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With Donations, Pittsburgh Group Hopes to Save Ash Trees from Voracious Beetle

The Emerald Ash Borer is an Asian beetle that arrived in the U.S. in 2002 through Detroit. With no natural predators, it may eventually kill most of the country’s ash trees, including Pennsylvania’s millions of native green and white species.

Philip Gruszka of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy said government agencies, nonprofits and individual donors have given money for pesticide treatments to save 350 ash trees in county parks and 158 in city parks for use in a future breeding program. 

“When this breeding effort goes forward, we will have the genetics from Pittsburgh that will come back to Pittsburgh to be planted," Gruszka said. "The most incredible aspect of the story is the fact that (money) from the very top to the person sending in five dollars has made a difference.

Miles Stevens, a Davey Tree district manager, said pesticide treatments are costly, requiring several treatments a year for five to seven years but have been pretty successful when begun early enough. Prospects are dim for trees that haven’t been treated yet, though, since the ash borer has been in the area for several years.

Stevens said people worried about their trees should consult an arborist. 

“If the suspected tree has died, you should probably act pretty quickly on getting it removed because the structure of the tree deteriorates very rapidly," Stevens said. "It can become a hazard to your property, or even to the people that are going to remove that tree."

The loss of ash trees will have a huge impact on woodlands and waterways without root systems to stabilize the soil and slow erosion, Stevens said.

Charlee Song has been covering news for 90.5 FM since 2000—an opportunity she considers a great privilege. She finds almost every assignment interesting and really enjoys working with both the veterans and interns at WESA.