Local government and homeowners have struggled to determine what makes more economic sense: cut down ash trees infected with emerald ash borer; or, treat trees with an insecticide that kills the invasive insect. The average cost of removing a tree in the metro Chicago area is around $1,000. That cost includes cutting the tree down, grinding the stump and replacing the tree with a young sapling. Typically left out of the equation is the value that mature trees contribute to home values, which research indicates ranges from five to seventeen percent.
Treating trees costs approximately 70 dollars on the low end to more than 200 dollars on the high end. The lower number is the approximate cost for a city’s forestry crew to treat a tree. The higher number is a ballpark figure on what a homeowner is charged. Both numbers are based on a 17-inch diameter ash tree, which is the average size.
Using the city of Chicago’s every third year treatment regimen, a tree could be treated for more than 40 years on the low end of the range before incurring the cost or removal. On the high end, a tree can be treated for more than 15 years.
The drought of 2012 is doing its best to change these numbers. Many villages such as Lisle, that undertook a “remove and replace” strategy, are finding that the new trees are not surviving in these conditions. Government is also spending to water trees on parkways while thousands of trees being planted to replace ash are being lost. This means that the young trees have to be removed and new trees purchased and planted. The actual cost to remove an ash in light of this is rising dramatically, perhaps by as much as $300. Which means that the treatment alternative can be done for between 20 and 55 years for the same cost as removal.
It is unclear why governments with budget challenges would choose to incur the high cost of removing a tree when it is completely avoidable. For those areas where the infestation is not yet too advanced it makes sense to analyze the different emerald ash borer management options from a financial perspective.