May 1, 2008

Tree Pest Has City Preparing For the Worst

It isnt an epidemic yet, but City Street Superintendent Roy Monroe warned the Memphis City Council that the emerald ash borer was likely on its way to this community.

The exotic beetle was discovered in southeastern Michigan near Detroit in the summer of 2002 and has since spread south.

The United States Forestry Service is warning about the danger of the pest. While the adult beetles nibble on ash foliage, causing little damage, the larvae (the immature stage) feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the trees ability to transport water and nutrients.

According to the USFS, the emerald ash borer probably arrived in the United States on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes originating in its native Asia. Emerald ash borer is also established in Windsor, Ontario, was found in Ohio in 2003, northern Indiana in 2004, northern Illinois and Maryland in 2006, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia in 2007.

Since its discovery, EAB has killed more than 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone.

This devastation has caused regulatory agencies and the USDA to enforce quarantines in six states (Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) and fines to prevent further spread of the problem.

At a recent meeting on hazardous trees, Monroe learned of the millions of dollars the emerald ash borer is costing the forest industry, municipalities and nurseries.

While the pests have not spread to Missouri yet, Monroe noted that they are as close as Sterling, Illinois and likely headed this way.

He noted that the problem could hit Memphis hard, as there are numerous ash trees on city right-of-ways not to mention a large contingency of ash trees in the city parks.

Monroe recommended the city look into preventative measures with the possibility of removing these ash trees before they are infested. He noted this is not an easy decision, but pointed out that infested trees are much more costly to dispose of.

Monroe reported the possibility of a grant funded for the project that would pay for 75% of costs of tree removal, as well as similar funding for replacing the lost trees.

The council agreed to begin a tree inventory with the Missouri Department of Conservation Forestry Department to determine the extent of ash trees in the city. The board also agreed to begin the application process for the grants to seek funding before determining what plan of action to take.

I think this is a process we need to get started on, Monroe said. If we choose to do nothing, the worse case scenario is we are going to have a lot of trees in our parks and on our right-of-ways that are dead and falling down and that are going to cost a lot more money to dispose of.

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