Duluth reports, to date, no sign of Emerald Ash Borer spreading to city trees

By KBJR News 1

June 6, 2014 Updated Jun 6, 2014 at 6:38 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - When the Minnesota Department of Agriculture offered Duluth a $5,000 grant to monitor and sample the city's 2,400 ash trees, the monitoring of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer was the driving force.

The fear of city officials is that the pest will make the seemingly–natural jump from Superior, where they've fought the ash borer since August, to Park Point, across the St. Louis Bay.

"So far there hasn't been any indication that that is the circumstance," said Duluth Building & Grounds Supervisor Dale Sellner, "I don't know, it's—I think we're just plain lucky at this point."

Superior's Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Mary Morgan says they've removed 500 of their city's 3,000 ash trees since last fall, with intent to remove more.

She says she's surprised by Duluth's reports.

"It is surprising, but you must remember that the pest jumped half a state—from central Wisconsin to Superior—equally surprising," said Morgan.

But she reminds people that those efforts through tree removal are more about hazard mitigation than population control.

Many experts say once an infestation is present, the battle is already lost.

And while proper removal of an ash tree can run anywhere from $300–$600, Morgan says leaving the dead trees would be a safety hazard for the city's sidewalks and streets.

"It would be quite an undertaking to eliminate all of our ash trees so that they wouldn't become a hazard," said Sellner, back in Duluth.

Sellner says that's why Duluth is trying to stay on top of the possibility by monitoring for any signs of an infestation.

Every member of the city's tree maintenance crew is a certified tree inspector, trained to identify disease.

But another tool on the front lines is an ash tree injection that could slow the trees mortality rate, and possibly thwart the pest.

"If it looks like it's here, it's imminent; we'll start our injection process on these healthy trees," said Sellner.

Injections could run anywhere from $75–$300 per tree.

Superior is already using citizen–led tree injections on their front lines, with 30 people obtaining a free permit from the city to have an authorized pesticide applicator inject their neighborhood trees.

Billy Wagness