The Emerald Ash Borer was discovered in Boulder in 2013. This small beetle, which burrows under the bark of ash trees disrupting the flow of nutrients and water, is predicted to cause a 25 percent decline in Boulder’s tree canopy in the next five to 10 years.
When the City of Boulder identified the Emerald Ash Borer as a significant threat, the Urban Forest Strategic Plan was created. According to bouldercolorado.gov, the plan was approved in 2018 as a comprehensive assessment of a 20-year plan for the Boulder urban tree canopy developed with extensive input from the community. The overarching goal of this plan is to restore the tree canopy to pre-ash borer levels, which is 16 percent coverage.
CEDaR's researchers, Michael Szuberla, a PhD student in environmental studies, and Sara Tabatabaie, CEDaR research associate, designed a survey to capture the baseline knowledge of residents on the Emerald Ash Borer and to learn more about their remediation plans. The City of Boulder sent this survey to 30,000 residents in March 2019. The researchers also interviewed key stakeholders in Boulder; they completed their data collection and analysis in August 2019.
The results of this survey and interviews were shared as a report with the city of Boulder. The survey results were also presented at the Association of Collegiate School of Planning (ACSP) Annual Conference in South Carolina in Fall 2019.
The ultimate goal of Szuberla's and Tabatabaie's research is to develop an effective planning framework to address tree infestation issues in cities and to change the conversation so that cities in the future can maintain healthy tree canopies and ecosystems.
As the beetles take their toll in Boulder, the ash trees will need to be cut down safely before dying completely, and replaced with a new set of diverse trees. So far, the city can manage this process on all of Boulder’s public property but has very minimal control over how private landowners will choose to remedy the infestation on their own property. Seventy-seven percent of Boulder’s total tree canopy is on private property, so landowners, residents and businesses will need to be educated on proper tree management and the benefits of a vibrant urban forest.