CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – State Senator Timothy Kennedy (D-Buffalo) is proposing a state tax credit to help homeowners remove trees that have infected or killed by the emerald ash borer. The cost of removing a mature ash tree can range from $500 to $1,500, and if there are several ash trees, the unexpected cost for a homeowner can be staggering.
State officials estimate there are nearly one billion ash trees in New York–about 24 million in Erie County alone–and before the ash borer plague is over, just about all of them will have to be destroyed.
Sen. Kennedy announced his plan, nicknamed the “TREE Credit”–an acronym for Tree Removal and Emerald Ash Elimination–at the Cheektowaga home of Bob Stotz, an employee of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy who is involved in protecting and removing ash trees in the conservancy’s parks.
“Oh me and my wife fell in love with the property–all mature ash trees in the back,” Stotz spoke of the more than 20 ash trees on his property that will eventually have to be taken down and removed.
Kennedy explained how the credit would work, “Once a certified arborist has verified that an ash tree needs to be removed, the property owner will be eligible to apply for a 50% credit on the cost of removal.” The credit would be capped at $300 per tree.
While it is tough enough fighting the ash borer, which has torn a destructive path through the Northeast, Olmsted Parks Executive Director Stephanie Crockatt said this summer’s drought has actually accelerated the ash borer’s destruction.
“Because of the drought, trees are not taking in as much moisture which is allowing the larvae to feed even more rapidly on what tissue of the tree is there.”
Olmsted Parks Conservancy has launched an inoculation program against the destructive ash beetle, but Crockatt said they can only protect a fraction of their ash trees, “Any time we are having rain our team is out trying to inoculate–to put medicine into the trees–to kill the larvae.”
Proponents of the measure also say it is a matter of public safety. Paul Maurer, chairman of Re-Tree WNY said ash trees specifically get brittle when they die, and that poses a danger to people and property.
“With it turning brittle, the branches become very weak, and they could fall on homes, individuals, cars, property.”
Stotz said he absolutely needs the TREE Credit, “I can’t afford to take them all down but with a tax credit anything will help, and actually that tax credit would really help a lot.”
A second part of Kennedy’s proposal would promote the practice of replacing the dead ash trees with a variety of trees, known as “10-20-30” biodiversity, so that one pest would not have the same devastating impact as the ash borer, or as in years past, Dutch Elm disease.