Rutland leaders approve plan to take down ash trees

RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) Rutland will remove hundreds of ash trees before the emerald ash borer gets to them. The Board of Aldermen voted Monday night for the removal of trees in the urban areas.

In Rutland, it really comes down to the money. No one wants to cut down trees but City Arborist David Schneider says it could help save other trees and diversify the urban forest.

"It's kind of being placed between a rock and a hard place," Schneider said.

The city is facing a tough decision-- cut down 345 ash trees or try to save them using insecticide. Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Wennberg says treating all of the trees would cost 10-15 years of annual tree budgets. That's anywhere from $200,000 to $600,000 total.

"We wouldn't have money to do anything else, so that's beyond our capability. That's simply not an option," Wennberg said.

He says removal would be a larger one-time payment but cheaper in the long run.

Schneider says it's better to cut the trees down sooner rather than later.

"Our assistant forester is a professional tree climber," he said. "Unfortunately, once the trees die they become very brittle and they can no longer be climbed safely."

Wennberg says right now they're proposing 200 trees be removed by the city's foresters. The city would have to hire a contractor to take down the other trees. They're also exploring the idea of saving about 10 trees.

"Particularly excellent examples or the ones that would be particularly expensive to remove and are otherwise undamaged and are worthy of saving," he said.

Vermont State Entomologist Judy Rosovsky says chopping down these uninfested trees isn't a panicked reaction. She says it could be a good plan for the city.

"Especially for their urban trees, because you're going to have to take trees down, deal with traffic, get equipment in," Rosovsky said.

Schneider says there's not really any money in it for the city. He says green ash trees have little to no market value, so these trees would probably just end up as firewood. With any money they save, Wennberg says they can replant trees of different varieties to help bolster their urban forest.

"We like to work with nature, as opposed to try to defeat her," he said.

Rosovsky says cutting down the trees could be a smart idea for Rutland, but that doesn't mean it's right for the ash trees in your own backyard. She says you should consult an arborist before you reach for that chainsaw.