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Editorial: Ash tree threat is a real one for region

Cities throughout west central Minnesota need to start preparing now for the arrival of a tree-destroying monster -- the emerald ash borer.

The arrival of this small native insect from Asia is considered almost inevitable for the cities and towns of west central Minnesota. The insect first arrived in Michigan in 2004 and has now spread to at least 11 Midwest and eastern states in addition to the province of Quebec in Canada.

The emerald ash borer will not be a welcomed arrival. One state employee called it simply "the bug from hell."

Sadly, this insect pest can devastate the ash tree population of any city or town it infects. An infected, dying tree will attract woodpeckers. Leaves will die at the top of the tree. The tree trunk will have D-shaped exit holes in the bark.

The devastation will be even more significant when one considers the tree population of any given city. In Willmar, ash trees comprise more than 50 percent of the trees in the city.

The ash tree was often used as a replacement as cities and towns battled Dutch elm disease by removing diseased trees and replacing them with new ash saplings.

Replacing half the trees owned, for example, in Willmar or any other city or town in the region would be an expensive project.

What will be hard to replace would be the many towering trees along the streets of Willmar and other cities in the region. Replacement trees will take years to reach similar stature.

Homeowners in Willmar and the region will be a critical defense against the tiny, yet mighty emerald ash borer. Citizens should not import wood from infected counties. If you suspect you have an infected tree, contact your city forester or local extension office to arrange proper removal and disposal.