That’s the message the Town is sending out to residents, who will be the deciding factor in whether the majority of Oakville’s ash tree canopy can be saved from the destructive emerald ash borer beetle.
The Town has launched a community outreach program, the Oakville Canopy Club, to encourage residents to help save the town’s tree canopy.
Since 2002, the invasive Asian beetle has killed more than 20 million ash trees in North America. It was first discovered in Oakville in 2008. If not managed, infestation could potentially kill all of the estimated 175,000 ash trees south of Dundas Street.
The Town has set a goal to protect 75 per cent of the ash canopy cover on streets and parkland. Yet, about 80 per cent of Oakville’s treatable ash tree canopy is on private property.
“Unless private ash tree owners engage with, support and follow the lead of the Town, most of the ash canopy in Oakville will be lost to EAB,” concludes a Town report.
While the emerald ash borer is a significant threat to the trees, Town staff says healthy and structurally sound ash trees can be saved if residents choose to treat them.
The Oakville Canopy Club aims to encourage residents to treat healthy ash trees, remove dead or dying trees to minimize the spread of the insect, dispose of infected trees properly, replant new species of trees and spread the word about the infestation.
On Monday, Council received a report that estimates the cost to save the ash trees at about $2.8 million a year for the next six years, with ongoing expenses to last for 10 to 15 years.
Town staff estimates not attempting to save the trees would cost about $3.6 million a year in removal and replacement costs.
That report will be forwarded to Oakville’s elected federal and provincial politicians, along with a request for funding assistance.
Council also approved a resolution drafted by a group of municipalities and non-governmental organizations calling on the provincial government to establish urban forestry programs to provide municipalities with support and funding for managing urban forests and dealing with invasive species like the emerald ash borer.
Since 2008, Oakville has been using an ash tree injection program to combat the spread of the species and treating trees with bio-insecticide known as TreeAzin.
A staff report suggests the program has been very successful, noting, “the EAB population in Oakville did not spread as rapidly between 2009 and 2010 as models would otherwise have predicted.”
Oakvillegreen Conservation Association threw its support behind the Town plan Monday.
“With 200,000 ash trees in Oakville, we have a lot to lose,” said Liz Benneian of Oakvillegreen.
Residents can learn more about the Oakville Canopy Club and check out an interactive map to determine if they have an ash tree at http://www.oakville.ca/eab.htm.