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Keep our ash trees safe

June 9, 2009 - Kevin Sweeney
I grew up in St. Paul in the 1950s and ’60s, and I remember the horrible impact that Dutch Elm disease had on the neighborhoods I lived in.

When I was young, block after block was lined with stately elm trees, all arching over the street to provide a shady corridor. The trees were tall and wide at the crown, shading yards and houses. It was beautiful.

The long lines of nothing but elm trees provided a perfect environment for the Dutch Elm beetle. When a tree was infested, by the time the infestation was discovered the beetles had moved along. Whole blocks of mature trees had to be cut down. Before and after photos of streets in my neighborhood show the devastation. It looked like St. Peter before and after the 1998 tornado.

A lot of people replanted with ash trees after the elm trees were gone. Now, another pest, the emerald ash borer, threatens to denude our neighborhoods. It burrows under the ash tree bark and lays its eggs. Its larvae burrow in the soft underbark, destroying the layers that carry food and water from the roots up to the branches and leaves.

The emerald ash borer has been moving closer to Minnesota over the years, and now it is here. Infestations have been found in St. Paul.

The state is working to contain the infestations by cutting affected trees. We can all help by making sure we do not transport wood to different parts of the state. Some people bring their own firewood to campgrounds and state parks throughout the state. State Parks are now asking people to not do that, to purchase firewood at the parks or from licensed dealers.

It would be a shame for our ash trees to go the way of the elms.


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