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DEM, Partners Develop Emerald Ash Borer Response Plan

DEM, URI, National Grid and federal partners collaborate on action plan to prepare for, respond to, prevent and recover from the spread of this destructive, invasive pest which attacks only ash trees

Providence The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in partnership with the University of Rhode Island (URI), National Grid (NG), USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the USDA Forest Service State & Private Forestry (USFS), has finalized an action to address the destructive effects of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) to Rhode Island's ash resources. An invasive forest insect from Asia, EAB was first detected in Rhode Island last summer; the state now joins the federal quarantine which covers much of the eastern United States.

DEM's Divisions of Agriculture and Forest Environment, in cooperation with project partners, will use the EAB Technical Response plan to guide Rhode Island communities, homeowners, woodland property owners, and other stakeholders as they prepare for, manage, and recover from local-level EAB impacts. The guidance document will be used to assist RI landowners and municipalities in raising awareness of EAB and other invasive pests, how to identify and inventory ash trees, and how to minimize risks. DEM's strategy for EAB focuses on prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Although ash trees constitute only about one to two percent of RI forests, ash has been widely planted in urban public areas as landscape and shade trees on streets, campuses, and lawns and in parks and urban woodlots. A compromised ash tree may represent a potential risk to health and safety because of the public use of these areas. EAB threatens all ash species in RI, including white ash, green ash, and black ash. There are no proven means to control EAB in forested areas, though repeated pesticide treatments can help protect individual trees. EAB does not pose any human health risk. DEM's Divisions of Agriculture and Forest Environment are ready to assist municipalities by providing outreach, training, and technical assistance.

To slow the spread of EAB, DEM will continue its outreach and education efforts with federal and local partners including RI green industry organizations such as the RI Landscape & Nursery Association, RI Tree Council, RI Forest Conservators Organization, and URI Master Gardeners Association. The adult EAB can fly only short distances, but people have accelerated their spread by moving infested material, particularly firewood. Larvae are easily moved in firewood, logs, and nursery stock because they are hard to detect under the trees' bark. Residents and visitors are reminded to protect Rhode Island's forests by buying and burning local firewood. DEM has adopted the Don't Move Firewood campaign developed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and uses outreach materials developed by TNC to share this message.

Preparedness plays an important role in the EAB response plan because this invasive pest has the potential to cause rapid tree mortality. Specifically, DEM will continue to conduct surveys to detect the location of any infestations quickly and early while they are relatively small. Also, DEM has developed a web-based system for the public to report sightings of suspected invasive species including EAB. Information gathered from EAB surveys and public reports aids in the selection of appropriate response actions.

Although EAB has already been detected within the State, it is still important to monitor the extent of the infestation. Knowing the location and extent of EAB, and communicating that information to the public at large, provides those with at-risk trees information needed to select and implement management options. DEM will provide guidance to state agencies, communities, forest landowners, and private property owners to help them cope with EAB and its impacts. This includes sharing up-to-date information on the status of an infestation, current best management practices for mitigation and recovery, and advice from planning through recovery. Ash trees have been widely planted in urban public areas and as landscape and shade trees on streets, campuses, lawns, parks, and urban woodlots. Communities may be severely impacted by EAB and a compromised ash tree may pose a significant potential risk to public safety. Communities are encouraged to draft and adopt their own EAB response plans, and DEM's urban and community forester will be available to assist communities in this effort.

While ash is a minor component of RI's forests, ash trees may be more prevalent on individual woodland properties. Forest land owners are encouraged to know how to identify ash trees and recognize signs of EAB infestation. Through the forest landowner assistance program offered by DEM's Division of Forest Environment, a stewardship forester can provide advice and direction to private forest landowners and assist them with updating their forest stewardship plan to address EAB. DEM advises woodland owners to be cautious if they receive solicitations for the pre-emptive removal of ash trees from their land, and to seek the services of a professional forester before selling trees. The wood of ash trees is valuable for timber and as firewood.

Finally, owners of private properties other than forested land may not be aware of the presence of EAB in RI and are less likely to have planned for the decline and mortality of ash trees on their property. While individual property owners are responsible for the care and/or removal of trees, help is available. DEM's Division of Forest Environment offers information on choosing an arborist on its website and maintains an up-to-date list of RI-licensed arborists; property owners are advised to check with DEM to make sure that the person providing tree care is a RI-licensed arborist in good standing. Community tree wardens, with support and training from DEM, may also assist local property owners dealing with EAB.

DEM will respond to EAB infestations through a combination of communication and outreach efforts, monitoring, mitigation, and if needed, promulgation of regulations and legislation. Along with conducting educational programs at schools and libraries, workshops for woodland owners, and train-the-trainer sessions, DEM will continue to meet with partners to share the latest information and discuss potential response options, and provide guidance and support to community leaders, elected officials, arborists, forest practitioners, and other stakeholders. The Department will monitor the spread of EAB around known infested areas, surveying ash in areas that are at risk of EAB attack, and by evaluating information obtained through other sources such as informal surveys, reports from the public, and social media platforms.

DEM will take measures to mitigate impacts caused by this invasive species by attempting to slow the spread of EAB within and out of the state, community planning, and assisting and advising communities with the replanting of removed trees. Ash trees can quickly succumb to an EAB infestation and become hazardous, threatening public health and safety, and valuable infrastructure. In state management areas, DEM will use silvicultural practices the art and science of growing and caring for trees to reduce the volume of ash in forested stands and eliminate hazardous trees. DEM will conduct surveys to identify ash trees in state parks, campgrounds, bike paths and other developed recreational areas and prioritize the removal of any trees that pose a threat to public safety or infrastructure. The Department will also review inventories of state forestlands and other undeveloped areas to identify suitable areas for harvesting ash trees; this practice helps slow the growth and spread of the EAB population. Harvested material will be disposed following federal guidelines to ensure EAB is not spread to new sites. Disposal includes bark removal, chipping, mulching or composting.

Systemic insecticides applied to the exterior of the lower trunk of the tree as a spray, to the soil as a drench or granules, or injected directly into the tree stem are options for controlling EAB populations to retain live ash. Other pesticide products can be used as a preventative measure. Homeowners and licensed pesticide applicators are advised to contact DEM's Division of Agriculture Pesticide Registration at 401-222-2781 to ensure that the product they plan to use is registered for use and application in RI. Care should be taken so that these products are not applied near water or where bees are foraging.

Natural enemies of EAB ("Biocontrol Agents") have been shown to slow the spread of EAB but become less effective as the EAB population grows and spreads. When appropriate and feasible, DEM (or its partners), may release approved biocontrol agents in accordance with the "Emerald Ash Borer Biological Control and Release Recovery Guidelines" 2016.

Residents and visitors are reminded to protect Rhode Island's forests by buying and burning local firewood. Wood dealers, loggers, and arborists should check state and federal restrictions prior to transporting ash out of Rhode Island.

Recovery efforts will concentrate on replanting tree species appropriate for the site. Historically, EAB advances quickly into un-infested areas at a rate of about 15 miles a year. Ash mortality begins about three years after initial infestation, with peak mortality occurring between years 11 and 16. Final mortality is generally greater than 99 percent. DEM will support local efforts to manage and recover from the loss of ash and assist urban, suburban and rural communities in the development of replanting plans.

EAB accidentally arrived in North America via wooden packing material exported from China and was first detected in Detroit in 2002. The invasive pest overwinters as larva under the bark of ash trees. As they grow, larvae feed and zigzag through tree tissue, leaving S-shaped tunnels that cut off the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients. Once infested, ash trees rapidly decline and are killed in three to five years. In Asia, EAB has co-evolved with native ash trees, so there are natural enemies and pathogens that keep EAB levels in check. That is not the case in North America, however, where there are very few if any known enemies and pathogens to control EAB.

EAB has been detected in 35 states, counting Rhode Island, and in three Canadian provinces. (See USDA detection map.) Since its discovery, EAB has killed tens of millions of ash trees and has cost municipalities, property owners, nursery operators, and forest products industries tens of millions of dollars, according to APHIS.

For more information on Emerald Ash Borer or other exotic agricultural pests, invasive insects, or plants, please visit DEM's website.

To report a suspected exotic or invasive insect or plant, please fill out the DEM Invasive Species Reporting Form, which is posted on DEM's website.

For more information on DEM programs and services, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM for timely updates.

Related links

  • Department or agency: Department of Environmental Management
  • Online: http://www.dem.ri.gov/
  • Release date: 02-22-2019

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