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Emerald Ash Borer Eating Its Way Through Door County

Beetle Is Killing Thousands Of Trees In Tourist Hot Spot

Emerald ash borer
Mike Groll/AP Photo

The invasive emerald ash borer is killing thousands of trees in Door County — a tourist hotspot for the state of Wisconsin. The beetle was first found in southeastern Wisconsin in 2008, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The highly destructive beetles have killed tens of millions of trees nationwide since first being spotted in North America in 2002, according to the DNR.

It’s estimated there are 12 million ash trees on the Door County peninsula — roughly 13 percent of the county’s tree inventory, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Many of the ash trees are on state, city or county property and more are on private land.

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Bill Ruff, a forester with the DNR, said the borer has no natural predator and that the situation is “bleak.”

“We’ve reached the point now where we have almost half the townships in the county (with) confirmed locations with the ash borer, so the spread is on,” Ruff said.

The destructive insect was discovered in the area 2014. It’s also found in neighboring counties and in much of the state, except for a few counties in the far northwestern reaches of the state.

Ruff said individual state and county parks in Door County have their own plans to deal with the pest. He added the DNR doesn’t plan to treat ash trees on its land.

“The main concern for those are safety concerns in public use areas. If they become ‘hazard trees,’ then that’s something they have to pay attention to and make sure there isn’t a public safety risk as a result,” he said.

Ruff said the borer has been discovered in the middle area of Door County. It hasn’t been documented on Washington Island or in the far southern reaches of the county, though it has been found in neighboring Brown County.

He added there are no reliable natural predators to combat the emerald ash borer.