The state of Sioux Falls’ urban forest

March 21, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by Aspen Arboriculture Solutions.

By Sam Kezar, owner, Aspen Arboriculture Solutions

The confirmation of emerald ash borer, or EAB, in Sioux Falls in 2018 brought with it a lot of questions and concerns about the future of Sioux Falls’ urban forest. This article is a snapshot of a more comprehensive article that can be found on my How’s Your Aspen? blog.

A beautiful tree-lined street. How do you deal with a situation like this if you knew they all were going to die within six to eight years? We can help you with that.

Current state of the Sioux Falls urban forest: D- 

The following list is the pertinent facts I feel lend to give this very poor to almost failing grade of the Sioux Falls urban forest coming into 2019:

  • 40 percent of city street — the parking strip — trees are ash!
  • 32 percent of the street trees are maple!
  • No current or complete inventory of city street or parks trees. One is coming.

Everyone who owns a tree has some partial blame. Blame is a strong word, but we need to realize we planted ourselves into this mess. We all need to work together to change the current status quo and increase the diversity within the landscape.


Remember the ice storm of 2013? Emerald ash borer is going to make the ice storm look like paper cut when compared to open-heart surgery, both in loss of trees and costs.

Sioux Falls businesses will have to invest a lot of extra money into dealing with ash trees than they ever have. And I don’t think this will just be held to those companies that have large green areas. Even small storefronts likely have ash and will be forced with a decision.

Additionally, ash killed from EAB get very brittle and hazardous. Ash trees dead for more than one year usually just fall over. This will created a huge public safety risk. If a business has ash trees, they need to come up with a plan soon, not once the trees start to die or have died.

Finally, none of this takes into consideration the indirect costs:

  • Loss of shade — increasing heating and cooling costs.
  • Loss of wind protection.
  • Decrease in property values.
  • Increase in taxes for additional management and recourses to remove and replant trees.

Outlook for the Sioux Falls urban forest: B+

It is not all doom and gloom. Fortunately, the outlook is brighter. It doesn’t mean we won’t be in for big challenges, but it sure looks like this is going to be a great opportunity for us to make the Sioux Falls urban forest great. Here is a short list of the things in the pipeline the state and city are doing to make our urban forest better:

  • South Dakota Department of Agriculture has implemented quarantines to restrict ash wood movement.
  • Department of Agriculture will test treated trees to verify treatments are being done according to industry standards and the chemical label by licensed arborists.
  • Sioux Falls is restricting the removal and pruning of ash between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
  • Sioux Falls requires an arborist license to operate within the city and raised its license costs to $100 annually — $150 for new licenses.
  • Emerald ash borer populations are projected to peak between 2022-26.
  • Sioux Falls will have a completed tree inventory by the end of 2019.
  • The city is investing in the forestry department with equipment and personnel to increase productivity and better manage emerald ash borer.
  • Ash lost in parks and other city areas will be replaced.
  • Sioux Falls is paying for removal and stump grinding of street ash trees.
  • The approved street tree species list has changed. Maple and ash are no longer on the list.

What does this mean for your business?

As I mentioned above the cost of dealing with this issue is going to be the biggest challenge. The direct costs combined with the indirect losses are going to add up. Storefront businesses, parking lots and green spaces will lose shade, wind protection and beautification.

Businesses with large green areas will have a lot of expenses and work. They also have the best opportunity to show how they are going to make their landscapes more resilient and beneficial for the future.

The small storefronts are going to get hit the hardest. Chances are they have an ash or several ash trees. Remove them all and it’ll be huge concrete jungle that can deter customers and make that trip in from the parking lot less desirable. Treat them all and it’s a huge added expense.

Most importantly, the largest challenge is going to be replanting in those harsh areas. Trees do not thrive in parking islands or surrounded by concrete. Even the ash that are there struggle. They are tough trees, and that’s one of the reasons we planted them there. But now, finding diversity to replant in those areas is going to take added costs and time. Some trees won’t make it initially. And then there are the installation and maintenance costs to add to each tree.

How can Aspen Arboriculture help?

We understand you are concerned about your trees. Don’t worry — we can figure out what’s wrong. As the highest-certified arborist in the industry, and after 15 years of caring for and continuously learning about the trees in our ecosystem, we’re uniquely capable of providing proven results.

Here is how we do that for you:

  • Give us a call at 605-759-6020.
  • Set up a consultation.
  • We will provide a plan to help you make the best decision for you and your tree.

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The state of Sioux Falls’ urban forest

The confirmation of emerald ash borer in Sioux Falls brought with it a lot of questions and concerns about the future of Sioux Falls’ urban forest. Certified master arborist Sam Kezar weighs in on the state of things and what it means for your business.

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