Madison is preparing for battle against the emerald ash borer, a beetle that has laid waste to millions of ash trees. And city officials are asking for residents' help.
A native of eastern Asia, the pest is decimating ash trees in other parts of the country. If it does the same here, Madison could lose a third of its city-planted tree stock - some 19,000 trees, says city forester Marla Eddy.
The beetle made its first appearance in Wisconsin in August 2008 and has now been found in Vernon, Brown, Milwaukee and Crawford counties, as well as Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan.
City officials held a news conference last week to kick off an awareness campaign, hoping to enlist residents and neighborhood groups in the cause.
"This is a very important issue for our citizens to be aware of," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz told reporters at James Madison Park. "Emerald ash borer is not in Madison yet, but it's only a matter of time before it arrives here. We have a plan to deal with it."
Eddy says that plan was developed in 2008 and is currently being updated. But if a beetle should be found here, the city would immediately survey the area, in conjunction with the state Department of Natural Resources, to see how far it's spread.
The city could then decide to apply pesticides or cut trees down, but cutting would only be done when the beetle is dormant to prevent further spreading, Eddy says. She adds, "There is no one textbook way of dealing with this because there can be so many different circumstances."
For now, the city wants to educate residents about what ash trees and the beetles look like, so they'll be aware of what is in their yards and be able to identify threats. The city is giving information packets to neighborhood groups, and information is also available at the Parks Division's website.