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Tree killers confirmed in Wisconsin

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Associated Press and Gazette staff
August 5, 2008

The dreaded emerald ash borer has invaded Wisconsin.


Officials received confirmation from experts Friday and announced it to the public Monday afternoon.


Forest ecologists called EAB a threat to Wisconsin’s 740 million ash trees. Their loss could mean billions of dollars gone for the logging and tourism industry, not to mention the aesthetic loss.


It’s not clear how widespread the infestation is, or why it was discovered so far from the nearest known infestations in Michigan and Illinois.


Officials said their first steps will include determining how big an area is infested with the beetles, often referred to by their initials, EAB.


“This is a big deal. This is bad,” said Phil Townsend, an associate professor of forest ecology at UW-Madison. “We’re not just talking about forests, out in the woods. We’re talking about trees in neighborhoods and suburbs along streets.”


Ashes are popular among municipalities and homeowners. Neighborhoods have been denuded of their trees in Michigan, where EAB was first detected in 2002.


The city of Janesville has an estimated 25,000 ash trees.


The emerald ash borer is metallic-green and about a half inch long. It is native to Asia. Authorities say it probably arrived in wood packing crates.


EAB has wiped out an estimated 25 million trees across nine states. The adults burrow inside the tree and lay eggs. The larvae hatch and devour fluid-conducting vessels, killing the tree.


Federal quarantines have been placed on firewood from infested states.


Until now, the closest infestations to Wisconsin were in northern Illinois, including a site in Kane County, about 40 miles south of Walworth County.


Wisconsin has been testing for the insect since 2004. Testers looked particularly hard in counties that bordered Illinois or Upper Michigan but found nothing.


Scientists believe much of the spread of EAB is the result of humans inadvertently transporting them in firewood or nursery stock. The result has been a hopscotch pattern of outbreaks.


Last year, the DNR prohibited campers in state parks from bringing in firewood that originated from more than 50 miles away.


DATCP likely will impose a quarantine in Ozaukee County, prohibiting movement of firewood, ash nursery stock, timber or anything else the beetle could infest, such as mulch or wood chips, outside the counties, agency spokeswoman Jane Larson said.


Neighboring Washington County also could be quarantined.


WHAT YOU CAN DO

Officials advise these steps against emerald ash borers:


-- Buy firewood locally and burn it all at your campsite.


-- Become familiar with the beetles’ look and telltale signs. One place to learn is at www.emeraldashborer.wi.gov.


-- Plant non-ash species.


-- Report suspicious ash trees or request information by calling the Wisconsin EAB Program hot line, 1-800-462-2803.



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