Federal funds will help efforts to slow the emerald ash borer invasion in Michigan and beyond

posted on February 19, 2010 6:18am


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EAST LANSING, Mich.—All ash trees in North America could eventually be lost to the emerald ash borer (EAB), an exotic pest from Asia first discovered in Michigan and Canada in 2002. At least 15 native ash species appear to be threatened by this invasive pest. In economic terms, scientists have estimated that at least $10.7 billion will likely be spent over the next 10 years simply to protect some of the ash trees in landscapes. That figure does not include the costs of widespread mortality of the ash trees that grow in forests and along streams, ditches and roads.
  In an effort to develop strategies for managing recent infestations of EAB,  state and federal forest specialists and researchers have been awarded $2.2 million from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)  for a pilot project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The project, called SLAM, is designed to SL.ow A.sh M.ortality. 
  “The goals of the pilot project are to test ways to slow the rate of EAB population growth in a relatively isolated infestation,” says Deborah McCullough, Michigan State University (MSU) forest entomologist. “We may also be able to reduce the rate of spread of an EAB population in this kind of setting. Both of these goals will slow down the rate at which EAB kills ash trees within and beyond the project area.”

  John Bedford, Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) EAB project director,  noted that the ARRA funding will help provide much-needed dollars to accomplish the goals of the project.
  “The strategies being developed can be used as models for other states that discover new EAB infestations, as well,” he says. “To date, EAB has been found in 13 states and Canada. We need to develop strategies that lower the overall impact of this pest.”
  In addition to MSU and MDA, Michigan Technological University (MTU), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE), the U.S.  Forest Service and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are working cooperatively to do ash tree inventory and mapping, evaluate ash tree survival and death within EAB-infested areas, develop methods to use insecticides and explore other strategies to reduce EAB populations.
  The SLAM pilot project will be conducted in Mackinac, Delta, Schoolcraft and Houghton counties.
  The ARRA money is critical in getting the work done for this project, according to Andrew Storer, forest insect ecologist at MTU.

  “Much of the work needed for the pilot project is labor intensive,” he said.  “We need people out in the field to set up traps and trap trees, survey ash trees and assess forest health. In all, 38 full- and part-time jobs are being created or maintained with the ARRA dollars allocated to the SLAM pilot project.”

  In addition, scientists at MSU and MTU will be analyzing data and developing models to help evaluate and plan program activities, and a communications specialist will keep the public informed on the project’s progress. Funds will also be used for the equipment and supplies.
  Specialists from MDA and DNRE also play key roles in developing plans for monitoring EAB and for surveying ash across the project areas. The DNRE will be working with the communities of St. Ignace, Manistique, Calumet and Houghton in an effort to respond proactively to possible EAB infestations.
  “The ARRA funding will not only benefit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s forest resource, but the discoveries made during this pilot project will create a useful model to follow in other areas in the country where invasive insect species threaten our forests and woodlands,” Bob Heyd of the DNRE says.
  The ARRA was passed by Congress in 2009 to create new jobs as well as save existing ones, spur economic activity and invest in long-term economic growth,  and foster unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in government spending.
  For more information about EAB and the SLAM pilot project, go to www.emeraldashborer.info. For more information on ARRA, go to www.recovery.gov.


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