Vincennes to remove ash trees before beetle lands

(WTHI Photo)
(WTHI Photo)

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) — A southwestern Indiana city that has been spared damage from an invasive beetle that has decimated ash trees across the state is taking proactive steps to keep the bug at bay.

Vincennes officials have approved spending $30,000 to chop down ash trees before they become infested by the emerald ash borer.

The metallic-green beetle came to the United States in 2002 and 2003 from Asia and parts of Russia on shipments loaded on ash pallets. It has decimated ash trees in more than two-thirds of Indiana’s 92 counties and has been found in neighboring Daviess County, Ryan Lough, a member of Vincennes’ Tree Board, told the Vincennes Sun-Commercial.

Lough said removing at least 50 ash trees before they are infested will likely cost an average of about $400 per tree. Waiting until the ash borer arrives could be much more expensive. Fort Wayne has spent upward of $3 million to remove infested ash trees.

“Being proactive is always much better than being reactive,” he said. “I give a lot of credit to the city council in looking ahead and acting quickly.”

The Tree Board will first target ash trees lining city streets. Board members will count those trees and present their tallies at an Aug. 5 meeting. They’ll then seek bids for their removal.

Lough hopes the board can award a bid in September so work can be done this winter when the trees are bare.

“It’s just more cost effective to do it then,” he said.

Lough also has met with members of the city cemetery board and toured the city’s cemeteries, where he identified about 40 ash trees that will either need to be removed or treated.

Some of the trees are several hundred years old. One has a trunk that’s nearly 16 feet in circumference.

“It’s almost three guys around,” Lough said. “It’s huge, just incredible.”

The ash trees can be treated using a “drenching” or an injection method, but the treatment is expensive and must be repeated annually until the threat passes, which Lough said could take a decade. That makes it an option for only the most-cherished trees.

“There are at least 10 to 12 really beautiful trees out there we would like to save,” Lough said. “The rest will need to come down.”

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