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Great Lakes Article:

State sacrifices 12 million ash trees
With beetle battle lost in Detroit area, containment is goal
Associated Press
02/16/04


DETROIT - After a two-year battle between southeast Michigan and an Asian tree-munching beetle, the bug won, ending any lingering hope that the area's 12 million ash trees somehow may be saved.

The focus now shifts to a $43 million effort preventing the emerald ash borer from spreading throughout Michigan.

State officials are apologetic, but said the Detroit area must be sacrificed to save the rest of the state's 700 million ash trees.

Thirteen Michigan counties in southeastern and mid-Michigan have been quarantined since the ash borer was discovered in the state in May 2002, including Ingham County. And earlier this month, about 13,000 ash trees were marked for destruction in Delta Township.

"We're trying to minimize the damage and prevent it from spreading to the rest of the state, Great Lakes, Canada and the rest of the continent," said Sara Linsmeier-Wurfel, spokeswoman of the state Department of Agriculture. "People are watching. We have to stop this."

Dan Wyant, the state's agriculture director, signed off last week on a two-step approach to stopping the neon green beetle.

First, all ash trees will be removed within a half-mile of infested areas in the Saginaw County town of Shields; Delta Township and Potterville in Eaton County; Marshall in Calhoun County; Wyoming in Kent County; St. Joseph in Berrien County; and sites along the St. Clair River in St. Clair County.

Later this year or next, the state will isolate the bug by cutting a half-mile "firebreak" around southeast Michigan, Linsmeier-Wurfel said. Surveyors are still determining where to chop.

State inspectors spent much of the past year trying to determine how far the beetle has advanced. They have examined campgrounds, nurseries and other places where infested wood might have been taken.

Most of the ash tree removal should take place before mid-May, when adult ash borers are expected to begin flying and depositing eggs on previously uninfected trees.

The agriculture department will work with local officials and residents before marking and removing trees.

Ironically, southeast Michigan is vulnerable to the beetle because ash trees were planted as replacements to trees lost to Dutch elm disease, Linsmeier-Wurfel said.

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