefits.”
Coalition leaders will be asking Iowa legislators to fund the project after lawmakers convene January 13th. The emerald ash borer is the major concern and Ramsay says cities and towns need help to remove ash trees and to replant. “What we don’t want to see are communities taking their trees out and not replacing them,” she says. “That’s going to have to a very negative, long-term effect on their economic development, on their overall quality of life.”
Among other things, the Woodlands Coalition proposes community grants for tree removal and replacement, rural landowner incentives, technical assistance and monitoring forest health. One estimate finds it will cost more than three-billion dollars to eliminate all ash trees from Iowa’s communities as the ash borer infestation marches forward.
There are thought to be more than three-million ash trees in Iowa’s urban areas. Including rural areas, the state has up to 60-million ash trees.