By Ashley Shuler
Even though several trees have been chopped down around campus, Franklin’s national Tree Campus USA award should be safe from the chipper.
Franklin is losing approximately 20 ash trees because of major droughts and a non-native insect called the emerald ash borer.
Throughout the nation, the invasive insect is attacking and killing ash trees by drilling into them and laying larvae.
The only option besides removing the infected trees is treating them with an insecticide, which would also kill native insects that animals rely on.
“The Arbor Foundation, who gives the Tree Campus USA awards, is aware of the problems created by the [insects],” said Alice Heikens, a biology professor who works on a campus green space committee. “As long as we have a management plan for removing the trees and replacing them, we should not be penalized for the tree deaths.”
Heiken’s conservation biology class is developing plans for replacing the trees with other native species.
“I’m excited to help with it,” said Spencer Wesche, a junior and conversation biology and ecology major. “I think it is a great opportunity for students to get involved in land management plans.”
Wesche and senior biology major Elizabeth Hendershot are in charge of recording the number and condition of campus trees.
Hendershot, who said there are more than 1,000 trees on campus, said it’s sad to see the larger, older trees go.
Physical Facilities Director Tom Patz said some of the trees affected are several generations old.
The physical plant has prioritized removing trees that pose safety risks or are located in high traffic areas of campus.
So far, one tree has been cut down on Dame Mall, another west of Hoover, and several in Cline woods.
Patz said somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 will be devoted to removing and replacing the trees over the next three or four years.
“We replace what’s cut every year,” Patz said. “If seven trees are cut down for whatever reason, seven trees are put up in their place.”
The trees are coming down after the loss of two hard maple trees during summer storms.
Last year, The Franklin reported the college received the Tree Campus USA award for the second year in a row.
The award goes to campuses who have a “commitment to urban forest management.” The award requires a campus tree advisory committee and a campus tree-care plan, among other stipulations.
Although Heikens is thinking positively about the award’s outcome, she said she can’t see any positives about the tree deaths.
“It is unfortunate to lose the beautiful ash trees from our forests and green places,” Heikens said.
According to a 2014 article from National Geographic, the insect has killed millions of ash trees across 22 states. There are about seven billion ash trees in the nation.
“This is not just a Franklin College issue,” Patz said. “It’s a regional issue that I think everyone is struggling with whether you’re a city, a small town, a park or a college campus.”