Quarantine on trees implemented in Johnson county among other areas


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As it turns out, the coming winter is not the only thing that Iowa’s ash trees have to fear — the real danger comes from inside the trees themselves. On Nov. 1, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced a quarantine of 25 counties in eastern Iowa, including Johnson County, to halt the spread of the emerald ash borer, a destructive tree beetle that inhabits ash trees.

“We’ll continue our monitoring efforts,” said Dustin Vande Hoef, the communications director of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. “Right now, the quarantine is about keeping the pest under control as long as we can.” The quarantine regulates the transport and treatment of ash trees and their products, such as firewood and wood chips, and states the regulated articles cannot be moved from a county that is included in the quarantine without an issued permit from the Agriculture Department.

The beetle has been positively identified in four locations in eastern Iowa starting in May 2010 — Allamakee County, Des Moines County, and, most recently, in October 2013, Cedar Country. Currently, the goal is to keep the trees from being affected by the beetles.

“The insect itself only flies 2 to 5 miles on its own,” Vande Hoef said. “If you move a tree or firewood with the beetle in it, it moves 55 mph down the highway and can infect whole new areas.” Once the insect has invaded a tree, there is little to no treatment that can be provided. State Entomologist Robin Pruisner suggested cities that have not been affected by the quarantine take an inventory of their ash trees, as well as pre-emptively cut down the trees before the trees are infected.

Currently, there is no definite end in sight for the quarantine. Vande Hoef said the quarantine could be indefinite, and Pruisner agreed. “I cannot imagine a time when the quarantine will be lifted,” Pruisner said. In fact, Pruisner predicted eventually the entire country would come under quarantine.

Iowa’s policy for enforcing the quarantine of ash products is a “two-pronged defense,” Pruisner said. Quarantine violaters can incur a misdemeanor fine of up to $100, or the Agriculture Department can seize and destroy the product that is in violation. If any expenses are incurred with this method, the violator will be billed. University of Iowa arborist Andy Dahl said the university has not planted ash trees for seven or eight years and no longer saves ash trees, but any removal of ash trees will still have a large effect on the community.

Dahl said part of the problem in Iowa was ash trees were planted because they grew fast and they grew well in urban conditions, so they were planted in large numbers. While no official study has been conducted, Pruisner estimates that there are 3 million to 4 million urban ash trees in Iowa, as well as 16 million non-urban ash trees. “While an alley of all the same trees may look pleasing to the eye, when something like [the ash borer] comes along and they all die, I don’t think it’s very pleasing,” Dahl said.

The effects of borer have the potential to change the look of most Iowa communities. The majority of Iowa towns and cities have planted ash trees along streets and in parks, Pruisner said, and many private homes has ash trees for shade and comfort. “It’s definitely going to look different in Iowa,” Pruisner said.

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