Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

Utah Prepares for Emerald Ash Borer Invasion

Working with a State of Utah inter agency task force, four Utah cities are taking the lead to reduce the impacts of a devastating tree pest that is forecast to invade Utah.

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive pest that attacks ash trees, and is considered to be one of the most destructive forest insects to ever invade the U.S. In 2002, EAB was first detected in the U.S. in Michigan, and is thought to have arrived in wood packing material from its native Asia. Since then, EAB has been found in more than 20 mid-western and eastern states, killing more than 50 million ash trees. In 2013 it was discovered in Boulder, Colorado.

 “It’s not a matter of if emerald ash borer makes it to Utah, but when,” said Clint Burfitt , State Entomologist, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

In light of that prediction, the City of South Salt Lake (SSL), Salt Lake City, Bluffdale and Provo are the first municipalities in Utah working with the EAB Task Force to remove ash trees from their city planting lists. No new ash trees will be planted on city property in those jurisdictions. Additionally, the cities are recommending to their residents not to plant new ash trees on private property.

"In South Salt Lake, we have prepared a statement about Emerald Ash Borer to be inserted into our next city utility bill. We have also prepared an article for residents about EAB that will be included in an upcoming issue of our city On the Move newsletter," said Joaquin Garcia, SSL Parks Division Supervisor.

 “Because ash can grow in challenging sites it has become a popular city tree,” said Meridith Perkins, Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands.  “We estimate about 15-20 percent of Utah's public urban forest is ash.” In some newer cities, that number may be closer to 40 percent. “City foresters and professional arborists have been talking about the emerald ash borer for years and are ready to start taking action,” she added. The EAB Task Force hopes to get every municipality in the state to follow South Salt Lake and Salt Lake City’s lead.

 In areas of the world where EAB is native, the species of ash trees are able to fight off the insect with some success. For the most part the trees and the borer can live in harmony. American species of ash trees do not have natural defenses to EAB, which results in devastating loss of trees where the borer is present.

The task force also asks all Utah residents not to transport firewood, said Burfitt. “EAB is most often spread by people moving infested wood.”

While EAB has not yet been detected in Utah, it may already be here, said Burfitt. If you own an ash tree, look for signs of infestation, including a small ”D” shaped exit hole in the bark, thinning of the tree’s canopy, new growth at the base of the tree, bark splits, and woodpecker feeding.

“The earlier we detect it, the better chance we have of saving trees not yet infested,” Burfitt said.

If you are not certain if you have an ash tree on your property, the following identification guide may help:

http://www.emeraldashborer.info/files/E2942.pdf

For more information about the Emerald Ash Borer, see the following websites:

http://utahpests.usu.edu/htm/utah-pests-news/utah-pests-news-winter-2014/emerald-ash-borer-hits-close-to-home/

http://www.emeraldashborer.info/#sthash.JOBJSgsm.C7Trf6RE.dpbs