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Elm Grove forester says ash borer will force village to spend more

April 29, 2014

While there have not been any documented cases of the destructive emerald ash borer making its way into Elm Grove, village officials have asserted it is a matter of when, not if, the munching beetle makes its foray into the heavily wooded community.

Village Forester Ron Hill spoke about the issue Monday at a Village Board meeting. Officials did not make any decisions, but Hill suggested he might ask for additional funding this year to take preventive measures against the destructive insect.

With documented cases at State Fair Park in West Allis and Frame Park in Waukesha, Hill said, he is all but certain the beetle will make its way into Elm Grove — if it has not already done so.

"I'm sure it's here, somewhere, in Elm Grove, just in low numbers," Hill said. "This insect doesn't care about boundaries."

As he gave a presentation to the board, Hill pointed to a number of reasons community members should be concerned about the insect and its destruction. He asserted an infestation of the beetle could result in lower property values and a higher likelihood of air pollution.

In an attempt at being proactive, Hill said, he is considering a treatment that could be injected into ash trees. The treatment, which is effective anywhere from two to five years, will kill the beetle upon contact.

Since there are a large number of ash trees throughout Wisconsin, Hill said he believed treatments and preventive measures will remain a part of the village's plan well into the future.

"Once (the beetle) gets here, this is going to impact our budget," Hill said. "This is an insect that has been known to eat through trees that are anywhere from 2 to 40 inches in diameter."

According to the most recent tree inventory statistics, Hill said, about 15 percent of trees on village-owned property are part of the ash family. Each year, between 60 and 80 trees in the species are removed in the village. In many cases, the trees are replaced by another tree species.

Village President Neil Palmer said he agreed it is prudent to put financial resources behind emerald ash borer tree treatments. He further suggested a cooperative effort be taken with neighboring government agencies.

"We need to get ahead of this," Palmer said. "Once it hits, we're going to have a whole lot of people around us who will be dealing with this as well. As a board, we've tried to be in front of this from day one. This is a major issue."

Plans call for Hill and the board to further discuss a long-range plan in the months ahead. It is possible the village could dip into contingency funds this year to increase spending toward treatment efforts.

Hill pointed out the city of Milwaukee annually places $1.5 million into its budget to treat ash trees.

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