When emerald ash borer was found in a trap at the Minnesota westbound rest stop on Interstate 94 in October, the news caught the attention of nearby city and county officials — and state officials, too.
That’s why the state agency has scheduled two informational meetings — one for city officials, the other for Washington County residents — next week.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture set the trap at the rest stop. Until this fall, Washington County had been one of the last counties in the metro area to have been infested by EAB, so now the state agency wants to educate area city and county officials, and the residents too, on how the EAB spread can be stalled.
Stalled, but not stopped all together, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Entomologist Mark Abrahamson said.
The emerald ash borer is a small, dark metallic green invasive beetle from Asia that has caused the mortality of more than 30 million ash trees in North America. EAB was first found in Detroit, in 2002, on wood-packing materials, and Minnesota’s first EAB infestation was found in St. Paul in 2009. While there is no way to fully eradicate the pest, a number of methods can be — and have been — used to slow its spread.
There are 12 counties in Minnesota where the emerald ash borer is present, Abrahamson said. Most of those counties are on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, with EAB present from down near Rochester to as far north as Duluth.
Communities, including Cottage Grove and Woodbury, have enacted ordinances to curb the spread of EAB on publicly owned property. Both communities are gradually removing and replacing the ash trees.
Washington County prohibits county park users from bringing firewood into the parks because outside wood may be contaminated with EAB. These meetings are one of the steps necessary in declaring “quarantine” on moving firewood in the county, Abrahamson said.
Steps like that have helped to slow the spread, he added.
“It’s not something that we’ll be able to get rid of,” he said, “but the spread has been about half as fast as it could have been in Minnesota. That’s about the best we can ask for, and it gives other states the change to start replacing their ash.”
Department of Agriculture staff will conduct both meetings next week. The meeting for city officials will be Dec. 15 in Cottage Grove. The meeting for Washington County residents will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Washington County Government Center in Stillwater.
The meeting for the public will include speakers from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the University of Minnesota. Topics will cover the biology of the EAB and why it does what it does, how to protect trees with insecticide, and how residents can help.
For more information, visit the county’s website, www.co.washington.mn.us and find the posting under the “Calendar” tab; or visit the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s website, www.mda.state.mn.us/eab.