Grants help northern Michigan forest landowners deal with Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer is a very destructive forest pest. Available for a limited time, a DNR grant program helps landowners gain access to professional advice to manage their woodlands and deal with this insect threat.

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is wreaking havoc in many Michigan woodlands, killing millions of ash trees statewide. For many forestland owners there’s a sense of helplessness, not knowing what, if anything, can be done to reduce the impact of this destructive pest.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is now providing grants that allow forestland owners to receive a free site visit and evaluation from a forestry professional. The goal is to help reduce EAB impacts on their property by reducing, but not totally eliminating ash trees.

The program is available to landowners within a 25 mile radius of Traverse City, Petoskey, Cheboygan, Gaylord and Alpena. Their property must include upland hardwood woodlands with commercial harvest potential within the next five years and a minimum ash basal area density of 10 square feet per acre. (That’s roughly equivalent to 10, 14-inch diameter ash trees per acre.) The program is also available in many western Upper Peninsula counties.

An initial evaluation visit from a forestry professional is free as part of this program. After that, landowners have the option to work with a forester to develop their own Forest Stewardship Plan. A stewardship plan is an excellent way to anticipate the future and keep forests healthy and productive. The DNR program will pay up to 50 percent of the plan’s cost.

EAB is a difficult pest problem to manage. The insect is very destructive, and for that reason some landowners are considering eliminating all of their ash trees before they become infested. Forestry officials, however, recommend leaving some ash, reducing the amount to a maximum of 10 percent of the forest tree density. At the same time, management practices should be designed to create a diverse forest that is more resistant to changes affecting a single type of tree, like EAB. Achieving that goal requires good judgment, knowledge and some restraint to avoid overcutting. In the harvesting process, care should be taken to create greater species and tree age diversity, which helps the forest become more productive and healthy in the long run.

Regardless of whether landowners enroll in this program or not, getting professional help to deal with EAB in woodlands is well worth the investment.

For more information about the Emerald Ash Borer restoration program, see the DNR forest stewardship web site or call the Forest Stewardship Coordinator at 517-335-3355. Interested landowners should act soon; the program ends September 30, 2012 (a year later in Western UP counties). For general information about the pest, see the Emerald Ash Borer Information site.

An excellent bulletin, Emerald Ash Borer and Your Woodland, is available for sale through the MSU Extension Bookstore.