As I write this post, I am sitting at my dining room table enjoying the view of my backyard through the window. The centerpiece of our property is a beautiful thirty-year old white ash tree. It stands strong in the middle of our backyard and provides shade throughout the heat of the summer. It puts on a beautiful display in the fall with its leaves turning orange and gold. I can’t imagine living here without it. And yet, I must, because I know that it will eventually succumb to the emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive species of beetle that made its way from northeastern Asia to the US where it was first detected in Michigan in 2002. It has since spread across the U.S., killing tens of millions of ash trees to date. It is expected to kill most of the estimated 8.7 billion ash trees across America.
The severity of this threat inspired the Arbor Day Foundation to create an EAB campaign as part of the Community Tree Recovery program. The initiative was designed to help communities rebuild their tree canopy after being inflicted by natural disaster. The program helps communities in the wake of hurricanes, floods, fires, tornados, and now pests such as the emerald ash borer. The EAB campaign launched last spring in Rochester, New York. This year we expanded the campaign to multiple locations across the U.S. with the support of EAB campaign sponsors like TruGreen.
TruGreen, a company whose motto is “live life outside,” understands the important role trees play not just to communities on a large scale, but to individual homeowners like my family and I. That’s why they made a two-year pledge to support our Community Tree Recovery EAB campaign. This year, more than two thousand free trees were distributed in four communities across the country to help homeowners get a jump start on replacing their ash trees that were lost to the emerald ash borer. TruGreen employees volunteered at each EAB distribution event this spring to personally assist with the effort.
We worked with local nonprofits and municipalities to ensure that appropriate tree species were chosen for each region. A variety of species were distributed in each community to encourage tree diversity. The greater the species diversity, the less susceptible community canopies will be to this magnitude of loss in the future.
As for the ash tree in my yard, I plan to enjoy it while it’s here. I also plan to plant new trees this spring to allow as much time as possible for them to grow before our ash is gone. I am choosing to view this not as a disaster or loss, but as an opportunity. I look forward to exploring new species and selecting one or two new trees to plant in my yard that my family will nurture and enjoy for years to come.