Fall-DriveA first-of-its-kind study of the urban forest in Iowa’s largest city is now underway. The Des Moines Public Works Department and the non-profit group, Tree Des Moines, is conducting the inventory of trees.

Des Moines Public Works director Jonathan Gano says the two groups will pool $200,000 to take a count of all trees on public land citywide.

“It’s not just a count but it’s also an assessment of their health and also any hazards that they may pose,” Gano says. “We are not quite sure exactly how many trees there are in the city and we’re seeking to solve that with this effort.”

More than 20 Iowa counties have confirmed infestations of the emerald ash borer, which can wipe out ash trees. Gano says with the recent discovery of EAB in the metro area, the inventory will help identify trees at risk.

“We can then take proactive measures to mitigate that, to plant appropriate trees in the appropriate places, and also deal with any hazards that may come up in the future,” Gano says. “It lets us find the highest risk trees out there and also then direct proactive maintenance resources to them instead of just waiting for something bad to happen and then reacting to it.”

Thousands of trees are lost each year to insects like the emerald ash borer and to diseases like oak wilt, oak blight and other threats. Gano says the tree assessment will take several weeks.

(Thanks to Julie Englander, Iowa Public Radio)