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Save your ash trees, Chicago

Milwaukee started inoculating its 28,000 ash trees in 2009 and has preserved the overwhelming majority, saving tens of millions of dollars in removal costs.  If Milwaukee can do it, Chicago can and should, as well.

Workers take down an ash tree infested by the emerald ash borer in this file photo from 2014.
Workers take down an ash tree on West Addison Street that was infested by the emerald ash borer in this file photo from 2014.
Mark Lawton/Sun-Times Media

We applaud the recent Sun-Times editorial “The world needs more trees. Chicago and Illinois must help” for stating that inoculating Chicago’s mature ash trees is critical to the success of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s climate plans. Older trees sequester 100 times more carbon, remove air pollutants, reduce heat, and retain water in a way young ones do not.

Many of us enjoy our neighborhood trees, but don’t realize trees are silent champions of our health and security. They enable us to breathe easier, boost our immune system, improve our mental health, increase attention span, reduce stress, and even shorten recovery time from illness or surgery. Tree-lined streets enhance property values, reduce heating and cooling costs and lessen crime.

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Importantly, many of the same Chicago neighborhoods whose residents are more vulnerable to COVID, chronic childhood respiratory conditions and violent crime also have at least 25% less tree cover than their wealthier counterparts.

Mayor Lightfoot is wisely planning on expanding our urban forest by planting 15,000 saplings per year, but these won’t replace the benefits of older trees for at least 20 years, and only have a 50% chance of survival.

In October, 42 alderpeople signed a resolution to preserve Chicago’s 50,000 remaining ash trees, while saplings reach maturity. The city has the funds to treat our ash trees, and it is cost-effective. It costs $120 per ash tree to treat them for three years, versus $1,500 to remove and replace a dead one.

For the majority of ash trees to continue to survive they must be treated in spring 2022. We call upon the city to re-establish its ash tree inoculation program.

Milwaukee started inoculating its 28,000 ash trees in 2009 and has preserved the overwhelming majority, saving tens of millions of dollars in removal costs.

If Milwaukee can do it, Chicago can and should, as well.

Karen Daiter, John Friedmann, Maggie O’Keefe, Laura Sabransky and Nancy Wade
Save Your Ash Coalition Chicago

Chicago must keep its working families

Ken Griffin has demonstrated that his nerve equals his wealth. After investing millions in promoting a failing police department via technology, he now says the city is unsafe to live in. It is actually a pretty safe place for people in his tax bracket.

Poorer communities contend with serious public safety problems. They desperately need both social services and a police force that clears as many shootings as those in comparable U.S. cities where a higher percentage of shooters are arrested.

I am worried about the neighborhoods that are losing the working families that hold communities together. Elected officials and philanthropists should value the people who get their kids to school every day, go to work, and shop on the way home. They are irreplaceable.

Ken Griffin has given generously to support many of Chicago’s finest cultural institutions and public assets. I hope he will continue to enjoy living in my favorite city. But we need to strengthen social supports while reforming our criminal justice system to keep all Chicagoans safer.

Rebecca Janowitz, Near North Side