EAB claims hundreds of Ash trees

ABOVE: This photo, taken in the summer of 2022, shows Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in a tree at Heritage Acres in Fairmont. EAB has been spreading to much of the city’s ash trees and as a result many have been removed.

FAIRMONT– Since Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) was discovered in Fairmont in the summer of 2022, more than 1,000 trees have been removed from the city’s parks and greenways.

EAB is an invasive species of insect lethal to all species of North America Ash trees which can spread by flying short distances or by being transported in infested firewood. EAB came to the U.S. in the early 2000s and was first discovered in Minnesota in 2009. It was first detected in Martin County in 2018 in Welcome. In 2022 it was found in Fairmont at Heritage Acres.

Matthew York, the Director of Public Works for the city of Fairmont, said the original estimate was 350 Ash trees on the city’s parks and open lands.

“We have now found that there are a lot more Ash trees out there,” York said.

In fact, it’s believed that there are about 1,5000 Ash trees in the city’s parks and green spaces.

“Originally, they looked at the usable park and not the woods but there were Ash trees in the woods and if they fall, they would fall into the park so we need to eradicate those,” York said.

He explained that EAB kills trees as the larva eats the cambium layer of the tree, which is the vascular layer of the tree where nutrients move from the root system up.

“The tree dies from the top down because the larva are laid on the top branches. When a tree dies, shoots will come out in the middle and bushing will start because the tree is trying to regenerate itself,” York said.

As the trees die and rot they could fall over and would need to be removed anyway. York said that the more Ash trees in the area, the more likely EAB can spread, too, which is why the city is working on removing all of its Ash trees.

“We’re removing all of the trees that we have access to. From November 2023 to March 2024, we’ve taken down 680 trees but in total we’ve taken down 1,025,” York said.

The major areas of removal so far have been near the bike path at Heritage Acres, Ed Christenson park/trail area and near the bike trail north of Margaret Street.

Typically, there is a moratorium on removing Ash trees from May 1 to Nov. 1, but because the city is in a fully infested zone, it does not need to follow the moratorium, as per the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

To help combat the problem of EAB, the city of Fairmont has received a $100,000 ReLeaf Grant from the Minnesota DNR. Several other cities in Martin County have received grants in various amount to aid in their battle against EAB.

“We’re working on using some of that (grant money) on removal and replacement of trees,” York explained.

While $100,000 may seem like a lot of money, York shared that the city had actually applied for $1 million in grants in order to combat EAB.

The cost to the city is two-fold, for both the removal and reforestation process.

After a tree is removed and hauled away, it’s ground down to 1 inch x 1 inch. pieces that can then be used as mulch.

The cost nowadays to buy and install a new tree is around $600, which include the tree itself as well as maintenance including watering and landscaping work.

Even though over 1,000 trees have been removed thus far, the city still has a long ways

to go. York said that crews are getting ready to start boulevard and city right-of-way inspections this summer and then will start removing the trees indicated in those areas next year.

The city is hoping to eradicate EAB by 2027 though it’s dependent on how many are discovered this summer when the rest of the inventory is complete.

This summer it will also start replanting some trees of different varieties to bring its stock back up.


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