Emerald ash borer has ‘generally infested’ Ashwaubenon
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – With the village deemed “generally infested” with the emerald ash borer (EAB), ash trees have become an endangered species of sorts in Ashwaubenon.
As a result, those types of trees are also on their way out on public land.
Ashwaubenon’s forester, Tim Bauknecht, who provided the village board March 23 with an update on EAB, said the small, metallic-green beetle native to Asia continues to spread since its first discovery two years ago in the village, where it is reasonable to assume most ash trees currently are or will soon be infested.
“There was some reports this last winter, with the hard-cold wind chills that we have, that it was going to significantly knock back or wipe out emerald ash borer,” Bauknecht said. “Despite the media reporting some of those things, that simply wasn’t true. If you remember back in the winter of 2014, we had very similar weather, probably even colder, that obviously didn’t wipe out emerald ash borer.”
Bauknecht noted in his report to the board EAB threatens the ash tree population because its larvae burrow into the bark of ash trees and cause them to starve and eventually die.
EAB infestation has occurred throughout the village, Bauknecht said, rather than in isolated areas.
“Not necessarily every (ash) tree has emerald ash borer or is exhibiting signs of it, but they will very likely in the very near future,” he said. “So with that being said, we are kind of going from a proactive management approach, which we’ve been able to do for the last 10 years, to more of a reactive management approach.”
Bauknecht said the reactive approach specifically includes removing ash trees and grinding stumps, then replanting with other tree species as the village sees fit.
When EAB was first discovered in the United States about 15 years, Bauknecht said the village had about 1,700-1,800 ash trees.
“Through proactive removals over the last 10 years, we’ve been able to reduce that population by about a third, so currently, we are at about 1,100 ash trees in our streets and our parks,” he said.
Bauknecht said the village is going to have a lot of ash trees to remove over the next three to five years.
Ash trees on private property
The village has removed many ash trees on public property, such as cutting down all of those trees by the village hall.
However, Bauknecht said it will be the responsibility of the homeowner or property owner to remove infested ash trees on private property.
“It’s their responsibility to manage that property and take care of those problems,” he said.
Bauknecht said the village has drafted a letter to send to private property owners with ash trees identified as being infested with EAB.
“We’ll use this to kind of address those private properties that could potentially impact the public right of way and public safety,” he said.
The letter recommends a private property owner with an ash tree identified as being infested with EAB to have the tree inspected by an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist and/or removed as soon as possible to reduce the risk of failure, personal injury and/or property damage.
Funding tree removal
The village is looking at removing the approximately 1,100 remaining ash trees in the parks and along streets.
Bauknecht said Sherwood Forest, Hidden Valley and Argonne Park, where there are trails through wooded areas with dead ash trees, would also have to be addressed.
Given the number of ash trees that have to be removed, Bauknecht said the village doesn’t have the staff to do that, so the work would have to be contracted out.
“It would be more… like a bonding project, similar to like a road construction project,” he said. “So later this year we’ll be coming forth with a plan to remove all those trees within that project.”
Identifying infested trees
Bauknecht said he has been finding ash trees infested with EAB while doing maintenance in the village and identifying those infested trees by putting pink dots on them.
“The pink dot is an ash tree that is identified as being positively identified with EAB,” he said. “So it’s just kind of my way of keeping track of the ones that are recorded as being infested and the ones that are not.”
Once ash trees infested with EAB are identified, Bauknecht said they are also recorded digitally to generate reports showing all the infestations in the village.
Bauknecht said one easy way of identifying ash trees that are infested is by the activity of woodpeckers who go after the EAB larvae underneath the bark, which is flecked off, i.e. removed.
“So once you see that flecking, you do have a period of two to three years to remove that tree before it becomes hazardous,” he said.
In dealing with the amount of wood from removing infested trees, Bauknecht said the village has an area to store the wood as it’s generated.
He said some paper mills in the area have contacted the village about using the trees for wood fiber in their mills.
“Obviously, they have a vested interest in creating paper, and to do that they need wood fiber,” he said. “So basically what we do is they’ll take anything from 4 inches to 20 inches and then we cut it into 100-inch links, stack it up and then haul it there. And then they pay us per ton.”
Bauknecht said the village wouldn’t get rich by getting rid of that wood, “but it certainly pays for itself.”
“You know, by the time you pay for the labor to haul it to the pit and then truck it down to (Expera in) Kaukauna – but we’re getting rid of a large volume of wood, and we’re making a little bit of money at the end of the day,” he said.