Battling the Emerald Ash Borer

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has awarded $1.9 million in grants to cities and organizations to arm themselves in the fight against the destructive emerald ash borer.

The emerald ash borer was first found in May in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of Saint Paul. It has since been discovered in Falcon Heights and on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus. More than 100 infested ash trees have been destroyed so far.

St. Paul will get $723,000 to help manage infestation in the city. The University of Minnesota will get $200,000, and Falcon Heights will get $77,400 to fight the pest. The Agriculture Department also awarded $875,000 in grants to 15 cities and agencies to prepare for infestation, including Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Roseville and St. Louis Park.

The St. Paul City Council recently adopted an ordinance declaring the emerald ash borer a public nuisance, which gives the city the authority to inspect trees on private property and the power to order the removal of infested trees.

Blaine MN, taking a cue from cities in the east that became ash-less in the 5 years following the discovery of an infestation, is taking a more agressive approach. The city of Blaine has a new plan to remove all ash trees from city-owned land before they're hit by the emerald ash borer. The move is meant to spread out the emotional pain of losing mature trees and the financial pain of replacing them. The city has already started looking for distressed trees to be targeted for later removal.

The Chinese bug was discovered in the U.S. in Michigan in 2002. It has destroyed tens of millions of trees in the Midwest. The pest's larvae kill ash trees by burrowing into wood and feeding on nutrients, effectively starving the tree.

Unfortunately, the ash tree was the preferred replacement for elms after Dutch elm disease hit in the 1970s. Additionally, it is a predominant tree throughout the state. Minnesota has about 900 million ash trees.

The grants are part of an appropriation from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, established when the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment to the state Constitution was approved.

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