By ABRAHAM FEIGENBAUM/Montana State News
On Wednesday night a town hall meeting addressed the outbreak of the emerald ash borer, a green tree-eating beetle that is slowly making its way across the country, approaching Montana.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the nearest signs of emerald ash borer to Bozeman are present in northern Colorado, while the bulk of the outbreak of beetles is in the Midwest.
Scott Makoutz, owner of Gallatin Tree Care and member of the Bozeman Tree Board, delivered a presentation on the impending threats to Bozeman’s urban forest, while outlining his plan to hire a full-time urban forester who would spearhead a community powered tree-planting campaign.
According to Makoutz, it is necessary to begin diversifying our trees now before the disease gets here. Diversifying the tree population in the Bozeman area, where Ash trees are very popular, is the best way to defend against the little, green tree-killing beetles.
Makoutz estimated that the urban forester, who’s job would include conducting outreach programs to educate citizens about the dangers of planting Green Ash, would earn a salary somewhere between 50-$65,000 per year. He estimated the plan would cost the taxpayer about 25 dollars per year.
Citizens both for and against Makoutz’s plan were present at the town meeting.
Gary Simmons, a Bozeman resident, feared “that these trickle-taxes were slowly taking priority” over more important issues. Simmons thought the tax money could be spent beneficially for the community in other ways. He said, “We have about 110 cops working in a building designed for 65.”
Montana State University Environmental Services Manager E.J. Hook supported the plan and said that a similar plan is in place for reforesting the MSU campus.
“It can be a long process with a lot of unforseens, so sometimes progress can feel slow. But we’re really cultivating a good tree culture here at MSU. For instance, in the past we would clear all the trees off of a construction zone, but now we do our best to save what we can,” said Hook.
The city is trying to proactively cultivate a varied tree population by inspiring a tree-aware culture in Bozeman. Because they cannot force Bozeman residents to plant or not plant certain trees on private property, city officials hope to educate citizens so that they won’t plant Ash trees.
Bozeman Mayor Jeff Krauss said, “Although certain cost-share tree-planting programs urge citizens to plant trees that will help maintain a diverse population, this is still America. If someone wants to plant a green ash in their backyard, we can’t stop them.”
If Makoutz’s plan to hire an urban forester is not passed, the alternative is to hire a private company to maintain and diversify city-owned trees. He estimated the cost at, “two to three million dollars over the next three years.”
– Edited by Morgan Brown