MS. REBECCA SHEIR
So we've hit the roads, we've hit the water, now let's hike the woods. Woods, as it turns out, that are in some pretty great danger right about now. You might not have heard of the Emerald Ash Borer, but this little beetle has managed to ravage millions of trees across the country and now the little critter is in our own backyard. Most of Northern Virginia is under a sort of quarantine to try to prevent the beetles spread.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Maryland just placed about half the state, all counties west of the Chesapeake Bay in similar isolation. But as environment reporter, Sabri Ben-Achour, tells us, these drastic conservation measures might not be enough.
MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR
Here on Campbell Way, a quiet residential street in Herndon, Va., John Dudzinsky points to a row of very sickly looking trees.
MR. JOHN DUDZINSKY
Right now, we're looking at a row of ash trees, green ash and a lot of these have a lot of dieback on them.
Dudzinsky is the community forester for Herndon. He takes out a screwdriver and peels back some of the bark on the dead bare limbs.
Look underneath, you can see the tunneling by the borers. And that's one of the indications of the Emerald Ash Borer.
The Emerald Ash Borer is a small, thin, beautifully metallic green colored beetle, native to Asia. Does this tree stand a chance?
No. No, not at all.
Not this ash tree and pretty much not any ash tree on the continent.
MR. MIKE RAUPP
This is a devastating, long term problem that has the potential to kill every ash tree in North America.
Mike Raupp is an entomologist at the University of Maryland. He's been charting the borer's spread.
It's the larval stage which is the villain here. Because it feeds under the bark, it's very difficult to contact the offending stage with an insecticide.
The insect first appeared in Michigan in the '90s, probably having hitched a ride in wood packing materials. But it arrived in this region in the mail. Carol Holko is in charge of plant protection at Maryland's department of agriculture.
MS. CAROL HOLKO
As shipment of nursery stock from Michigan was shipped to a Maryland nursery, illegally, in 2003.
Maryland tried to get ahead of the problem by cutting down trees around that plant nursery in Prince George's County.
We, at that time, took down about 1,100 trees on 500 acres.
Didn't work, they quarantined all ash wood in the county and cut down more trees.
We have now cut about 47,000 ash trees on 21 square miles, I want to say.
Still hasn't worked. And they don't bother cutting down trees anymore. The beetle's now in Prince George's, Howard and Anne Arundel counties and even Allegany County, all the way on the other side of the state. And it didn't just fly to these places. It's being taken there.
It's being moved by campers, people who are moving infested firewood from other areas.
It's in 17 states now and Mike Raupp estimates it'll be in Baltimore in five to 10 years, max.
This is going to be enormously expensive. It may cost anything from a couple hundred dollars to more than a $1,000 to remove a single tree.
Baltimore has almost 300,000 ash trees.
You do the math, 300,000 trees. We're talking about, perhaps, hundreds of million dollars to basically deal with this infestation once it hits a city like Baltimore.
Take that example nationwide and the figures are staggering.
MR. PAUL CHALOUX
There is a study that was recently published that estimates that over the next 10 years, the tree removal and replacement cost will be $10 billion.
Paul Chaloux is in charge of the Emerald Ash Borer problem for the animal and plant health inspection services, that's the federal agency leading the fight against this bug nationally. They've already spent $300,000 million combating it because the resource at stake is so vast.
The value, the stumpage value, of the ash resource out there is many a billions of dollars. Estimates range from, you know, the mid 20 billions, on up to $100 billion.
There's a major environmental cost as well. The trees are among the few that can tolerate swampy conditions and they prevent erosion on stream banks, 150 moths and butterflies depend on ash. But amidst the threats and the gloom, there are some glimmers of hope.
It's one in a 100,000 trees or so seems to survive.
Scientist don't know why. They are looking into it, though. Also, there are stingless wasps from Asia that are being introduced to fight the beetle, but the jury's still out on whether that’s enough. And individual trees can, for a price and with some effort, be injected every year with pesticide that can hold the beetles back for a while. But in order for any of these strategies to work in the long run, those fighting the beetles say they need to buy time. And the best way to do that, they say, is for everyone else to do one simple thing, avoid moving firewood. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.
To learn how to identify an ash tree and see how you can help slow the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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