Ash trees becoming casualties of EAB in Ashwaubenon

This ash tree at Klipstine Park in Ashwaubenon is marked with an X May 30, 2018, signifying that it is slated for removal because of the emerald ash borer. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

ASHWAUBENON (WLUK) -- A battle to slow the spread of an invasive beetle continues in Ashwaubenon.

Thousands of trees in the village need to be taken down.

At Klipstine Park in Ashwaubenon, Village Forester Tim Bauknecht recently discussed an ash tree that is living on borrowed time.

"EAB moves pretty rapidly," Bauknecht said. "Depending on the level of the population in the area, a tree can go from healthy to dead in probably a matter of four or five years."

Bauknecht says the emerald ash borer was officially found in the village about a year and a half ago. Foresters say the larvae feed underneath the bark, choking the tree of nutrients.

"So what happens is they become very brittle, and then in a wind storm you have large branches breaking off, or the whole tree can come down, and becomes a major safety factor," said Rex Mehlberg, Ashwaubenon Parks, Recreation, and Forestry director.

Mehlberg says there are about 15,000 ash trees in the village. About 10 percent line the streets or are in parks. Since January, village crews have removed about 70 infested trees. Mehlberg says in a couple years, the village may need to hire more workers.

"Once the emerald ash borer gets more established, it takes over more," he said. "What will happen is that we'll have to bond some additional dollars and have contractors come in and try to help us keep up."

Mehlberg says about 30 percent of Ashwaubenon's urban forest is ash trees. Chemical treatments are an option, but for many ash trees, "there's going to be a lot of trees needing to come down, once the EAB actually hits."

Including one just yards away from the Ashwaubenon Community Center.

"We did take samples, and verify that it is EAB," Bauknecht said. "So, unfortunately, this tree is scheduled for removal later this summer."

Foresters say once an infested ash tree is cut down, people should replace it with a different tree. Experts say planting many different varieties gives the forest a better chance to be resilient against future insects or diseases.

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