August 6, 2008

Invasive Species Discovered in Wisconsin

By The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - Officials confirmed the first appearance of the emerald ash borer in Wisconsin, a finding that could put nearly 750 million trees in the state in jeopardy.State Department of Natural Resources foresters took samples from a group of dying ash trees near the village of Newburg in Ozaukee County last week. A United States Department of Agriculture lab in Romulus, Mich., detected the insect in the samples, and a lab at the Smithsonian Institution confirmed the discovery late Friday.No one has found a way to control the insect or identified any predators, said Darrell Zastrow, director of the DNR's forest science office. That means they could destroy Wisconsin's ash trees in the wild and urban settings, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars."This is one of the species of greatest concern to our forests," Zastrow said.The emerald ash borer, a metallic-green insect about half-an-inch long, is native to Asia. It was first discovered in the Detroit area in 2002. Authorities say it probably arrived in wood packing crates.It's wiped out 25 million trees across nine states since then, according to DNR estimates. The adults burrow inside the tree and lay eggs. The larvae hatch and kill the tree by chewing through fluid-conducting vessels.Federal quarantines have been placed on firewood from infested states. Last year Wisconsin's DNR prohibited campers in state parks from bringing in firewood that originated from more than 50 miles away.The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection likely will impose a quarantine in Ozaukee County prohibiting movement of firewood, ash nursery stock, timber or anything else the beetle could infest, like mulch or wood chips, outside the counties, agency spokeswoman Jane Larson said.Mulch and wood-chips that were pre-bagged outside quarantined areas likely won't be included in the quarantine or could be subject to inspection before sale, Larson said.The quarantine could go into effect by the end of the week. Agency officials may include Washington County since Newburg sits on the Washington-Ozaukee border, Larson added.State foresters then plan to survey the area around Newburg in hopes of determining the extent of infestation and the source, Larson said.The DNR's Zastrow said other tree diseases, such as Dutch elm disease, have forced Wisconsin's forests to adapt. For example, other species grew up to replace lost elms, he said.The longer scientists can contain the beetle, the more diverse Wisconsin's forests will remain, Zastrow said. But people should start planting other species besides ash, he said."Ash presents a bit of a risk right now," he said.Matt Jensen of Crandon owns Whitetail Logging LLC and sits on the board of directors of the Great Lakes Timber Association, a logging advocacy group. He doubts the insect will devastate Wisconsin's forests, but trees in infested areas need to be eradicated to stop it from spreading, if that's possible."Mother Nature has a lot of power and she kind of does what she wants," Jensen said. "It's kind of tough for man to stop it."

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