Ash Tree Management

Before the infestation known as the Emerald Ash Borer, the Milwaukee County Parks Forestry Department was focused on tree planting and trimming.  Now, with the staggering rise in infested and dying ash trees, they have had to refocus their efforts into almost exclusively tree removal. 

Why have so many trees in my park been cut down? Over the past decade, thousands of Ash trees in Milwaukee County Parks – and millions across the Midwest – have been infested/killed by Emerald Ash Borer. Dead and declined trees cause many safety concerns.  The affected trees can lose large limbs, or worse, be subject to a total height, catastrophic failure. Parks Forestry staff are committed to tree removal in the parks high-use public areas as a safety priority. Often times, it is most effective to remove all infested trees in a park at once, rather than coming back and only removing a few at a time. As such, a Park may have 50+ trees removed in a very short time.  

What is Emerald Ash Borer? Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive wood beetle that can kill ash trees within 2-4 years after infection.  It has been described as producing extensive tree damage while carrying the impact of a slow-moving hurricane across tree communities. 

When will parks replace the removed trees? It could be several years before removed trees are replaced, and there are several reasons for this. First, after tree removal, the ground is often unsuitable for immediate replanting. In some park locations, additional tree removals are still required, so Forestry are unable to plant new trees as they could be damaged by the removal of nearby trees. Further, to align with best practices, forestry professionals recommend staggering tree plantings such that a park would achieve a range of tree species and ages. This may mean only some trees are replanted with additional plantings in the future. Some parks were also “over-planted”, meaning that tree density in some locations was more than recommended (note that open park spaces are different than natural park spaces). Lastly, budget and staff limitations do not allow us to replant trees at the same rate of removal. In time, Forestry will eventually replant many trees, but that may be 5, 10 years or more down the line in some cases. 

What is the timeline of this project? The Forestry Department has been actively removing ash trees since 2011.  They are in the middle of this process and can start to see light at the end of the tunnel. As long as they stay funded and staffed, they could be through the main EAB battle by 2030.

At that time, they will start to refocus efforts toward trimming and planting once again.

Silver Lining: The removed trees do not just go to waste.  Through a growing wood utilization effort, logs are recycled as lumber for flooring, furniture, or firewood and wood chips can be used as mulch in landscape applications.

What can I do to help? Milwaukee County Parks accepts donations to support tree replanting efforts in our Parks, especially in response to Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and other tree removals through the Community Tree Program.  

Where can I report a hazardous tree or branch?  Report an Issue Please use our  page.

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