'Scottie AshTree Seed': Trees don't have to die

Activist sends message to village by writing on stumps

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Oak Park residents strolling through their neighborhoods have noticed the messages written on tree stumps through the village for years.

The shaky handwriting on stumps of trees removed from public parkways can at times be difficult to read. The messages usually state the species and estimated age of the tree and criticize its removal.

The message on one stump near the corner of Pleasant Street and South Kenilworth Avenue states: "? Who culls a perfectly healthy and structurally safe tree, even when patriotically protected from Emerald Ash Borer. Critically endangered species. American Ash 36 yo."

The cryptic message is the work of Elmwood Park resident Scott Carlini, who has traveled the village by bicycle and foot for roughly six years, voicing his concern on stumps about the removal of trees infested with the emerald ash borer, an invasive Asian beetle that feeds on and destroys ash trees.

Carlini often goes by the pseudonym Scottie AshTree Seed, a play on the name Johnny Appleseed, he says, and sometimes online by Scott Concertman.

His work with trees doesn't stop with marking them up once they've been removed by the village of Oak Park. Carlini often speaks with residents who live near the endangered ash trees, promising them their trees can be saved with his method of applying annual doses of pesticides.

"I understand that you can't save them all, but we can save a few of the best ones," he told Wednesday Journal.

This has created headaches for Oak Park Forester Rob Sproule, who said when the village removes an infected ash tree from the public parkway, residents often tell them they have paid Carlini to control the infestation with pesticides.

Sproule said he's spoken to Carlini multiple times over the years about the removal program for ash trees.

While Sproule acknowledges that Carlini knows a lot about trees, particularly ash trees, he said, "He is not a licensed contractor and doesn't have a pesticide license."

Sproule said the license is required to administer commercial pesticide.

The forester said residents have told them Carlini takes just enough money to pay the cost of the pesticide, and some trees he's treated have been left up after residents objected when village crews arrived.

"It puts me in a tough spot with the resident," Sproule said, noting that once an ash tree is infested with emerald ash borer beetles, it's only a matter of time before the tree will have to be cut down.

Sproule said all of the ash trees in Oak Park will ultimately have to be removed, but that the village waits until trees are infested, unlike other municipalities, which cut the trees down while they are still healthy.

Carlini's effort "comes from a good place, but it's not really helping facilitate a meaningful conversation," Sproule said.

Sproule said that since 2008, the village has removed roughly 2,800 infested ash trees. Only a couple hundred remain, but they will ultimately have to be removed and replaced, he said.

"Sometimes we get accused of removing trees that are healthy," Sproule said.

But he added that infested ash trees can be hazardous, causing branches to die and break off. If the village waits too long, those dead branches could fall and injure people and property, he said.

Carlini says the jury's still out on whether infested ash trees can be saved, noting that arborists throughout the country signed a letter in 2011 arguing that ash trees can be saved with certain pesticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Carlini said River Forest has treated some 300 trees using the pesticide method, but River Forest Forester Mark Giannopoulos could not be reached for comment.

Sproule said Oak Park is in the process of its 2017 tree removal and replacement program and will plant roughly 600 new trees this year. They will remove roughly 600 to 800 trees, he said.

The village currently has between 18,000 and 19,000 trees in the public way, Sproule said.

"Right now the plan for this year is 365 [new trees planted] this spring," he said, noting the planting begins sometime this week.

A second planting of roughly 200 trees will take place in the fall, Sproule said.

"When it comes back to Scott, I want to reiterate on the record that we appreciate his concern and understand where it comes from," Sproule said. "It comes from the same place we come from because we're tree guys, but the information he provides isn't always accurate.

"It leads to confusion and doesn't facilitate a meaningful conversation about the urban forest."

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com


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Scott Concertman  

Posted: May 23rd, 2018 9:27 PM

Village to replace every Oak by 2025! Choosing not to protect critically endangered "Keystone" species of Oak Parks ancient ecosystem until temporary danger inevitably passes locally from Asian insect. But don't blame forestry supervisor for today's draconian decision, who did so based solely on harsh lessons learned from Dutch Elm Disease disaster. Thus lesson learned from today's calamity presently wiping out Oak is. Do not always rely on lessons learned from past tree disasters. Since past may have absolutely nothing in common w/present! Meaning OP recently made wrong decision regarding Oak...based on right reasons. Since unlike Elm requiring expensive treatment every few yrs. 4 rest of trees life. Protecting one's Oak only requires temporary Inexpensive cure over short 10 years. Are you aware OP's ecosystem contains another iconic Keystone species besides towns namesake Oak? Which was also utilized by local Indians as long lived Trail marker tree species. But while only 1% of Old growth "Oak" remnants remains throughout Illinois today, only a paltry .01% of this ancient ecosystem still presently exists in state. And belongs 2 same ecosystem that FL Wright & Jens Jensen introduced entire world 2 during Midwestern Prairie School "Native" Ecology Movement era a century ago. In fact iconic plant that Chicago named after, commonly found growing under this keystone species. Have you figured out name of this local keystone organism yet? With a Mature example of 1, literally defining physical representation of your neighborhoods ecosystem. It's American Ash! From our planets Fraxinus genus, directly related 2 super long lived Olive tree family. And protecting just 1 of this critically endangered keystone species from its modern day functional extinction...Can be most important successful conservation accomplishment one can achieve presently. So if plant Milkweed 2 benefit Monarch Butterfly, or plant Oak 2 restore Savanna. Then uncle Sam counting on U 2 save ASH!

Scott Concertman from Elmwood Park  

Posted: May 12th, 2017 8:29 PM

I hold 2 Il. Commercial Pesticide certifications. 1 for Application, and 1 for Ornamentals! All Ash become "Uninfested" in spring, when EAB empty out of trees to mate. After seven years observing over 15,000 "Treated trees". Hard fact is, only improperly treated examples continue to decline. Thus confusion links back to past unskilled Arborist who failed. Even though Trunk injected product has long proven "God sent 99% success rate. It costs Municipalities total of $200 to protect average sized tree over 15 yrs.. By then danger from "Infestation" populations has inevitably passed locally after 10 yrs. It costs $1500 to remove & replace. And $60,000 contract per yr. to water & Mulch new trees. Now after OP's Nursery failed to install every single tree over last 4 yrs. correctly. (No visible "Root flare") Some locations are already on their third replacement, for same cost as continually treating original tree over 80 years! Forestry VOWS that all ash in Oak Park will ultimately be removed, but village waits. Unlike municipalities which cut down still healthy trees. That was true before 2 yrs ago, when past removal stumps growth rates rings revealed 3 continuous years of decline. And visually showed 25% crown dieback. While most examples removed now over last 2 yrs., retained stumps that lack even one thinner growth ring. Even for sake of ones argument, tree had begun to decline. Plus up until fall, retained 100% full leafy crowns. OP will be first designated "Arboretum" in world, to purposely cull off five critically endangered native species within five years. After growing in Oak Park for thousands of years. That's the wrong kind of history to make, in community that was once the birthplace of Prairie school Ecology movement!

Winifred Haun from Oak Park  

Posted: May 12th, 2017 2:42 PM

Scott treated our Ash tree, which has been infested by the Emerald Ash borer. He left us a note a few years ago, similar to what the story describes. He's done a great job with our tree (its still alive!) and we've recommended him to neighbors and friends, who are also happy with his work. This article seemed really negative about Scott and his approach. Oak Park Forester Rob Sproule seems really invested in cutting down trees (or at the very least, not doing anything differently from what he's always done). I really recommend that anyone who has an Ash tree that's infested with the Emerald Ash borer, contact Scott. He's a little weird and hyper focused on trees and all, but he has lots of information and he might be able to help you. For my family, its been a worthwhile investment. And I agree that the Village (and the Village Forester) might have done more homework on this issue, and perhaps chosen a different approach first. Even if injecting the pesticide is only a temporary solution, it helps us keep our trees longer, and who knows, it might even work, saving the Village piles of money.

Stephanie WP  

Posted: May 11th, 2017 6:09 AM

These injections will need to be applied in perpetuity. It doesn't sound feasible, and it's not just you out there injecting the trees. People hear this and they hire companies that will only use the neonicotinoid.

Scott Concertman from Elmwood Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2017 8:30 PM

Stephanie WP, too bad you missed the big news story! India's Neem tree has come to the rescue of American Ash species. I inject a natural Larvacide the Neem trees produce, called Azadirachtin. Thankfully I am a responsible conservationist who has done the research. And I no longer utilize Imidacloprid. But let me ask, why should we allow 50 local native species to go completely extinct? (5 Ash/44 Arthropods). Because Stephanie wants to protect other species she finds more important? Alexander Humboldt taught us that every systems species is important, even Mosquitos who break down matter for Pitcher plants. Its not nice to fool Mother nature. https://scottieashseed.wordpress.com/

Stephanie WP  

Posted: May 10th, 2017 7:02 PM

Following up on my comment about other plants absorbing the neonicotinoid from a "treated" ash tree, those plants might be attracting pollinators, and the research is VERY clear about how neonics impact bees and other pollinators. Another likely impact is that the leaves absorb the neonic, and then people blow the leaves in the streets in the fall. The leaves are taken to a composting facility, and the pesticide does not break down into benign compounds. So potentially these pesticides are persisting in compost that people then use in their yards. We have to get intelligent about using things like pesticides--they do not compartmentalize--they do not break down into harmless materials. They continue to persist and change and harm the environment. If you care about the environment, you will say no to pesticides like these (and to ones for lawns). Instead, plant a native tree and let's hope that invasive species are caught either before they enter the U.S. or are quickly quarantined.

Stephanie WP  

Posted: May 10th, 2017 4:47 PM

These pesticide applications impact the other animals that depend upon Ash trees. Tiger Swallowtails (those large beautiful yellow and black butterflies) for one use Ash trees as a host plant. If a butterfly lays her eggs on the tree, the caterpillars will be killed. What happens if a bird eats any other insects that rely on the tree? What about woodpeckers who might be eating the emerald ash borer larvae? We have a species of Woodpecker that is threatened, and it would be a shame if they were being harmed by eating EAB larvae that had been poisoned by the pesticide. If a neonicotinoid is used, it can migrate into the soil, harming soil organisms and be taken up by other plants. These insecticides can move into our waterways. I would love to see Ash trees stay too but not at the expense of other living organisms that are negatively impacted. Treated Ash trees are not doing everything a tree can do--yes, they might be offering shade, beauty, and carbon sequestration, but they are an ecological threat if treated with a pesticide and harming other animals. One of the incredible benefits of trees, particularly native trees, is that they support wildlife. Further, we need to stop polluting our soil and water resources. Plus, we don't more pesticides in Oak Park since we're now in lawn spray season.

Daniella Kathy Zanin Pereira from Chicago  

Posted: May 9th, 2017 5:00 PM

Openlands will be hosting a TreeKeepers Program in Oak Park starting June 1(eight evenings total). Come and learn from your village forester along with many other tree experts about how to care and work with trees. openlands.org/treekeepers

John Lattyak from Oak Park  

Posted: May 9th, 2017 4:29 PM

I lost a parkway ash that was 35+ years old. Wish I would have met Scottie to have possibly saved that tree. What was the cost of cutting down 2800 ash trees as compared to treating all the ash trees and then cutting down the ones that did not survive the treatment. That might have been the prudent thing to do.

Rachel Benoit from Oak Park  

Posted: May 9th, 2017 4:00 PM

I really appreciate this article. We live under a parkway ash that is infested. We have contracted with an arborist for two rounds of trunk injections (2014 and 2016 by Phil Fitch at SavATree) and hope for the best, but fully understand that it is ultimately up to the village forester to determine when it is time to remove the tree. Perhaps it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to delay the inevitable, but Rob has been courteous and helpful via email. I've also met Scottie as he made his rounds on his bike.

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