Elm disease worsens

Dutch elm disease is back this year - as bad or worse than in 2004, according to early data.

As of June 15, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board had condemned 1,652 trees, 966 on public land and 686 on private land, a 13 percent increase over the same period last year, said Ralph Sievert, head of forestry.

Increased Park Board staffing could explain the hike. Last year at this time, the city had 10 Dutch elm disease scouts and one to two tree-removal crews working eight-hour days.

Michael Schmidt, general manager for maintenance and operations, said as of June 15, the Park Board has 15 scouts and three tree-removal crews working 10-hour days.

"We are aggressively looking for the disease and getting the trees down," Schmidt said. "We continue to be concerned we will have the same kind of losses [as 2004]. A lot of experts in the field expect that."

In 2004, the city lost 10,260 elms on public and private land, the third-worst year ever. For comparison, the city lost between 1,213 trees and 4,198 trees a year over the previous decade.

The Park Board has stepped up a public education campaign to get property owners to remove diseased trees from private property, Schmidt said.

This year, the Park Board has planted 2,600 trees on public land.