The effects of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) crisis are devastating and
well documented. While great efforts
are being made to counteract and slow the effects of the infestation, the loss
of the ash canopy is taking a financial and environmental toll nationally,
especially in urban areas. A haunting aspect
is that EAB is only one of many exotic species introductions gone awry. Around the globe, large scale canopy loss is
underway caused by a variety of insects, diseases, competitor plants and even
climate change. Arborists and Urban
Forest Managers find themselves on the front line of these canopy crises with
the primary responsibility of mitigating the hazards associated with dead and
declining trees. Effective urban forest
programs should focus on two concepts when dealing with threats to the canopy: Primarily, how best to address the current
canopy crisis and secondarily, how to better prepare for the next. The former requires logistics and is largely
dependent upon the lead time to the crisis and the amount of resources
allocated to it. The latter is a
strategy used to recognize opportunities within a current crisis and to use
them to attain goals that better prepare programs for future threats.
While presenting the components of Columbus’ Emerald Ash Borer
Project, this presentation will identify
the four areas of opportunity that have materialized to advance Columbus Recreation
and Parks’ (CRPD) Forestry program and improve Columbus’ tree canopy as a
whole. These areas of opportunity are:
– An 11 year project totaling
$10 Million is underway to address Columbus’ EAB crisis. Managed by Columbus City Forestry, this
resource has been used to hire project management and support staff, procure
equipment and supplies, and hire contractors to supplement large tree removal,
stump grinding and canopy replacement projects.
The influx of resources has breathed ‘new life’ into the Forestry
Section in the form of increased crew morale, greater efficiencies and
productivity, and a development of proactive management strategies.
Integration – a portion of the EAB resources were used to develop a
Forestry GIS and data management system.
To accurately identify, inventory and geo-locate ash trees in Columbus,
the existing street tree inventory was converted to a GIS platform. This data is being implemented to assign
work, create efficient inspection routing for staff and forecast areas of
impact city wide. A complete GIS based tree
inventory and analysis of the City’s 250+ developed parks is underway, creating
a realistic representation of not only the EAB impact but also the current
state of each park’s canopy. This
baseline information is used in planning the replanting effort, with a primary
emphasis on diversity and increasing canopy cover, and communicating
maintenance needs to CRPD Administration.
Parallel with this effort, is the
implementation of a new work order system that is asset (individual tree) based
rather than address based. The existence
of Forestry GIS has allowed for a seamless transition to the new system.
with Momentum – Recognizing partnerships that can assist in accomplishing
Forestry goals is key to developing programs ready for future challenges. It
would be shortsighted to think of the EAB crisis as just a tree removal
project. In fact, City Forestry refers
to the EAB crisis as a canopy replacement project. It can be argued that diversity and available space
(above and below ground) are now the two most important characteristics when
considering an urban forest canopy. The large
scale canopy loss caused by EAB and related factors has generated concern and
discussion in municipal sustainability networks worldwide. Aligning urban forest canopy concerns with current
municipal sustainability efforts has proven successful. Mayor Michael Coleman considers Columbus’ municipal
sustainability of primary importance, and has led a robust sustainability
effort in Central Ohio. Recognizing canopy loss as a major threat to
Columbus’ livability, The Green Space Working Group of the Mayor’s Green Team
developed a recommendation paper, to Columbus’ Elected Officials and
Administration, focused on the importance of tree preservation and increased canopy
cover throughout the City. These efforts,
in turn, have leveraged partnerships with the Ohio DNR and the American
Sustainability Directors Network. These
partnerships are essential in seeking out grant opportunities aimed at developing
iTree based tools and guidelines for Planners and Developers that highlight the
importance of increased tree canopy in Urban environments.
– With a crisis, like Emerald Ash Bore, comes attention. It is at these moments that accomplishments,
limitations and forecasts must be communicated to Elected Officials,
Administration and the citizenry as a whole to leverage solutions. These solutions need to focus on the current
situation and becoming better prepared for the next. Examples include, calculating the environmental
benefits lost to EAB via iTree and using the data in monthly staff reports,
progress meetings and publishing an annual EAB Progress Report with copies made
available to decision makers citywide.
Currently in development is a web based interactive GIS map that
documents the progress of our EAB efforts.
Citizens can go to the map to answer questions on schedules from tree
removals to replacement plantings.
These advancements and data are especially useful for media questions,
interviews, and inquiries of progress.
All of these
opportunities are interrelated with the development of one strengthening the
others. While these opportunities listed
may be unique to Columbus, the important component is being able to recognize
these opportunities as they present themselves. Make no mistake; it is the challenging periods,
the periods during crisis that will define our Urban Forest programs. Look for the Silver Lining, take advantage of
opportunity and make decisions that build programs prepared for future