BISMARCK — Although the state doesn't have any confirmed infestations of the emerald ash borer, North Dakota is joining Minnesota in continuing efforts to try to keep the killer pest at bay.
The United States Department of Agriculture will terminate federal regulations as of Jan. 14, but both states took it upon themselves to continue rules on firewood and nursery stock.
“North Dakota has 90 million ash trees, ash being the most common tree in naturally forested areas, cities and shelterbelts,” said North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.
The closest confirmed locations of EAB are in Sioux Falls, S.D., Winnipeg and Sauk Centre, Minn.
The pest attacks trees with larvae feeding under the bark, disrupting the movement of water and nutrients and killing the tree within several years.
The invasive forest insect from Asia has destroyed millions of ash trees over the past decade in the 35 states where it's found — mostly in the eastern United States.
The North Dakota regulations will prevent the movement of ash products such as raw logs, firewood and nursery stock into the state from areas of the country known to be infested.
All hardwood firewood, a major pest pathway, will be regulated and cannot be transported to North Dakota from a regulated area without having been treated or inspected by officials of that state, according to Goehring.
The department will be launching a local firewood finder to help residents easily find firewood. The platform will be free for users to post firewood for sale. Firewood sellers should fill out the form at www.nd.gov/ndda/firewood-finder to submit information.
In Minnesota, there are an estimated 1 billion ash trees — the most of any state — and its Department of Agriculture also announced it will keep regulations in place.
The department regulated EAB since it was first found in Minnesota in 2009 and has since spread to 25 of the state's 87 counites. MDA officials said they will continue monitoring counties, quarantining newly infested counties and regulating movement of firewood and wood products around the state.
The quarantine measures are among several methods Minnesota officials are deploying when attempting to combat the beetle's spread.
Another one is timber management. By cutting down ash trees and replacing them with other kinds of trees, officials can cut off the food source for the insect.
University of Minnesota adjunct associate professor Rob Venette, who heads up a collaboration between the university and MDA, also works with the U.S. Forest Service and is helping to develop a "bio-control" method of stemming EAB's spread. That involves the use of wasps that kill the insect in its larval stage, which otherwise has few other natural predators. He said the key is keep the effort up.
Fargo city forester Scott Liudahl said last year that the pest is coming.
He said the city strives to replace ash trees with other varieties. When the city offers to take an ash tree, some property owners are happy to take the deal and start a new tree, he said.
About a decade ago, about 40% of Fargo's street trees were ash. Today, it is closer to 24%, he said.
In Moorhead's 27,000-tree urban forest, the city public works department has been helping remove at-risk trees. The estimates are that about 30% of that city's tree population, or 7,700, are ash.
The city used a grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for $50,000 to remove trees in 2020 with help from Carr's Tree Service.