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Costly epidemic plaguing our state

With the summer season in full swing, Ohioans are spending more time outdoors enjoying nature. Whether gardening, hiking or just taking an evening stroll, be sure to keep an eye out this summer for a serious problem that may be encroaching on your backyard.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive insect that has been rapidly infesting and killing tens of millions of ash trees across Ohio and neighboring states.

A 2004 estimate by the U.S. Forest Service pegged potential costs to communities and homeowners at more than $7 billion over the next 25 years.

This insect, native to Asia, was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and in Ohio in 2003. Since that time, EAB has infested 11 states and two Canadian provinces, becoming the largest threat to trees in decades. Although the Ohio Department of Agriculture has dedicated $1 million in federal funds to monitor the spread of the insect, Ohio’s estimated 5 billion ash trees are in grave danger. It is my hope that we can all work together to ensure the continued vitality of our beautiful ash trees.

Recently, the Ohio Department of Agriculture placed Clark County on its quarantine list, bringing the total number of Ohio counties under quarantine to 45. This is more than half the counties in our state and a jolting statistic. In addition to fortifying their ash trees to prevent infection, affected counties must also adhere to strict guidelines for ash tree transportation.

Specifically, it is illegal to transport ash trees – even parts of them – from quarantined counties to non-quarantined counties. This includes firewood, an indispensable camping supply for outdoor enthusiasts. While the EAB threat will not preclude you from obtaining firewood for your next camping trip, keep in mind that the transportation of firewood over long distances can help spread EAB and other pests across Ohio. That is why state officials are encouraging Ohioans to obtain their firewood locally and to burn it fully on-site, regardless of whether the firewood is purchased in a quarantine area.

Keep a watchful eye. If you have ash trees in your yard or near your home, please check them on a regular basis to see if they have been infested with EAB. The most distinct symptoms of infestation are D-shaped holes in the bark of the tree and serpentine-shaped tunnels under the bark on the surface of the wood. If you think your tree is infested you should contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture at 1-888-OHIO-EAB or visit www.ohioagriculture.gov.

If you discover your tree is infected, the experts at the Ohio Department of Agriculture can walk you through solutions. When used properly, insecticides are one option that have proven effective in protecting ash trees against the EAB scourge, but it is recommended that you spray your trees before the end of June or wait until the fall to treat. Recent research suggests that treatments in the summer months of July and August are relatively ineffective. Unfortunately, symptoms of EAB infestation can sometimes take up to a year to become easily recognizable to the public at large, but a failure to act now may cause irreparable damage later.

Again, if you have any questions about EAB or want to know what to do if you have an infected tree, visit www.ohioagriculture.gov or call 1-888-OHIO-EAB.

These insects are threatening to destroy our ash trees. Let’s all help in the effort to combat this epidemic through identification and eradication programs, and keep Ohio trees healthy and beautiful for generations to come.

Sen. George Voinovich represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate.