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Chicago debates saving or sacrificing ash trees

October 9, 2021 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago environmental advocates want the city to put some of its federal coronavirus relief money toward saving ash trees.

The city in 2008 began an inoculation program for ash trees, aiming to protect them against the emerald ash borer beetle. But the program ended in 2018 and the city decided to let the remaining 50,000 ash trees die off.

At a budget hearing this week, advocates said it’s cheaper to treat the trees now than to remove and replace those killed by the invasive beetles.

WBEZ-FM reports that Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Malcolm Whiteside questioned that approach. He said treatment would only protect the trees for a short time and the city will eventually have to pay the higher cost of removing and replacing them.

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Daniella Pereira with the conservation group Openlands said the city could focus on large, healthy trees and potentially keep them standing for decades.

“In terms of their leaf surface area, they are one of the larger leaves that we have,” Pereira said. “So … we have to remember that if we lose an ash tree, we’re losing a significant amount of canopy.”