Protecting trees and forests

Lorraine Merrill, Commissioner, Dept. of Agriculture, Markets & Food, press conference prepared remarks, April 8, 2013

Lorraine Merrill, Commissioner, Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food, press conference prepared remarks, April 8, 2013

We have our first confirmed discovery of the emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive beetle that attacks and kills ash trees, in New Hampshire.

A suspect tree was spotted in Concord at the end of March, and specimens of the larval form of the insect were collected from the tree and sent to scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine (USDA APHIS PPQ). As we announced on Friday, the APHIS authorities have officially confirmed the insect material found in Concord as EAB.

For the state and federal agencies here today, and for many in affected industries, the arrival of EAB was not unexpected. We have been monitoring the emerald ash borer’s eastward march and preparing plans for how we would manage upon its arrival here. In 2011 we implemented a firewood quarantine on transporting firewood from out of state, to help prevent the arrival of both Asian longhorn beetle and EAB. That firewood quarantine remains in effect.

This new invasive pest from Asia was first detected in the U.S. near Detroit in 2002. With New Hampshire added to the list, EAB now occurs in 19 states and two Canadian provinces. In just the last year, EAB was found in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. The detection in Concord is the first for New Hampshire and the easternmost detection in North America.

Emerald ash borer attacks and kills North American species of true ash—not species such as mountain ash which are of a different genus than the true ash--and tree death occurs three to five years following initial infestation.

Ash makes up about six percent of New Hampshire’s northern hardwood forests, and ash trees are typically found in greater density along rivers. Each of the species of trees that make up our mixed forests contributes to the forest ecosystem as a whole, supporting diverse biological communities of insects, birds and other plants and animals. Those who don’t recognize what an ash tree looks like, will nonetheless start to notice them when the trees start dying. 

Ash is also a popular and commonly used landscape tree. In many of our cities and towns, ash trees were planted to replace the stately elm trees lost in the 1950s and 1960s to Dutch elm disease, which was spread by elm bark beetles. Ash has also been used extensively as a landscape tree in housing and commercial developments over the past 30 years or more. 

The arrival of this destructive invasive pest will have consequences for firewood, timber and wood products industries, and for our nursery and landscape industries. In a state so blessed with natural resources and beauty, the health of our trees also affects our tourism industry and the quality of life for all who live here.