Emerald Ash Borer Threatens To Double-Decimate State Park

Sep 13, 2013

Emerald Ash Borer in firewood.
Credit US Forest Service / Flickr, Creative Commons

An ongoing insect infestation is causing both safety and aesthetic concerns at a well known Kentucky state park.  The emerald ash borer, which is native to Asia but alien to North America, was first seen in Kentucky just four years ago.  Since, then it’s done a lot of damage to trees in 24 counties.  State officials are especially worried about its impact on General Butler State Park near Carrollton.  Forest Health Specialist Jody Thompson says there’s no quick and easy cure-all.

“And it’s specific insecticides, and you have to treat them in a specific way, which means you have to get them into the tree, but being that the infestation is well underway there, most of the ash trees are not gonna be in a treatable condition,” said Thompson.

Thompson estimates Ash trees in General Butler comprise about 20 percent of the tree canopy.  Plus, he says there are serious public safety issues, since infected tree branches die off first.

“So the tree will essentially begin to fall apart and in some cases you may have trees falling over and even a small branch is a major safety hazard for a person.  It can do a lot of damage and a lot of harm,” added Thompson.

Once emerald ash borer infestation takes hold, a forester’s options are limited.  Thompson says state park officials will likely consider tree removal.

“It’s certainly an option for tree removal and you have a lot of ash trees around the campgrounds as well you have ash trees along the trails there.  You have ash trees along roads,” explained Thompson.

Still healthy ash trees could be removed and replaced with other trees.  The spread of Emerald Ash Borer infestation is tied primarily to the movement of firewood.  Thompson says ash is a very popular firewood, so prohibiting its movement is not an option.  State officials plan a public meeting Monday night at the park’s conference center to discuss the matter.