Ash Borer Causes 'Catastrophic' Tree Die-off in Indiana Park
A "catastrophic" die-off of ash trees is forcing officials at a northeastern Indiana park to conduct the first logging operation in the site's history.
Pokagon State Park plans to remove dead and dying ash trees from picnic areas, campgrounds and other public places this winter to ensure the public is safe, The Chicago Tribune reported.
The trees have been affected by the emerald ash borer, an invasive pest first spotted in Steuben County in the mid-2000s.
The Herald Republican reports that the trees marked for removal are in danger of falling or losing limbs.
"It's a public safety issue," said property manager Ted Bohman.
Pokagon was the first state park in Indiana to note the presence of the emerald ash borer, a tiny beetle from China first discovered in Michigan nearly 10 years ago. Since then, the beetles have expanded in ever-widening circles, killing thousands of ash trees.
A number of dead ash trees were removed from Spring Mill State Park's modern campground earlier this year, but the scope of the problem is much larger at Pokagon, WPTA reported.
"We could have around 1,500 dead ash trees that need to come out before the next summer recreation season," Bohman said. "This is too big of a job for park employees alone. We are doing something very new to us to address this problem."
During the sale, licensed timber buyers will be allowed to bid on marked and standing dead or dying ash trees more than 14 inches in diameter that have the potential to cause damage if they fall.
Affected trees less than 14 inches in diameter and trees in campgrounds that might contain debris detrimental to sawmill equipment will be made available for residents to cut up and haul away as firewood. The cost will be $5 per pickup truck load.
A permit will be required and can be obtained at the park office beginning Dec. 7.
Firewood purchasers must agree to comply with emerald ash borer quarantine requirements, including a prohibition on moving ash firewood outside the quarantine area.
The money raised from the timber sale and permits will be used to pay for projects including new trees to replace those killed by the pest.
Fred Wooley, interpretive naturalist at the park, said it makes sense to conduct the timber sale at the state park. Most timber sales are limited to state forests.
"The potential impact of these dead ash trees is so significant that this is a way to remove the trees and provide much-need funds for new trees to provide shade and cover. It is a win-win solution to a devastating problem," Wooley said.
The work is expected to be completed by next spring