Environment
8:00 am
Tue January 29, 2013

Retooled Louisville Tree App Focuses on Ash Trees

A few months ago, I reported that a new Metro Government app to encourage citizens to participate in cataloging the city’s tree canopy was available on iTunes. Now, the city’s tree commission has revamped the app, and changed its focus to ash trees.

Ash trees across the Northeast and Midwest are in danger from the emerald ash borer—an invasive pest that infects and eventually kills ash trees. The insect has been found in Louisville, and it’s likely it could eventually decimate the city’s ash trees, which make up a significant portion of the tree canopy.

“[Emerald ash borers are] one aspect of why our tree canopy is shrinking,” said Louisville Metro Tree Commission co-chair Katy Schneider. “We do need a plan for building it back up, and we don’t have that yet.”

The app is the first step for that plan. It walks users through three steps to identify an ash tree: looking for opposite branching, compound leaves and a diameter of more than 20 inches. When you identify an ash tree, it congratulates you. Schneider says the developer is adding content to tell people what to do when they find an ash tree—namely, have it inspected by a professional arborist. Sometimes the trees can be treated with insecticides before they’re too sick, but sometimes removal is the only option.

As Metro Louisville prepares for the spread of emerald ash borers, Schneider says the first step is to assess the problem. When people take it upon themselves to check out their trees and log the presence of ash trees with the app, it will help the Tree Commission determine how to best to address it.

The death of the city’s ash trees will pose a huge loss for the environment and the city’s tree canopy (as well as maybe for public health, as Jim Bruggers of the Courier-Journal reported over the weekend). But they’ll also become a huge liability as they become infected and eventually unstable.

“We need the general public to be aware of this threat,” Schneider said. “It’s a real threat to public safety. So this is the first step to do this…to get them engaged through this app.”

Schneider suggests scouting troops and neighborhoods could hold “ash parties,” and go around identifying the trees.