MountainTrue and Pisgah Conservancy Team Up to Save Pisgah’s Ash Trees

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MountainTrue and The Pisgah Conservancy have launched the Save Pisgah’s Ashes campaign to treat and save more than one hundred ash trees from this deadly pest. The project is accepting donations at https://bit.ly/2CBxRsp

The emerald ash borer is a small, metallic-green beetle from Asia that is fatal to all species of North American ash trees. The larvae of the insect bore holes in ash trees, infest and kill trees within three to five years.

“The only way to save Pisgah’s ash trees is to treat them until the emerald ash borer has exhausted its food supply and moved on,” explains MountainTrue Public Lands biologist Josh Kelly. “EAB has already killed millions of trees across the US. If we don’t treat Pisgah’s ash, we could lose them forever.”

“The cost of treating a healthy, large ash tree for six years is about $165,” explains John Cottingham of The Pisgah Conservancy. “Our hope is that nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will help us raise $16,500 to treat and save more than 100 trees this spring. If we save these ashes, we can use their DNA to repopulate Pisgah with ash trees for future generations.”

Treatments can only occur during the growing season. These treatments apply pesticides inside the trunk of the tree to avoid environmental contamination and kill EAB larvae under the tree’s bark. Treatments are made by certified personnel using protocols approved by the US Forest Service.

Emerald ash borer was first discovered in the United States in southeastern Michigan, near Detroit. It has since spread in every direction and is now chewing its way through North Carolina’s forests.

While ash trees are not one of our region’s most abundant trees, they are important to the ecosystem of Pisgah National Forest. Ash trees grow in rich coves and slopes, and WNC has three native species of ash: white ash, green ash and Biltmore ash. Over 40 native insect species rely on the ash trees for food and breeding sites, and these helpful insects provide food for native birds and mammals. Ash trees also provide shelter, the trunks often develop trunk cavities that are perfect spaces for woodpeckers, owls, nuthatches and squirrels to cozy up in on a winter evening. Even black bears can use hollow old growth ash trunks for winter hibernation. Losing these trees would be a major ecological loss.

However, there is hope for saving the ash tree. The Emerald Ash Borer is a fast and furious pest. It moves through large swathes of land quickly, feeds, destroys and then moves on. We hope that by protecting these trees for a few crucial years these seed trees can re-populate our forests with ash.