Minneapolis tree commission to recommend city helps homeowners replace ash trees

When you view Minneapolis from the air, a green canopy of hundreds of thousands of trees, it’s hard to imagine there are gaps.  But there are.  And the Emerald Ash Borer is soon to be creating even more holes.

"Most of the urban forest is actually on private property, yet that’s where, as trees disappear, it’s harder to get them replaced," says Ralph Sievert, the Director of Forestry for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

"And as we lose more trees to Emerald Ash Borer on private property, there’s going to be more trees lost in the overall canopy of the city."

On Wednesday, a Minneapolis City Council committee will hear the annual report from the Minneapolis Tree Advisory Commission, which works hand in hand with the park board. And their advice to the city council is to help homeowners with the cost of replacing trees.

For the past eight years, the city has replaced 40,000 ash trees along streets and in parks.  That project is now complete. But the estimate is there are three times that many soon-to-die ash trees on private property.

What the Minneapolis Tree Advisory Commission notes in its annual report, is research that shows the benefit of a tree canopy that goes beyond the scenery.

"Yeah, there’s actually been a lot of US Forest Service research," says Sievert, "that shows the more the canopy cover, the lower the crime is."

Lower crime, better mental health, and lower energy costs are among the effects of an abundance of trees, the report says.   But poorer areas of the city already have fewer trees than other areas and the dying Ash trees only threaten to make that gap larger.

The city already funds about 1,000 low-cost trees to homeowners each year, but Sievert says that could easily be tripled, based on demand.

Based on the looming loss of 120,000 trees on private property, the need for help keeping the canopy as it is now is only growing.

"It used to be we thought of trees as niceties, and now the saying is we think of trees as necessities," said Sievert. "Because they just make a city more livable."