TRAVERSE CITY — The thought of a tiny green beetle carried with it a sense of dread to local foresters since the insect’s discovery in Michigan last decade.
The culprit is the emerald ash borer, and it eats away at the living part of an ash tree, which disrupts the flow of nutrients and kills the tree within a few years.
It looks like the ash’s final years are upon us.
“It’s sad, it’s overwhelming,” said Kama Ross, the district forester for the Leelanau, Benzie and Grand Traverse conservation districts. “You usually start to see damage after three or four years. I’m thinking we’re at least four years into a pretty heavy infestation.”
Mark Evans, a developer who planned to build a suspended walkway in the tree canopy of Kasson Township, recently abandoned the would-be project because all ash trees on the property are infested, according to an email provided to the Record-Eagle by Kasson Township’s zoning administrator.
“I actually think we got here 3 to 5 years to(o) late. Every ash tree is infected, they just differ in their degree of infection. I have seen healthy ash since and the ash in Michigan is in dire straits,” Evans wrote.
Evans did not return phone calls this week and is overseas until May, according to the email.
“The ash trees, unfortunately, are pretty much gone, or going to be soon if they’re not already,” said Daniel Schillinger, managing forester for Schillinger Forestry, LLC and the former district forester for the Grand Traverse and Leelanau conservation districts. “There are treatments out there for people who really have an ash tree they can’t stand to lose, but at this point, if it’s not already under treatment, it’s probably too late to try and save it.”