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Huntley sees quick response to ash tree program

HUNTLEY – Roughly 20 residents have already submitted orders during the first week of Huntley's annual tree program that replaces hundreds of ash trees infested by the emerald ash borer beetle.

Village officials mailed the initial set of forms earlier this week to nearly 200 residents who had ash trees removed near parkways by their homes last fall. Another 200 people will receive letters later this fall to replace ash trees removed in the spring.

The quick response is typical for residents, who have recently experienced the height of the beetle's infestation in Huntley, said Barb Read, village management assistant.

"There have been so many ash trees removed from blocks," Read said. "We are really hoping that people participate in the program, so that we can build up our tree canopy again."

Since 2009, the village has removed almost 800 ash trees along parkways. More than half of those removals happened in 2012, when the beetle's infestation peaked in Huntley.

Officials created the 50/50 tree replacement program to encourage residents to replace ash trees along blocks left barren by the beetle. Residents' strong response to the program last year forced officials to add money to it.

The program allows residents to choose from a list of replacement trees and split the cost to buy and plant a new tree with the village. Huntley officials then order and replace the trees.

Village Board members have set aside $100,000 in the budget this year for the program. They expect village staffers to replace 400 total ash trees by the fall.

The replacement rate will likely continue into 2016, when the beetle's infestation in Huntley is expected to subside. All toll, the village will have removed nearly 2,300 ash trees, Read said.

The emerald ash borer was first discovered in Illinois in 2006. The green, metallic-looking beetles feed on the inner bark, cutting off nutrients and water to ash trees, which are native to Illinois.

The beetle first arrived in the United States in 2002, likely on cargo ships or planes carrying wood materials from Asia, according to the Illinois Agriculture Department.

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