MARION, Iowa — Hundreds of Iowa communities face threats from tree-killing pests, like the emerald ash borer. The Iowa DNR is trying to help cities with more than 5,000 people by training them to catalog and maintain its urban canopy, by offering them a chance to get a grant for training.
“In most of Iowa across the state, there’s probably less than 20 to 40 actual city foresters or arborists or horticulturalists,” said DNR District 12 forester Mark Vitosh.
Vitosh said that’s a problem, especially with the creeping threat of the emerald ash borer, and another bug that goes after a common Iowa tree.
“We have another pest called the Asian Longhorn Beetle, which is in Ohio, Massachusetts, had been in Chicago, New York, and other states, and it basically goes after maple,” Vitosh explained.
The two-year grant will pick 20 cities total over the next two years, each one receiving 40 hours of training from the DNR and other tree experts. Vitosh said they’ll train three people from each city to identify trees, maintain them, take a citywide inventory, and teach them to identify parasite infestations.
The city of Marion took about two years to do a full inventory of its trees, and that will help them decide what to do if the emerald ash borer gets here. However, Marion tree board member Dustin Hinrichs, also of Trees Forever, said the city still wants a staff member specifically dedicated to forestry, and that’s why it’s applying to get this training.
“Residents have to pay a certain amount on their monthly utility bills to help provide that position one day, to be able to staff a professional arborist or forester who can make those technical calls that right now we’re able to make, to a certain degree, but it would certainly be enhanced,” Hinrichs told us.
Hinrichs said more small to mid-size cities need to consider trees as part of their infrastructure.
“There was a lot of requests I think from cities above 5,000 that were not really panicking, but were looking at this emerald ash borer issue coming down the line here, and thinking, we need to do something about this,” Hinrichs said.
Cities wanting to apply for the grant have until September 1st, and can find the application form by visiting http://www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/Forestry/UrbanForestry.aspx