Preserve, Prioritize and Plant Canopy Street Trees!

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 Fall and Winter News


Resolution to amend EAB policy and save more trees proposed


  1. Karen Ann Matteoni

    Canopy trees are very important to Madison. One of the best aspects of Madison is the large, mature trees on our streets and in our parks. We have a large tree in front of our home but trees on either side of our house are the very small stature trees. After the road construction on our street, I noticed that we do not have any bats flying around. I used to be able to sit outside at night but now it is too buggy to sit outside comfortably. Large cottonwoods in the park were damaged in storms and have not been replaced by large trees. Many groups and families had their picnics under the tall trees.

  2. Patricia Hammel

    Thank you for putting this together. Since the City cut down the large linden tree on my terrace because it was under a power line, at first I didn’t recognize the house I’ve lived in for over 30 years. Today, February 18, the front porch it shaded (admittedly less in winter–what’s left of winter) is too hot. The neighbors whose large linden was also cut down have lost the use of the front porch on their little house too. Neither of us have central air conditioning unlike people in the higher property valued new and sprawling burbs we subsidize the infrastructure for.

  3. Rachel Miller

    I’ve lived in a lot of cities and I think the treatment of trees by the City of Madison and MG & E is completely ridiculous. Other cities manage to accommodate trees with their electric grids and street traffic. We had a beautiful maple tree on the terrace in front of our house that the pair of entities was determined to cut into one of their odd “Dr. Suess” trees. Almost every year, I had to argue with the tree butchers trying to save our tree. MG & E was determined to cut the entire top off and the Madison streets crew was determine to chop off all the sides to keep it from obstructing the street and the sidewalk. In the end, we had a sad tree like everyone else. Madison “arborists” need to study how other cities manage to have beautiful trees. Their answer to everything is to cut and remove them. I am glad I don’t live there anymore.

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