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Funding requested in emerald ash borer fight

An emerald ash borer beetle on a green leaf. Thinkstock / Special to The Forum1 / 2
Traces of the emerald ash borer were found on this tree after bark was removed. File photo2 / 2

Nearly a year after the first evidence of emerald ash borer appeared in a Woodbury movie theater parking lot, the Woodbury Parks and Recreation Department is asking for more money to deal with the invasive insect in 2019.

Assistant Park and Recreation Director Mike Adams told City Council at a June 27 workshop meeting the department needs $100,000 to combat the pest next year. Adams said the department could work with the $50,000 already allotted for 2018, but it will need a larger budget going forward.

The plan for 2019, Adams said, is to have city forestry staff work mainly on parks and trail corridors and to dispatch contractors to problem areas throughout the rest of the city. The city will focus mainly on trees in "manicured" areas throughout the city, leaving nature to take care of those growing out in the wilderness. The city has removed and replaced several hundred ash trees over the past five years, Adams said.

Emerald ash borer is a small green beetle that infects and kills ash trees. The insect lives on the outside of trees in the summer and lays eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow into the tree and feed off of its nutrients, eventually killing the tree. Adults create telltale D-shaped holes when they climb out in spring. Substantial woodpecker damage can be a sign of infestation — the birds like to eat emerald ash borer larvae.

Ash trees are "very prevalent" on both public and private lands in Woodbury, Adams said.

Infected trees are usually dealt with in one of two ways: removal and replacement, or treatment. In some cases, efforts are made to save trees that aren't too far gone. Adams said the University of Minnesota has offered to take samples of some Woodbury ash trees and test the effectiveness of treatments. The department is currently considering treatment for some ash trees in Ojibway Park.

But the kind of treatment that can save infected ash trees is expensive — about $300 per tree — and must be repeated every one to three years, Adams said.

More often, cities opt to remove ash trees and replace them with different kinds of trees. Having a diverse mix of trees and plants in an area can help prevent widespread destruction by an invasive species like emerald ash borer. Woodbury has created a plan that mainly relies on removal and replacement, Adams said.

Though the plan in Woodbury for park areas is relatively concrete, dealing with ash trees on private land could be more of challenge. The city plans to send out a “homeowner packet” sometime in July to inform residents about emerald ash borer and the city’s expanded plan to manage it. Tips for residents on managing the emerald ash borer can also be found on the city of Woodbury’s website.

The ongoing battle with an invasive species

So, why have so many mobilized to fight this specific insect?

According to the Emerald Ash Borer Information Network, it is “the most destructive forest pest ever seen in North America” with the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage if its spread isn’t managed properly. Other than the destruction of valuable trees, it can cause a safety hazard in populated areas; when emerald ash borer infects an ash tree, it becomes brittle and can potentially break or fall over.

Emerald ash borer is considered an invasive species because it did not originate in the area and causes harm. The insect likely came from Asia, transported accidentally in wood pallets or other wood shipping material. It was first discovered in North America in 2002 and evidence of its presence has since been discovered on much of the continent.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture considers the emerald ash borer a “serious” pest and declared a formal quarantine in November 2017 in 16 counties where the beetle was found: Anoka, Chisago, Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Hennepin, Houston, Martin, Olmsted, Ramsey, Scott, Wabasha, Washington, Winona and the southeast portion of St. Louis County. The quarantine regulates the use and transport of ash wood in these counties during summer months — an attempt to prevent further infestation.

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