Preserve, Prioritize and Plant Canopy Street Trees!

Category: News

Vote for Madison Trees Before June 21!

The rewrite of the Madison Comprehensive Plan, Imagine Madison, is ongoing right now. At the website, ,  you can provide input on a range of strategies and on the future land use map. Input opportunity will end June 21 so please give yours ASAP.

For each of the various proposed strategies there is a like button to register support. You can also submit new strategy ideas.

One of the strategy groups is Green & Resilient. Within this group there are several tree specific strategies. So at a minimum head out and support these.

Sustainable Madison Committee accepts Tree Working Group Recommendations

The Sustainable Madison Committee’s Tree Working Group presented their final recommendations at the Sustainable Madison Committees 4/17/17 meeting. The full committee unanimously accepted the recommendations for further action in beginning to implement them. Among the recommendations is to develop and adopt an Urban Forestry Master Plan. The Tree Working Group suggested the creation of an inter-department Urban Forestry Master Plan workgroup to develop this Master Plan. One critical element of a master plan would include a city-wide canopy coverage goal.

Complete information on the Sustainable Madison Committee’s Tree Working Group’s efforts can be found here:

The Tree Working Groups final recommendations are found under the link titled SMC Tree Workgroup Paper FinalDRAFT  4-10-17.

Resolution to amend EAB policy and save more trees proposed

The city of Madison could be treating hundreds more ash trees in the most critical places- where they will be lost and not replaced with other canopy trees. Here is a great opportunity to write in to your Alder to support trees!

Resolution 41986 to modify the EAB Plan to allow the treatment of all healthy ash trees including those planted under powerlines was introduced at Common Council Feb. 28th and was referred and be placed on a schedule of committees for comment. The resolution is on the agenda for the Board of Parks Commissioners meeting this week Wednesday March 8, 6:00 PM at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

The timing for consideration at the other committees has not yet been established. Their next meetings are; Committee on the Environment – March 20; 4:30 PM, Sustainable Madison Committee – March 20; 4:30 PM. (Yes, both at the same time)

Text of Resolution 41986

Whereas,  “A healthy, vibrant, and sustainable urban forest provides benefits to all residents of Madison through a number of ways and not just to those who have parcels adjacent to City trees. Urban trees enhances air quality, retain stormwater run-off, increase property values, and overall quality of life. Thus, residents of all parcel types shall help uphold the quality of the urban forest in the City of Madison.” (city webpage on the Urban Forestry Special Charge)

Whereas, the city EAB policies, originally adopted in 2012, called for treating terrace Ash trees of 10 inches diameter (at 4 ½ feet height) and above, excluding trees in poor condition or under power transmission lines.

Whereas, power lines have been placed underground in nearly all new development since 1978, leaving older neighborhoods with aboveground lines and the greater loss of tree canopy under the current city tree policy.

Whereas, the Forestry Division estimated in 2013 that approximately 2,920 ash trees under power lines would be removed regardless of their health status;

Whereas, Madison’s Sustainability Plan, adopted in 2012, calls for the City to:  “Minimize loss of tree cover and green space in public rights of way; Promote, expand and replace tree canopy trees whenever possible and encourage landowner collaboration on strengthening tree canopy and woodlands; and Create a policy to facilitate underground placement of power lines and overhead wires.”

Whereas, ash trees removed under power lines are always replaced by low-growing ornamental trees which; cost nearly the same amount to plant and maintain, have significantly shorter life-spans, and do not provide the same ecological and economic benefits of large canopy trees.

Whereas, it is significantly more expensive to remove and replace a mature canopy tree than it is to treat it. The cost of pre-emptive removal and replanting is $783 per tree according to City of Madison Forestry.  The cost of treatment is $71 per tree, administered every three years.

Whereas, other cities such as Milwaukee have adopted protocols requiring treatment of trees under power lines using the same criteria as other terrace trees;

Therefore Be It Resolved, that in order to maintain a street tree canopy in Madison’s older neighborhoods, Forestry Division guidelines and practices shall evaluate and treat ash trees under power lines on the same basis as other terrace trees and should be provided treatment accordingly.


Too Valuable to Lose

Too Valuable to Lose: An argument for amending the current Madison EAB Plan to include healthy ash trees under power lines for treatment and preservation.

Prepared by the Madison Canopy Street Tree Group.  1/15/2017

A healthy mature ash tree is too valuable to lose. The city could be saving up to 1,500 ash trees currently slated to be removed because of their location under primary power lines. We ask that the words “or under power lines” be removed from the EAB Treatment Plan. This would allow all ash trees to stand (or fall) on the criteria of their individual health, not because of the location in which they are planted.

A. It is MUCH more expensive to remove and replace a mature canopy tree than it is to treat it. The per tree cost of pre-emptive removal and replanting is $783 according to City of Madison Forestry.  The per year cost of treating a tree is $24.

B. Ash canopy trees give real dollar value benefits both to adjacent properties and the community as a whole which far outweigh the cost of treatment to maintain them.

C. Not ALL ash trees under power lines are unhealthy. Other municipalities such as the City of Milwaukee are treating healthy ash trees under power lines.

D.Ashes are a uniquely durable terrace tree for their tolerance of salt and ability to thrive in restricted growing conditions.

E. All of these canopy trees under power lines are being replaced by low growing, ornamental trees which, while costing nearly the same amount to plant and maintain, do not provide even a small fraction of benefits in cooling shade, storm water retention, carbon sequestration, oxygen creation, habitat or sense of place.

F. Categorically removing all ash trees under power lines creates a significant equity disparity for residents and property owners on one side of the street versus their neighbors across the street, and for whole neighborhoods with above ground power versus those with undergrounded power.

G. Many hundreds of residents support preservation of healthy ash trees under power lines.

Supporting documentation for each above item.


  1. An email dated May 26, 2016 from City Forestry staff: “ …from a study completed last year, the average cost of removal, stump grubbing, and replacement was $783.”


  1. From page 11 of City of Madison EAB Treatment Plan 2013, the cost for 12,719 ash trees is $900,977. $900,977/ 12,719= $70.84 per tree cost which lasts for 3 years. $70.84/3= $23.61 per tree/year.

B. There are myriad studies and data calculators that show the real dollar benefits of canopy trees. The one we have been using, that is built on peer-reviewed United States Forest Service science, is called iTree. We calculated the dollar value benefits of one mature green ash tree to be $196.42 per year.

The Tree Benefit Calculator is based on iTree, but is a simplified version that doesn’t require a software download.  Simply enter your zip code, the tree species, diameter and what land use it is planted near to get a detailed breakdown of benefits.


  1. As a sample of a residential area planted heavily with ash we can study the five block area of the recent Jenifer Street Reconstruction. Of the 43 trees slated for removal on the five block project 39 were ashes. Of those ashes, 24 were marked for removal because of their location under the primary power line. On-the-ground inspection from forestry staff concluded that 9 of those 24 were deemed healthy enough by every measure of size, structure, branching habit, and intact canopy to be treated despite having lived their whole lives under the power line. Only a few months earlier these same trees underwent the harshest pruning MG&E has for the areas of increased voltage, and still they passed every measure of health for a treatable ash tree. In February 23, 2016 City of Madison Common Council approved the preservation of these 9 trees, they were not preemptively removed, but they remain untreated.

2 In the City of Madison EAB Treatment Plan 2013 they state that 2,921 ash trees will be cut down because they are under power lines. Of these 2,921 ash trees we do not know how many of these trees meet the other treatment criteria because they were slated for removable only because they are under power lines.  We are estimating that 1/2 of the trees are treatable, so approximately 1,500 trees.

3.In November of 2015 Milwaukee did a thorough GIS based cost-benefit analyst and determined it was financially best to treat all healthy ash trees, even those under power lines. The city of Milwaukee treats ash trees based on a criteria of health, not of growing location.

D. See reasons why we planted tens of thousands of them in the first place.


E. US Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research published an article titled “The Large Tree Argument: The case for large stature trees vs. small stature trees.” In it they state, “In most areas of the country, communities can care for their largest trees for as little as $13 per year, per tree. And, each tree returns an average of $65 in energy savings, cleaner air, better managed stormwater, extended life of streets, and higher property values. Even at maturity, small stature trees do not come close to providing the same magnitude of benefits…Our research has shown that benefits of large-statured trees far outweigh the costs of caring for them, sometimes as much as eight to one. The big question communities need to ask is: can we afford not to invest in our trees?”

F. We all receive power from the same electricity delivery system, but the burden of it and the loss of the many benefits from proximity to canopy trees is only falling to some of us.

G. In the last year 658 people signed this petition:

461 people joined this Facebook page to support canopy trees in Madison

Urban Tree Alliance Tree planting demo at Warner Park

Urban Tree Alliance Fall and Winter News

Our fiends at the Urban Tree Alliance have some updates on their current projects to preserve and replace Madison’s tree canopy:

Keep up the good work UTA!

Every Tree in New York City, Mapped

New York City’s urban canopy may be losing its leaves, but it’s gaining an opportunity to make some new friends: The NYC Parks Department has its latest tree census out, and includes an encyclopedic interactive guide to help citizens find their way through its forest of data.

Read the whole story here.


Ash trees rescued from the chopping block…

Downtown Madison ash trees rescued from the chopping block as deadline nears

20160816_capttimesThe Capital Times, August 26, 2016 Steven Elbow

On Wednesday, Peter Ostlind declared a minor victory in the battle against the emerald ash borer.

“We were trying to cover the whole Capitol Neighborhoods area,” said Peter Ostlind, a Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. board member. “We treated every tree that met the city’s minimum requirements in those parks.”

Ostlind was referring to four parks with ash trees that are located in the city’s downtown area: Brittingham, James Madison, Law and Reynolds. Because of the infestation by the pernicious beetle, ash trees have to be either treated or felled. Treating them costs money and the city is looking for folks willing to foot the bill.

Read more…

Bury high-voltage lines to save urban canopy

Power to the trees

East-side residents want to bury high-voltage lines to save urban canopy
Isthmus, January 28, 2016 by Judith Davidoff

Soon after news broke that an entire row of trees on Emmet Street had been cut down by the American Transmission Co., neighbors to the south, across Atwood Avenue, offered condolences to those grieving the loss.
“The tree in front of your house is a family member — it shades your home, the birds nest in it, you hang your kids’ swing in it — it is part of your life,” wrote one resident on an east-side neighborhood association listserve. “You may not even know how much of a friend it is until it’s gone.”

But, he added, “The way you see the terrace tree in front of your house or on your block is completely different from the way that city forestry or Madison Gas and Electric or ATC…see it…. The city forester’s main job is not to protect or plant or preserve trees but rather to prevent any tree-related liability. We have to address this disconnect, and our community will be a better place for trees and people.”

Read more…

Yellow dots signify ‘death sentence’ for ash trees

Madison residents alarmed at yellow dots signifying ‘death sentence’ for ash trees

Isthmus, April 24, 2014 by Joe Tarr

Christina Newton fears what her neighborhood on the near west side will look like after Madison deals with the dreaded emerald ash borer pest

“Our whole neighborhood is highly concentrated with ash trees,” says Newton, who lives on Rugby Row near Forest Hill Cemetery. “It’s going to change the quality of life.” Newton and others say the city’s plan to remove thousands of ash trees from the terraces — the strip of grass in-between streets and sidewalks — is too extreme. Especially when many residents are willing to pay to treat trees in front of their homes.

“If the tree is in great shape and the public is willing to pay, it’d be nice for the city,” says Newton. “It’s not a good idea to cut down all your trees. Part of the reason these trees were planted in the first place was that people don’t want sun shining in their living room all summer long. Utility bills go up.”

Read more…

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