DES MOINES, Iowa – In the last decade, Iowa has lost millions of trees due to the Emerald ash borer and most recently the derecho. Communities and local groups are planning to make the state a little greener by planting trees on Arbor Day.
Des Moines has 50,000 trees on its streets and in its parks. Officials say nearly 500 of them were lost in the derecho, and damage is still being discovered.
“We already have tree mortality and loss for Emerald ash borer and the ash trees, and now you throw in a derecho on top of that it’s kind of an obvious step back,” Shane McQuillan, urban forestry project manager with the city of Des Moines, said. “We definitely think we can plant them all back and hopefully with community buy in, we’ll be able to really build up some momentum going forward.”
Iowa DNR estimates around the state about four million trees were damaged. On top of that, the Emerald ash borer has caused even more canopy loss of about three million trees.
Foresters say the next step of recovery is replanting trees this spring.
“We know that we’re losing a significant amount of trees in the state, and it’s so important that everybody plant trees,” Emma Hanigan, urban and community forester with Iowa DNR, said. “Our goal is for the next 30 years that we plant at least three million more trees, which will kind of recover some of that derecho but then we also want to add more. So if everyone can get out and plant one tree, that will get us to our three million goal.”
Hanigan reminds Iowans of the benefits trees provide.
“They help our economy, people shop more in areas with trees, they sustain a lot of jobs,” Hanigan said. “They’re also great for our environment, they clean air and water, but they’re also great for our well being. We know that trees reduce our stress hormones, and they help us focus and pay attention, and they just calm us overall so they’re good for our well being.”
On Friday morning, a group will be planting a bur oak tree on Capitol Grounds. The bur oak is Iowa’s state tree.
If you’re interested in planting a tree in your community, check in with your city’s forestry or parks department to see where the best spot would be.