City arborists say ash trees could be next beetle victim

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For years, the city has been planting ash trees on our boulevards as an alternative to the elms that have fallen prey to Dutch elm disease. Now it seems that those ash trees may be in jeopardy.

The emerald ash borer, a green beetle from Asia, has killed at least 10 million ash trees in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana during the past two years, reports Gail Olson in the Northeaster, and city arborists are bracing for its arrival in Minnesota. When it arrives, said the Park Board’s director of forestry Ralph Sievert, “we’re never going to be talking about Dutch elm disease again.”

The borer is not believed to be in Minnesota yet, Sievert said, but it has traveled quickly throughout Michigan—mostly via imported firewood. “Right now, from everything we hear at various conferences, it’s not like they have a good handle on it,” he said. “In Detroit, there are dead ash trees everywhere.”

Minneapolis arborists have responded by dramatically reducing the number of new ash trees they’re planting, but there remain about 200,000 ash trees currently growing on our boulevards—that’s about 19 percent of the urban forest.

Sievert encourages people to help prevent an infestation by always buying their firewood locally.

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