Omaha, Council Bluffs respond to emerald ash borer infestation

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Officials in Omaha and Council Bluffs are taking different approaches toward handling an expected infestation of an ash tree-killing insect.
Omaha plans to treat up to 5,000 of its 11,000 ash trees and gradually to remove the rest, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
Across the state border in Council Bluffs, officials plan to treat most of the 1,260 ash trees on city property and then evaluate the situation in 10 years. Crews in Council Bluffs removed 30 unhealthy trees last year and treated 200 others. Workers will treat about 1,000 trees this spring.
Communities have found the infestation problem more complicated with homeowners who have ash trees on their property. Those homeowners have to decide whether or not to treat the trees with insecticide after considering the value of the tree.
“It’s not a one and done sort of treatment,” Nebraska Forest Service forester Graham Herbst said.
According to Herbst, professional treatment of ash trees can start at $100 or $200 depending on tree size. The treatment must be done every one to two years.
Officials must take action because of the emerald ash borer. Since being found in 2002 in Michigan, the green insect has killed millions of trees across the country. The beetle was discovered in Omaha in the spring, causing the University of Nebraska in Lincoln — about 50 miles away — to take action before even finding the insect in their area. The university plans this year to treat about 10 percent of the 368 ash trees on campus, while taking down many of them.
Herbst said ash trees have a life span of about 30 to 50 years in urban areas and even longer life spans outside cities. Omaha parks director Brook Bench said it’s important to get rid of unhealthy ash trees in areas people frequently visit — such as golf courses, playgrounds and trails — because infected tree limbs can fall.