New York Times: Encouraging Congress to Do Something About Urban Trees

The Emerald Ash Borer is seen in this undated image. (Published Monday, May 19, 2014)

Fewer than six weeks before Congress departed for recess, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee sent President Obama a letter urging him to take a series of steps to protect American cities from the deadly emerald ash borer.

The threat of a beetle with a potential price tag of $5 billion—and that’s not even factoring in the millions spent combating outbreaks in Canada—is one of the most pressing challenges confronting city governments right now. So far, it’s the subject of scarcely any attention on Capitol Hill.

While some within the federal government want the federal government to begin to directly subsidize tree planting and maintenance for cities, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology recently approved a measure that would strip billions of dollars from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget, specifically to bolster greenhouse gas-reduction efforts in cities.

The senators’ letter, which the New York Times published online Tuesday, was drafted by Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and signed by nine others, including Republican Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and John Barrasso of Wyoming. (Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is not on the list.) The letter warned that “mounting evidence” indicates that “the ash tree is under significant threat,” especially given the striking increase in urban sprawl. The dollar figure cited by the senators is for projects to mitigate the effects of emerald ash borer — not prevention, they noted. “The numbers are likely only the tip of the iceberg,” they said.

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