An Ash Worth Saving: Program protects trees from invasive beetle

by | Jan 15, 2020

Seven years ago, the emerald ash borer was first found in North Carolina. Its discovery was met with dread. This invasive beetle had already become notorious by devastating the forests in the Midwest and Northeast. We knew it killed trees and spread quickly. The future was not bright for North Carolina’s ash trees.

This is one case where we didn’t want to be right. Since its initial discovery, the emerald ash borer has continued to spread across the state. As of January 2020, the tree-killing beetle is known to occur in 55 of our 100 counties. North Carolina is losing its ash trees quickly, both in forest and urban settings.

Ash is a popular choice for urban plantings and seeing large ash trees forming a canopy over a street is not an uncommon sight. In North Carolina, these areas are now in danger. The emerald ash borer is already in or near the most populous urban areas in the state including Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham and Asheville.

Ash trees are commonly found in our urban forests. This large ash tree is part of a picture-perfect canopy in Historic Oakwood, a neighborhood near downtown Raleigh.

To protect our urban ash forest, the Ash Protection Program was created. Through a grant from the U.S. Forest Service, the N.C. Forest Service developed this program to provide financial assistance to urban forest managers, primarily municipalities, to protect urban ash trees in North Carolina using a pesticide treatment. This pesticide, which is injected directly into the tree trunk, protects the tree from emerald ash borer for 2-3 years. At this point, a second treatment can prolong protection. The program prioritizes urban ash trees of historical or recreational value or those in high-visibility urban areas.

A large ash tree, alongside a trail in Grandfather Mountain State Park, is injected with a pesticide to protect it from the emerald ash borer.

In 2018 and 2019, the Ash Protection Program funded or partially funded the protection of more than 620 ash trees in 15 North Carolina communities, municipalities, or parks. And there are no plans to stop; the program was recently re-funded and is currently accepting applications. As far as battling this invasive, we’re in for the long haul!

For further information or to apply to the program, visit the Ash Protection Program website.