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Duluth launches ash borer awareness campaign

On Monday, city officials began hanging green ribbons on ash trees in Duluth as part of a public awareness campaign to combat the spread of the emerald ash borer. (Andee Erickson / aerickson@duluthnews.com)

City crews have started placing green sashes around the trunks of ash trees in Duluth as part of a public awareness campaign launched to monitor and combat the spread of the invasive emerald ash borer.

City officials have identified more than 2,400 ash trees along boulevards throughout Duluth, and on Monday city employees began hanging the ribbons on several ash trees in the Congdon, Morley Heights-Parkview, Hunters Park and Woodland neighborhoods. Thousands more ash trees stand on private land and in parks in the city

The awareness campaign is being conducted ahead of ash tree removals scheduled for this fall, said Erik Birkeland, property and facilities manager for the city of Duluth.

"These ribbons around the tree do not mean these trees are slated for removal," Birkeland said at a news conference held in Woodland. "They just provide a visual resource to show just how many ash trees are around town."

The green ribbons direct the public to a city website for information on the emerald ash borer management plan that the Duluth City Council adopted in December. The public can visit www.duluthmn.gov/eab to learn how to identify an infestation, how to prevent the spread of the species and who to contact if they find infected trees.

Emerald ash borers, which likely were brought to the U.S. from China in packing crates, were first discovered in the Detroit area more than a decade ago and have since spread to other states. The bugs have now killed tens of millions of ash trees of all varieties.

The insects were first discovered in Duluth on Park Point in October 2015. Last September, a second infestation was found near Hartley Park.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson on Monday asked the public to stay engaged and inform city officials of any infestations on their property.

"As we know, we care deeply about trees in this community," Larson said. "And so we want to do everything we can to preserve the tree cover that we have."

City crews have already started treating some ash trees. With the public's help, early detection can delay further infestation and ease the management process as the city seeks to treat, remove and replace ash trees, said Mike Pennington with the Urban Forest Commission.

"It's very important to engage the public. We need their eyes and ears out there," Pennington said. "Early detection is one of the best tools that we've got in dealing with this invasive pest."

The city has scheduled a public meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday at Hartley Nature Center, 3001 Woodland Ave., for people who want to know more about the emerald ash borer.

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