Municipal Law Alert, July 2007
The Emerald Ash Borer – the harbinger of the “Dutch Elm Disease” of the ash tree has been found recently in the northern suburbs of Chicago and in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Native to northern China, eastern Russia, North Korea and Japan, this beetle was first found in Michigan in 2002. It has already killed an estimated twenty million ash trees in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.
In spite of efforts to notify the public of this threat and placement of restrictions on the transport of firewood, there is little doubt that the Emerald Ash Borer will be spreading through Wisconsin in the near future. Wisconsin has millions of ash trees that could be threatened. Aggressive treatment methods with Dutch Elm Disease were able to save some of Wisconsin’s elm trees; similar actions may be able to save some of the state’s ash trees as well. If nothing is done, all ash species may cease to exist in the entire continent of North America. Wisconsin’s largest ash populations are located in the southeastern and north central parts of the state.
Municipal officials are advised to consider the following measures to prepare for this onslaught:
1. Education – learn the details about how this insect migrates, learn the symptoms and signs of infestation, and options for prevention, treatment, and eradication; educate municipal residents about the threat. Poster and information sheets can be found at http://www.emeraldashborer.info/.
2. Inventory – identify stands of ash trees within and near municipal boundaries – on both public and private properties.
3. Preparation – develop a plan which includes: communication with state authorities about any sightings within Wisconsin; coordination with state, county and local agencies and officials for countering the threat; and preparation of procedures and resources for addressing any local infestations.
4. Budget – consider financial incentives to private property owners for quick removal of infected trees and treatment or removal of other nearby ash trees. (In the absence of landowner cooperation, municipalities may be forced to go to court to file suit to abate a public nuisance under Chapter 823 of the Wisconsin Statutes.)
Wisconsin state agencies, headed by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection have already prepared a Response Plan for the Emerald Ash Borer; it is available at http://dnr.wi.gov/forestry/fh/pdf/WIEABResponsePlan.pdf.