After several years of planning, preparing and waiting, city officials said Monday that the emerald ash borer has finally arrived in the Madison area.
Discovery of the half-inch-long beetle’s presence in the Madison area was confirmed by Laura Whitmore, a spokeswoman for the Madison Parks Division.
Seventeenth District Ald. Joe Clausius, who sits on the Board of Parks Commissioners, said the ash borer was found in Ald. Anita Weier’s North Side District, which spans north from Warner Park to the Yahara River, and east to Cherokee Marsh. Clausius declined to go into further detail until after a Tuesday morning press conference with Mayor Paul Soglin and Parks Superintendent Kevin Briski.
The invasive species originated in Asia and likely hitched a ride to North America on wooden shipping pallets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture detection map shows that as of Nov. 4, the beetle has been discovered in more than a dozen states, primarily east of the Mississippi River, as well as parts of Canada. The species is capable of destroying entire forests as it eats away the inner parts of a tree’s bark that carry water and nutrients.
In Wisconsin, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection lists 20 counties — not including Dane — under quarantine. A quarantine prohibits people from carrying wood out of the county to uninfested areas and wood product businesses may need to work with the state to ensure products are pest-free before shipping.
City forestry staff had completed a branch sampling of nearly 800 trees as recently as May and found no evidence of ash borer larvae. But now that the ash borer is in Dane County, the threat is very real.
Ash trees were a popular replacement for elm trees after Dutch Elm Disease swept through the area in the 1960s and ’70s. As a result, about 21,700 of Madison’s roughly 95,000 street trees are ash species, according to the city’s street tree inventory. That figure does not include thousands of other ash trees in parks and on private properties.
The city created an emerald ash borer task force in 2008 to look at ways to mitigate the pest’s impact in Madison. Staff completed an Emerald Ash Borer Plan in September 2012 and updated the plan in September. The plan includes treatment of some trees with insecticide and pre-emptive removal of ash trees already in poor condition.
“The fact is it’s here and we knew it was going to happen one of these days. We’ve been planning for it and are as prepared for it as we possibly could be. … If it spreads rapidly it’s going to be a nightmare,” said Ald. Mark Clear, who also sits on the Parks Commission.
The updated plan recom-
• An injection chemical treatment program for terrace trees 10 inches diameter at breast height, except for trees in poor condition or under power transmission lines, that would begin when the borer is detected within 15 miles of Madison.
• Preemptively removing ash street trees in poor condition, taking out 200 trees in 2013 and 400 in 2014, with the extra trees next year to be part of two pilot canopy restoration projects in recently planted, newly developed neighborhoods. The city would also work with homeowners on pilot projects to remove small ash trees in fair to good condition.
• Removing ash street trees in poor condition or under power lines during infrastructure maintenance projects, and offering property owners the option to remove trees in fair or good condition during such public works projects.
• Replacing removed trees within a year or the next planting season.
• Giving property owners the option of chemically treating publicly owned trees in city parks at their own expense through an adopt-a-tree program that preserves legacy or high value trees and preserves tree canopy for environmental, economic or social reasons.
It’s unclear if the city will adjust any recommendations made in the September plan.
The city also set up and emerald ash borer website for residents to get more information on how to cope with the pest.
Soglin and Briski also declined to comment until Tuesday’s 11 a.m. press conference at Warner Park Community Recreation Center.